Friday, November 10, 2017

Happy Veterans' Day

Tomorrow, November 11th, is Veterans' Day. It is a day set aside to honor those who have served in our country’s armed forces during both peacetime and wartime.  Veterans’ Day doesn’t ask where you served, what your rank was, or what branch of the military you were in, it merely says “Thank you for your service” by way of a national holiday.

There is an old saying that “A veteran is someone who, at some point in his/her life, writes a check payable to “The people of the United States of America” for the amount of “Up to and including my life.” No truer words were ever spoken. Not all service members realize the depth of their commitment to their country when they take that oath but they promise to defend America at all costs.

I didn't really realize it until a friend thanked me for my service several years ago. She thanked me for volunteering my life to protect her, her family and the country. I honestly never thought about it in that way before that.

I signed the enlistment papers at the age of 19. I had no career plans to speak of, no interest in college, and wanted to do something different to get me through that awkward period between high school and adulthood.

I took my very first airplane ride on May 31, 1977, to basic training in San Antonio, Texas. I remember being impressed with the meal they served us during the trip. That was back when the airlines gave you more food than you could actually eat.

A bus ride to Lackland Air Force Base, falling in on the painted footprints in the parking lot, then in-processing and a briefing before we went to the dining hall. Then we went to our barracks and got our assigned beds and some sleep – as if that was possible given my day.

We got up early the next morning and I celebrated my 20th birthday with a G.I. haircut (as was the style then – most of us had long hair), immunizations and uniform issue. By the end of the day we all looked like we belonged. Newbies, of course, but we didn't look so out of place.

Basic Training was pretty easy. We did a lot of running and stretching and no pushups. I was a little disappointed with the lack of hard physical training since I had been doing numerous pushups in preparation for this. I had also been running every day so that part was easy.

Fast forward to technical school in beautiful Wichita Falls, Texas, about 2 hours North of where I live today. At the time there wasn't much in Wichita Falls. My parents came to visit me about the third week I was there. They stayed two days while we looked around the area and said “We're sorry. We're leaving. There is nothing here that really interests us except you.” They headed to Hot Springs, Arkansas, for the rest of their vacation. I've been to Hot Springs. I can't blame them for that at all.

I got orders to go to Wiesbaden, Germany, following tech school but I did so well in my academics, training to be a medic, I was offered a job working in the hospital at the prestigious Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. Some of my buddies said I should pass that up because I'd be walking around all day saluting everyone. As it turns out, it was one of the most lax assignments I had.

I developed a love for emergency medicine while there and ended up working in the ER at all three of my Air Force assignments. I became an EMT, a CPR instructor, an Advanced Cardiac Life Support provider and an ACLS instructor, all courtesy of the U.S. Air Force. I worked in the ER at the Academy, Vandenburg AFB in California, and eventually, Wiesbaden, Germany.

In Germany I was issued a gas mask and a Geneva Convention card. We trained regularly to use them in case we actually went to war. It made it a little more real for me but it was still just a job for the most part.

When I went to Germany my wife was active duty at Vandenburg and she followed me there about nine months later. Our son was born in the Wiesbaden Regional Medical Center in June of 1984.

They say you are never properly prepared for your first child but late in 1983 I was moved from the ER to be the NCOIC of the Pediatrics Ward in the hospital. I got hands on training with babies every day. But the night my son was born the doctor asked if I wanted to deliver him. I said no. I had no doubt I could deliver anyone else's baby but was scared to death to deliver my own.

One of the things we had to do after our son was born was sign a paper designating who would take over care of our son in case we got deployed in war time. Since both of us were active duty it was possible we could both be deployed if necessary. So we had to sign a form telling the Air Force who would get custody of our son if we were sent off to war.

In the early Spring of 1985 we traveled home on leave for the first time as a family. My wife had gotten out of the Air Force when her enlistment was up (she didn't much like signing that form) and she decided, since I was due to get out in September, she and my son would stay in California with her parents. She didn't really want to go back as a civilian and a stay-at-home mom.

So I headed back to do my last six months alone. I missed my son's first birthday. My bosses wanted me to stay and offered me a job as the NCOIC of the Emergency Room but I turned them down. I wanted to be with my family. I left in August with 30 days of “terminal leave,” using up the last of my accrued leave time. My official discharge date was in September.

I waited in Ohio for my car to arrive in New Jersey and rode the bus up to pick it up. I drove from New Jersey to California in five days, spending the first night with family and the other three with different friends from the Air Force.

