Thoughts on Veterans Day, 2016

I’ve never looked at my service in the Air Force as a sacrifice, nor as a selfless act. It was among the best years of my life and with them came many opportunities. 

I came away from those days so much more the benefactor. I was blessed beyond measure to have been born in this country. It was the least I could do for it. 

If I am a prideful person it’s for two reasons: I’m proud to have served in the military and I am a proud American.

On this day, while I salute all those who took the pledge — those who wear and wore the uniform — I remember especially those who I knew personally, those who never returned to their homes and family. The 6 crew members of a B-52 who frequented our fire station for the “good food and vending machines.” The F-105 pilot whose ejection seat malfuntioned killing him and another Air Force firefighter on my crew and finally a high school classmate, Robert Bolt “R.B.” Dickerson a Marine killed in South Vietnam in May of 1971.

There were a few others I knew and served with who paid the ultimate price and whose names I don’t now recall. Of course there are tens of thousands more from that era and from various wars and conflicts before and after. It is them I think of today. Any other “sacrifice” pales in comparison.

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War is not the answer?

While driving across the I-90 floating bridge into Seattle a few days ago I couldn’t help but notice a sticker on the rear window of a Prius. You’ve probably seen one yourself. “War is not the answer” it read.

Sorry, I beg to differ!

We live in times when barely a week goes by without reading, seeing or at least hearing of yet another terrorist attack somewhere in the world. The most recent was Thursday’s vicious assault by an Islamist terrorist group on innocent, unarmed university students in Kenya, Africa. The massacre took the lives of 148 students.
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Our government and our naïve citizenry, just like the one in the Prius, need to wake up! What’s it going to take? Must we bear a similar attack, or even worse, here in the United States to wake these types up to the stark reality? This is war, like it or not! A war centered on the fanatical religious beliefs of the insane. These are tyrants whose desire is to advance the cause of Islam, no matter the cost or the method.

The length of time, as well as the price we’ll have to pay to defend ourselves against this enemy, will be long and costly. It already has been. It’s a struggle that could be without end and with no victors. Certainly nothing can be accomplished in ridding the world — if even possible — of these sick madmen without our united resolve.

We must be fierce, relentless and bold. We must take actions meant not for the faint-of-heart. And finally, we must take this war to the enemy. Our only defense against these sick, degenerate maniacs is offensive. We simply have to take the battle to them and engage them without restraint. It’s either them or us.

I choose us!

Many good people promote peace by opposing war.  They advocate laws or treaties to abolish war, to require disarmament, or to reduce armed forces. Those methods may reduce the likelihood or the costs of war.  But opposition to war cannot ensure peace, because peace is more than the absence of war. ~~ Dallin H. Oaks

A Letter to Friends and Citizens

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A broadside of Washington’s Farewell Address, from the Rare Book and Special Collections Division of the Library of Congress

It came to be known as George Washington’s Farewell Address.  But it was never given as a speech. Distributed instead as a letter to the people of the United States it’s considered one of the most important documents in American history.

In his letter to “Friends and Citizens,” Washington devoted most of it to offer advice as a “parting friend” on what he believed were the greatest threats to the survival of a fledging nation. Among his subjects were foreign relations and free trade, credit and government borrowing as well as political factions and the party system. The letter is a masterpiece and, although written 218 years ago, his advice is worthy of our attention as it still governs much of our public affairs today. Just as Ronald Reagan did more recently George Washington looked ahead to the country’s future with great optimism.

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Not Enough Words

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness …” ~~ Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

Three of my sons and I were together a couple of times this past week. It’s been a long time. The oldest lives in São Paulo Brazil, while another is in Los Angeles, and my youngest in Provo, Utah. All are leading busy lives. Going to school, working jobs, building empires.

During my last visit with just my son Matt, before he returned to São Paulo on Saturday, we talked about how people believe we live in the worse of times. Blame it on the media we agreed. With modern technology, news stories, photos and videos from any part of the world comes to us in an instant and on devices we carry in our pockets. It’s not like it was when I was growing up. In those days, there was but a single daily newscast from the television networks, then just ABC, CBS or NBC. Local broadcast news was just as sparse and none of them more than half-an-hour. Radio was more in-depth, but there were no pictures! That was it for broadcasting, no smartphones, no alerts, no nothing! Add the daily newspapers, where it was believed the most informed would get their fill of current events. The Washington Post, The Evening Star were thick dailies and hugely powerful companies. That was then, this is now.

What we knew about the world was limited and not very timely.  The world seemed a much larger place and we were insulated from its harsh realities, while now we have become desensitized to the same. No one could have imagined what we were in-store for. Certainly our grandparents lived in simpler times, but in reality we aren’t living in the worse of them. However, with the dissemination of what goes on around us so readily available and graphic, we often think otherwise.

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When Lincoln Spoke

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Presidential Candidate Abraham Lincoln, August 1860, Springfield, IL

“I leave it to my audience. If I had another face, do you think I’d wear this one?” ~~ Abraham Lincoln, after being called ‘two-faced’ in a debate

It’s common knowledge Abraham Lincoln was not a handsome man, nor was he esteemed on first notice as graceful or socially adept. Described as homely, uncouth, rough-looking, a tall 6′ 4″ angular, awkward man in clothing that didn’t seem to fit, Lincoln was even said by some to be ugly. His remarkable face, height and flat-footed, springless walk never failed to make a powerful impression. As a London Times correspondent wrote: “It would not be possible for the most indifferent observer to pass him in the street without notice.”

But Lincoln, a dirt-farmers son was ambitious and determined to succeed. From the time he was a boy he was self-educated, an avid reader of any book or newspaper he could find. His stepmother remembered he was unusual, he had to understand everything, repeated facts to himself until they were “fixed in his mind.” With little formal education he left home at age 22. “I was a friendless, uneducated, penniless boy… a piece of floating driftwood.” Continue reading

American Exceptionalism: Is This a Great Country or What?

Objects of the most stupendous magnitude, and measure in which the lives and liberties of millions yet unborn are intimately interested, are now before us. We are in the very midst of a revolution the most complete, unexpected and remarkable of any in the history of nations. ~~ John Adams letter to William Cushing, June 9, 1776

I try to avoid writing about the political but from time to time it happens. Like most people I want to be liked. I want my words to bring smiles and pleasure. I want my stories bookmarked, remembered and my opinions respected. But I make no apologies about my occasional writings of the political kind. I just can’t help myself. Bad enough to hear it from outsiders but I get irked from time to time when I hear our own citizens tearing down our country. A lot has been said and written about American Exceptionalism, so time for me to write a little about it from my perspective, as well as an historical one. Continue reading

Politicians – The Critic Doesn’t Count

I have no ambition to govern men.  It is a painful and thankless office. ~~ Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, December 28, 1796

Being a politician is tough.  No doubt about it.  It’s a thankless job steeped in cynicism, distrust, even vile hatred and personal attacks from the very people they’re trying to represent.  I have little regard for cynics, never have. never will!

The politician’s job requires them to be ever visible, and accountable to not only a belligerent and fickle constituency, but to a hostile and often biased press.  That makes a politician a very easy target.  I can’t imagine being one.  It’s far too high a price to pay to be under such constant scrutiny, on an unlevel playing field and unable to please everyone.  The majority of us would never allow such close inspection.  Frankly, most of us couldn’t stand the heat.  Better it is to complain, point the finger.  Nevertheless the question should be asked;  If not us, then who? Continue reading