Marines.Together We Served

Monday, October 16, 2017

Are Guns the Problem?

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
16 October 2017

Are Guns the Problem?

To follow up on last week’s article, “A Look at the 2nd Amendment”, I posit the question for serious consideration: Are guns the problem?

The knee-jerk reaction that has been inculcated into the American psyche for the last several decades is that guns in and of themselves are evil. If this can be proven, then I will be the first to shout for the strictest gun control imaginable.

As I have taught my daughters, and subsequently my grandchildren, guns are only as dangerous as the person who handles them.

In previous articles in the past, I mentioned that my father was a member and instructor with the National Rifle Association (NRA). He had numerous guns and enjoyed handling them as well as instructing and engaging in recreational shooting. My brother, sister and I knew about guns from the time we were very small. We were taught to respect all weapons. When I was barely five, I remember the story in our neighborhood of two brothers who were playing around with a BB Gun. Tragically, the one brother shot the other in the eye, causing the eye to be permanently damaged.

Such horsing around will always put someone at risk, but when proper instruction and respect for weapons, particularly guns is made available to children early on, there is far less of a chance of such accidents occurring. Many of you, like me, remember when guys would drive their pickup trucks to high school with a gun sitting prominently on a rack placed squarely in the rear window. No one messed with it because you simply did not do such a thing. I attended five high schools from 1962-66, from Dallas, Texas, to Oslo, Norway, to New Milford, Connecticut, to Wellesley, Massachusetts, to (finally) Pacific Palisades, California. In all that time and in all those places, I never once heard of someone abusing or indiscriminately handling a gun on campus or anywhere else.

Do we need more gun control laws? How many are there anyway? Well, there are many gun control laws on the books at the federal, state and local levels. I’m not sure anyone really knows just how many there are. I have researched this question with little to show. It is safe to say there are hundreds of such laws all across the nation at every level – quite possibly in the thousands. The danger with more and more gun laws begs the question, “Where does it stop?”

When the Founding Fathers of our nation included the 2nd Amendment, it was not an afterthought. It was primary to the rights of all Americans to be able to defend themselves against a government that had overstepped its bounds. In Europe at that time in history, the masses of people were considered to be too dense to take on the responsibility of self-protection. A cursory review of European history will clearly reveal that monarchs and despotic leaders routinely trampled on the God-given rights of the people. James Madison and others understood this and did everything in their power to ensure that this new nation, the United States of America, would not make the same mistakes many of our Founders had experienced in Europe prior to immigrating to America.

Governor Matt Bevin of Kentucky wrote in a Tweet following the horrific Las Vegas massacre, “To all those political opportunists who are seizing on the tragedy in Las Vegas to call for more gun regs . . . You can’t regulate evil . . .”

The Governor is absolutely correct. The human race is in a fallen condition. We obviously cannot fix ourselves or we would have done so by now. As a follower of Jesus, I believe in his sacrificial death on the cross to save me (and you) from a life that, left unchecked, is fully capable of committing the worst deeds imaginable.

The current death toll from January 1, 2017 to October 16, 2017 states that there were 9,067 people “murdered by gun” thus far. That’s a lot of people, equivalent to half the population of Ripon, my home town. But how does this number compare to other deaths? Well, so far this year 26,673 people were killed by drunk driving. Another 33,746 were killed by suicide. How about the flu/pneumonia? 43,572. Here’s a kicker: Hospital Associated Infection has left 78,107 dead. This next one will make you squirm. Medical errors: 198,387. And that’s only sixth on the overall list. Number five is Obesity with 242,211. Number four is Tobacco with 276,137. Number three is Cancer with 466,829. Number two is Heart Disease with 484,700. And the number one cause of death in America for the past 44 years is Abortion with 861,561. What? No outrage?

With a population of 319 million people in America as of 2016, and 9,067 deaths by gun (which includes roughly 2/3rds in self-defense, equivalent to 6,000 deaths), then deaths by gun equates to 0.00002842 percent of the population, or 25 deaths a day in the U.S.A.