One thing I can say about the Air Force – I made some terrific life-long friends. I was at the Academy for four years, Vandenburg for 18 months, and Germany for nearly 3 years. I am still in close touch with people from all three but particularly with a group of incredible people I met in Germany. We get together every two years for a reunion. They are some of the best friends I've ever had.

I'm proud of my time in the Air Force and would do it all over again if I could.

Thank you to all of my fellow veterans. Your service may have been during war time or peace time but it was important and we as a nation are grateful to you. God bless America and our military services.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

More Laws Won't Prevent A Shooting Like Sutherland Springs

I was listening to the radio this morning and heard an update on the Sutherland Springs, Texas, church shooting. Survivors of the shooting say that after the initial volleys of bullets, after many people were already dead and/or wounded, the shooter began targeting crying infants and toddlers, searching them out and executing them.

I had tears in my eyes as I listened to the horrid details. What kind of monster does it take to deliberately shoot innocent children as they cry for their wounded or dead parents? There is no doubt in my mind that Satan himself was in this man's heart as he committed those evil acts. And President Trump was right when he said the incident was a mental health issue rather than a gun issue.

Over one third of Americans say they or someone in their household owns at least one firearm. That's 106.6 million legal gun owners. Given that there were at least two shootings in Texas that day and no doubt several dozen others across the country, that means that 106.59 million gun owners did not shoot anyone on Sunday. And those are the statistics every day. Legal/licensed gun owners do not go out and commit mass murder. Most of them never fire their weapon anywhere except on the range.

More laws will only make it tougher for law-abiding citizens to purchase and/or retain their weapon(s). Bad guys like Devin Kelley don't follow the law. He lied about his criminal conviction on his background check application. Sadly, the U.S. Air Force failed to enter his conviction into NICS so he passed the background check. But only because he lied.

In like manner Dylan Roof, the Charleston S.C. shooter, had a criminal conviction for drugs and his information was inadvertently not entered into NICS. He should not have been able to purchase a firearm either, let alone two. But a government screw up allowed him to lie on his background check and buy guns.

So why do people think more laws will help when bad guys don't abide by the law(s) and the government sometimes doesn't do its job in ensuring the laws are enforced and all information is entered into the system as required. No, I'm not blaming the shootings on the government. But at least two of the recent shooters would have been unable to obtain a gun through regular channels had the government agencies done what what was required of them.

Texas Senator John Cornyn plans to introduce legislation aimed at ensuring all federal agencies upload required conviction records into NICS. It's already a requirement for all federal law enforcement agencies to do this. Do we need a law? And if a conviction gets overlooked somehow are we going to prosecute the responsible person and put them in jail?

According to news sources, Devin Kelley escaped from a mental health facility while still in the Air Force. He had been sent there after assaulting his wife and fracturing his baby stepson's skull. He had also attempted to smuggle firearms onto Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico in an attempt to carry out death threats he had made against his military superiors.

The guy obviously had mental health issues. And I think it's incumbent on our legislators to figure out a way to prevent people like this from legally obtaining firearms. I have no problem with preventing someone who has proved himself/herself a danger to others from legally buying a gun. That's about the only law that would be common sense. Outlawing semiautomatic rifles won't prevent gun deaths. It will only cause people to use a different weapon.

Laws only work for law-abiding citizens. More laws won't keep bad guys from obtaining guns. If that was the case Chicago would be the safest city in the United States.

More gun laws may have prevented the hero of Sutherland Springs from stopping the shooter's progress, thereby potentially increasing the number of dead and wounded on Sunday. A good guy with a gun stopped a bad guy with a gun.

More laws will prevent good guys from having guns. They do absolutely nothing to the bad guys. The sooner the left figures that out the better.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Let's Get Rid Of Everything We Think Is Racist!

Friday on the radio I heard a local talk show host, Rick Roberts, talking about the Confederate statues being removed in Dallas and around the country, and schools and streets named after Confederates are being renamed. Rick got to thinking out loud about what else we should do away with because it relates to the South or the Confederacy. Here were some of the suggestions.

Elvis Presley once recorded “Dixie.” You know the one.

“Oh, I wish I were in the land of cotton.
Old times there are not forgotten.
Look away, look away, look away,

Elvis was obviously a racist to record a song like that.

Hank Williams, Jr. also made the list. He recorded a song called “Dixie On My Mind.” Obviously, any man who thinks of Dixie like that is a racist. We need to do away with Old Bocefus and his music.

The band Alabama recorded “Song Of The South.” What could be more racist than that?

And Lynard Skynard puts Confederate flags on at least some of their album covers. So they're gone as well.

My question since this whole “Remove the Statues” campaign began has been “Where does it stop?”

When we start removing harmless (and priceless) pieces of history, which these two things certainly are, where does it stop? Do we ban songs and recording artists who record “the wrong song?” Do we start removing books from libraries because they contain controversial stories?

A school district in Mississippi has removed Harper Lee's classic book “To Kill A Mockingbird,” a novel about racial inequality and hatred, because some people complained about some of the words in the book. (The book is still in the library.) Yet I would bet that those people complaining hear those same words from their favorite musical artists and/or comedians and that's perfectly OK.

A church in Arlington, Virginia, removed to name plates and a couple of plaques that were placed in the church as historical tributes to two of their more well known members – George Washington and Robert E. Lee. They said some parishoners were refusing to return to church because the plaques make them feel “unsafe.” Really?

I wonder how long they had attended the church before they decided they felt unsafe? Did they attend before the NFL players began taking a knee? And has anyone asked them how an inanimate historical plaque threatens them?

Where does it stop? Where does political correctness end and dealing with real life begin?

History does not change simply because you remove things that depict how things were or that honor brave men (and women) who lived extraordinary lives. The sooner people stop being offended by history and allowing for the fact that our past can't be changed to suit them the better off the nation will be.

By the way - the best part of the conversation was when he said “The Dixie Chicks – just their name is racist. But we don't need to get rid of them – they pretty much did that on their own.”

Monday, October 30, 2017

George Washington Plaque To Be Removed From His Old Church Pew

A small plaque with George Washington's name etched in it is being removed from a church pew in Arlington, Virginia, because some people “felt unsafe” when they saw the name and refused to return to the church.

A second plaque bearing the name of Robert E. Lee was also removed. Both men used to attend the church on a regular basis and the plaques were historical.

Fearing for one's safety because you see the name of a long dead President or a long dead military leader is an issue that I may discuss on another day. My point today is about the removal of the plaques.

George Washington wasn't a perfect man. He owned slaves, which was a despicable practice. That said - it was the custom at that time in history, 200 plus years ago. To hold to the standard of today's society the actions and customs of people from 200 years ago is completely unfair.

Some Native Americans were violent and attacked other tribes for land, horses, etc. Some captured and held captive both white and Native Americans. Those captives were no different than slaves unless they eventually decided to assimilate into the tribe that held them. I have yet to see anyone scream for any Native American statue or monument to be removed. And as a whole they were treated far worse by the new settlers than were the black people here.

According to the Census Bureau, black/African-American people make up about 12.2% of the U.S. population and Hispanics make up 12.3%. Native Americans, who used to own this land, make up only 2% of the population. That's because so many were killed off and others placed on reservations. Native Americans suffered far more than black Americans as a people.

I question the mental stability of people who feel fear from seeing names of dead people who had absolutely nothing to do with their lives today. Do they feel unsafe seeing the name Adolf Hitler, who killed up to 6 million people? Do they feel unsafe when they hear the name Osama Bin Laden, who killed 3,000 Americans? Of course not. That's because the outrage at seeing the names (and statues) isn't so much about personal pain but about attempting to erase America's past.

And it's dangerous.

I Hope You Dance....

I had a surprising emotional memory yesterday evening that caught me off guard. Arden and I had been watching a movie and when it was over the first song for the closing credits was “I Hope You Dance.”

My eyes instantly filled with tears and I was overcome with grief. The song, written by Mark Sanders and Tia Sillers and recorded originally by Lee Ann Womack, had always made me think of my son and very well stated many of the wishes I had for his life.

I began wondering why it stirred such a reaction in me after all these years so I looked it up online. Lee Ann Womak recorded it in 1999 with the band “Sons Of The Desert.” It was released the following year on her album “I Hope You Dance” and quickly became a huge hit. In 2001 it won six awards including Best Country Song and Song of the Year.

As I said – the song always made me think of my son and his future. He died in February of 2002. That song had been a big part of my life in the months just before he died. I think that's why it hit me so hard - because it was so close to the time we lost him.

I let the tears flow for a few minutes while I explained my bizarre behavior to my wife. I showed her the lyrics to the song and she instantly understood.

I hope you never lose your sense of wonder
You get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger
May you never take one single breath for granted
God forbid love ever leave you empty handed
I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens
Promise me that you'll give faith a fighting chance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance

I hope you dance
I hope you dance

I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance
Never settle for the path of least resistance
Livin' might mean takin' chances, but they're worth takin'
Lovin' might be a mistake, but it's worth makin'
Don't let some Hellbent heart leave you bitter
When you come close to sellin' out, reconsider
Give the heavens above more than just a passing glance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance

I hope you dance (Time is a wheel in constant motion always rolling us along)
I hope you dance
I hope you dance (Tell me who wants to look back on their years and wonder)
I hope you dance (Where those years have gone?)