Make no mistake! Each death by gun is a tragic loss. But to listen to the gun control crowd you would think people were dropping like flies every day. That is often the perception of foreigners about America. And that’s a shame.

Duly trained and licensed gun owners are a deterrent to crime. In fact, they are a force multiplier for law enforcement. Bad guys do not want to have someone shooting back when they are committing their crimes.

A well-armed society is a safe society. Our Founding Father’s knew this. That’s why they wrote the 2nd Amendment. And it is the 1st Amendment: freedom of religion, speech, assembly and the press, that is protected by the 2nd.  

Man, I love this country!

Monday, October 09, 2017

A Look at the 2nd Amendment

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
9 October 2017

A Look at the 2nd Amendment

Once again, our nation has been rocked and shocked by the utterly senseless killing of concert attendees at a live country and western shindig last weekend. Such villainy should cause every American to pause and ask how it is that our nation has arrived at a point where wanton killing is reluctantly embraced as the norm.

A brief, succinct answer would be centered around the devaluing of life – human life in particular. Make no mistake! We have become numb to the gruesome reality of a million babies aborted in the United States every year. You can bet we have lost the key ingredient in valuing human life. That key ingredient is that God is the Creator of all life.

If we fall into the trap of excluding God from our appreciation of life, then we will, by default, have a view of life that is less than the view that God holds. Thus, we proceed on the slippery slope of man’s degenerating opinion of life, and our inability to see some life as worthy, and other life as unworthy, or even unnecessary or inconvenient.  

If there is one conclusion that is easily drawn from the most cursory of analyses concerning the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, it is that God is supreme, and all human life is precious. The authors of the Constitution intended it to be clear from the outset, despite the practice of slavery at the time of the formation of the nation.

The 2nd Amendment is a lightning rod issue, causing debate from kitchen tables to the Supreme Court, running the emotional gamut often with a ferocious intensity.

So, why did the Founding Fathers make this 2nd Amendment? Quite simply, to put into the hands of these new American citizens in the 1780s the awesome responsibility of governing themselves by creating a government that was answerable to “We the People”, and not the other way around.

Those British subjects who inhabited the New World known as America, felt the ever-oppressive hand of the entrenched monarchy thousands of miles across the Atlantic, treating these colonists as vassals who were not worthy of plotting the course of their own lives without the heavy-handed dictatorial rule of a king or queen. It was considered an absurdity to allow people to self-govern. Such umbrage! Such cheekiness!

If this new nation was to survive to rule itself, free from the dictates of British oversight and control, then all Americans would need to be able to band together to resist by force, if necessary, the unwelcomed imposition of an overbearing government, whether it came from across the sea, or was home-grown right here in America.

What exactly does the 2nd Amendment say? “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

What is “a well regulated militia”? There are three definitions in the dictionary. 1. It is “an army composed of ordinary citizens rather than professional soldiers.” 2. It is “a military force that is not part of a regular army and is subject to call for service in an emergency.” 3. It is “the whole body of physically fit civilians eligible by law for military service.”

Now, the militia is meant to be used in order to secure that the State (Nation, if you will) is kept free from enemies, both foreign and domestic. A people desiring to be free must be willing to defend that freedom. Why? Because, as history has abundantly proven, there is always someone, or some other nation that wants to take away your freedom.

So, how do we keep this free State free, safe and secure? By giving the people of that State the right to keep and bear arms. Simply put, as a freedom-loving American, I have every right, as provided by the Constitution and through common sense, to keep and bear arms. If there are bad people seeking to enslave me by removing the primary means to fight back against a tyrant or tyrannical government, then I will fight them.

Finally, what does “shall not be infringed” mean? Once again, the dictionary definition of infringe makes it pretty clear. Infringe means “to transgress or exceed the limits of; to violate; to defeat, or invalidate; to encroach on someone or something.”