I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens
Promise me that you'll give faith a fighting chance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance


I hope you dance
I hope you dance (Time is a wheel in constant motion always rolling us along)
I hope you dance (Tell me who wants to look back on their years and wonder?)

It's so strange how music - a particular song - can invoke such powerful reactions from people, particularly 15 years later. A big thank you to Mark Sanders and Tia Sillers for writing such a powerful song and to Lee Ann Womack for her beautiful rendition of it. It made me cry but it made me smile at the same time.

I miss you, Christopher. And I love you as much today as I ever did.

By the way - for those of you reading this...  tell your kids you love them every chance you get. You never know when you may not have that chance again....

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

New California Laws Are Not Only Stupid But Dangerous

In recent weeks California has passed several laws that are dangerous to its citizens.

The first made California a sanctuary state for illegal immigrants. Even as the trial of the “alleged” murderer of Kate Steinle gets underway (He was deported five times prior to Steinle's murder), illegal aliens now have a legal right to be in California according to their new law. The law is not only in violation of federal law but downright stupid. And the governor still believes his state should continue to receive all federal funding it has been getting even as he tells the federal government he will not abide by federal law.

The second stupid and dangerous law makes it illegal for health care workers who “willfully and repeatedly” decline to use a senior transgender patient's preferred name (or pronoun) faces up to a year in prison.

Is this really a problem? I mean – are there so many health care workers in California abusing patients by refusing to acknowledge their chosen gender that they needed to pass a law against it? And does this law have a clause for people who change their minds and decide they're a different gender a few weeks later or they go from male/female to non-binary and back? Is there going to be a law to protect health care workers from abuse by patients who simply can't decide what gender they want to be from day to day?

The sponsor of the bill, a Democrat, says no one is going to be criminally prosecuted for using the wrong pronoun. Yet the law states if the provisions are violated, the violator could be punished by a fine “not to exceed one thousand dollars” or “by imprisonment in the county jail for a period not to exceed one year,” or both. So why put that language in if it's never going to happen?

And the third brilliant move by Jerry “Moonbeam” Brown is a new law that reduces the penalty for knowingly giving someone the HIV virus from a felony to a misdemeanor. In doing so Brown has basically decriminalized potentially deadly assault on California residents.

Some will argue that HIV is not necessarily fatal anymore due to new medications and treatments. That may be true however, the potential is there since not every patient responds to every treatment the same way. And why shouldn't it be a serious crime to knowingly give someone a lifelong, if not fatal disease?

I lived in California for five years back in the early 80s. I loved the state and still do. It is really beautiful and has so many incredible things to see and do. I visited two years ago and was reminded of all the wondrous things that are there. But I wouldn't move back for any reason.

I can't imagine the citizens of California being happy about these changes. I know some people are getting fed up and leaving the state – not only to get away from the craziness of the government but the high taxes and high cost of living. I don't blame them. California has become a great place to visit.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

No - Roger Goodell Did Not Tell The NFL Players To Stand

It's being reported and repeated that Trump has won the battle of NFL players kneeling for the national anthem.

Roger Goodell issued a Memo on Monday addressing the issue and many are saying that he caved to the President and that President Trump won. But is that really true?

The most important sentence in the Memo is as follows: “Like many of our fans, we believe that everyone should stand for the National Anthem.”

He goes on to talk about why unity is important and that he's going to meet with the owners next week and then meet with the players' association (union) after that and they're going to talk about it and try to find a solution. Goodell did not tell the players they must all stand for the anthem. He didn't even come close.

I think Goodell's Memo was issued to make it look like he's doing something when he's really not. At least not yet.

Some players are pushing back. "I don't think guys are gonna like it," said Gerald McCoy of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when asked about the possible reaction from players. "I think it's gonna be an uproar if that is to happen because you're basically taking away a constitutional right to freedom of speech. If guys wanna have a, I guess you would call it a peaceful protest, I don't think it's right to take that away."

Um... hate to tell you this Gerald but if your team or league tells you you can no longer kneel for the national anthem or there will be consequences you still have freedom of speech. You just have to deal with the consequences if you decide to exercise it and kneel anyway. You have a constitutional right to express yourself. But if your employer tells you not to do it on his time and you do it anyway he has the constitutional right to take action against you.

One thing is certain – it's going to get interesting before it goes away. Goodell let it go on too long and now, regardless of what he does, many fans and most of the protesting players are still going to be angry. 

Best part about it? I don't watch anyway.