The 2nd Amendment says nothing about people having the right to own a gun for hunting or sport shooting. It is all about defending yourself and your family in concert with other Americans who may feel they are threatened, or are in reality threatened, by using a weapon to protect life and liberty.

And isn’t it interesting that the 2nd Amendment does not mention guns, but instead mentions “arms”? Guns, in one fashion or another, have been around this old world for 700 years.

Next week I will continue on this topic and how the argument for further gun control is nothing more than smoke and mirrors. The real issue is not the physical presence of guns and the specious arguments calling for stricter laws. The issue is evil in the hearts of some people who want to kill other people by whatever means possible.

Monday, October 02, 2017

Marine Corps Museum

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
2 October 2017

Marine Corps Museum

As part of our two weeks of travel, Isaura and I drove from our Brats Reunion in Huntsville, Alabama to my brother’s home in Great Falls, Virginia (608 miles). Such visits with my brother John, whether he comes to California, or I go to Virginia, is always an occasion for numerous rounds of golf!

We had the opportunity to visit with a number of friends here in Virginia, some we haven’t seen in many years. All visits were centered around food and laughs. One of the Brats I saw in Huntsville last week I had not seen in 53 years! It just so happens that he and his family live in Great Falls! So, we met at a Mexican restaurant, El Tio, in Great Falls. Steve and Laura Robinson are a delightful couple. She and Isaura were chatting non-stop the whole evening.

We decided to spend a day to ourselves last Thursday, so we drove to Quantico, Virginia to visit the National Museum of the Marine Corps. I had visited this museum not long after it opened in 2006. However, since then it has been expanded which now includes a portrayal of all the wars the Marines have fought in. Initially, it covered World War Two through Vietnam because veterans of those wars could see their own history. The museum boasts more than 500,000 visitors a year.

The day we visited was a bright, sunny day so the hour-long drive was a pleasure. The museum is self-guided, allowing time to pause at various points of interest. In my initial planning for this outing, I figured we’d be there two, or maybe three hours which would include lunch. Boy! Was I mistaken.

The museum opens at 10:00 am, so we figured to be there when it opened. When we left it was already getting close to 4:30. We started by watching a 13-minute video introducing the museum and how it came to be. “The Museum is a public-private partnership between the U.S. Marine Corps and the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation.” We then sat in on a 45-minute film which took you through the training regimen of a Marine. Having experienced this first hand nearly 50 years ago, I just smiled as I recalled the various rigors of boot camp followed by infantry combat training. My wife, on the other hand, was stunned to near silence. She had no idea just how harsh and brutal the training is in the making of a Marine. But then again, war is a nasty business. Perhaps a comment on one of the placards says it best. “For Marines, ‘First to Fight’ is both a promise and a point of pride. Readiness for rapid deployment and sudden violence demands strict discipline and tough training.”

Hanging from the apexed ceiling of the main concourse are a World War I bi-plane which is the first war where airplanes were used in combat. Another suspended plane was the F4U which was used by Marines in World War II.

Each of the wars Marines were engaged in had their own section which you could walk through. They were designed to make you feel as though you were right there. Even the Korean War exhibit was closed off, requiring you to enter through a door because they created a very cold environment, simulating the bitter cold Marines faced during the running battle known as the Chosin Reservoir. Those Marines who fought there are known as “The Frozen Chosin”. So serious was the situation for the First Marine Regiment at Chosin that the commanding general, Marine icon, Chesty Puller, said, “We’re surrounded . . . that simplifies our problem.”

The Vietnam War section had you walking through the aft end of a CH46 troop transport helicopter into the rice paddies of ‘Nam. You could even smell the hydraulic fluid which is so much a part of helicopter flight. The attempt to make this as realistic as possible was well done.

We did have lunch at the Tun Tavern, a spinoff of the original Tun Tavern in Philadelphia where the first Marines were recruited on what is now the Marine Corps Birthday, November 10, 1775. Next month will be the Marines’ 242nd birthday. One of the items we ordered for lunch was an appetizer: Deep Fried Pickle Chips! Yum! The food was excellent, as was the service.

We finished by wandering through the Art Gallery, portraying combat art by Marines, some professional, but most were created by men in the midst of combat.

Having taught Marine Corps history while still in the Marine Corps Reserve, I found I was learning many things all over again in addition to adding to my knowledge of Marine Corps history and lore. It was a great experience.

If you find yourself in the Washington D.C. area, make it a point to visit this museum. And it’s free. You’ll be glad you did!

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Vikings Rule!

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
25 September 2017

Vikings Rule!

What a fun week Isaura and I had in Huntsville, Alabama with all of our Overseas Brats friends.

Every year there is a reunion of folks who sometime in the past attended a Department of Defense (DoD) school somewhere around the world as children of a military parent. They are known as Military Brats. In 1986, Joe Condrill and several other Brats decided to have a reunion with those “kids” they had known previously. It has only grown since then as more Brats are located. To attend such a reunion is a combination of American history dating back to 1946 and world geography writ large.

Two of the Brats in attendance this week were in their teens when they traveled to a foreign land with their parents in 1946. Class sizes in the DoD schools were as small as five kids! Many of the schools were located on military bases within the United States. But the places around the world where other schools are located would be a challenge for the most knowledgeable geography professor. There are 133 schools represented. Many Brats attended more than one DoD school as kids. Let’s see, there’s Ankara, Turkey; Bad Aibling, Germany; Bushy Park, London, England; Chateauroux, France; Dreux, France; Garmisch, Germany; Jonathan M. Wainwright, Tainan, Taiwan; Kaiserslautern, Germany; Kobe, Panama; Lajes, Portugal; Machinato, Okinawa; Oslo, Norway; Salzburg, Austria; Tehran American School, Iran; Wheelus, Libya; Yoyogi, Japan; Zaragoza, Spain, to name a few.

The shared experience Brats have bonds them with each other for life. We may not have attended the same schools at the same time, but the challenge of being dropped into a new place, often a new country, language, and culture, causes you to grow in ways you simply could not experience in any other way. My sister Joy and I attended the junior high school at the Oslo American School in Oslo, Norway. At the same time, our brother John, attended high school in Dreux, France.

A different location is chosen each year for our gathering. Next year we’ll be in Fort Worth, Texas. But I have to tell you: If you’ve never been to Huntsville, Alabama, you should make every effort to come here. The people are very friendly, the city is full of history going back to the Revolutionary War.

Our time each gathering always includes sight-seeing trips in the local area, which often includes a dinner at some local eatery.

This year, however, brought a twist to our local visits. Friday evening, we were to attend a performance at the Mark C. Smith Concert Hall next door to our hotel. However, plans were changed because President Trump was arriving in Huntsville to lend support to a congressman running in a special election, so the concert hall was taken over for the rally. We heard the anti-Trumpers shouting, and then the pro-Trumpers shouting down the anti-Trumpers. The place was packed to capacity (seats 5,000), and there were apparently several thousand more supporters outside. The badges which were made for us so we could enter the concert hall were stamped: CANCELLED due to a visit from the President of the United States.

The time we spend together catching up with each other and what has taken place in the intervening years is special. We really do feel a sense of family when we come together.

Because those of us who attended the Oslo American School are known as the Vikings, on the last evening together we always wear our Viking paraphernalia. I bring out my imitation Viking helmet replete with horns, plus I wield a plastic, life-sized Hammer of Thor. The twenty of us representing the school present quite a scene as we arrive all attired in Nordic costumes. We comprise the largest group from any one school, so Vikings Rule! But otherwise, we’re harmless.

At the end of three days, there has been a vast amount of talking and sharing, with promises to see one another again the next year, Lord willing. It is not at all unusual for tears to flow as we say goodbye yet again, but leaving having been refreshed by the renewed comraderies.

Many of us are in our twilight years, so each year together is special. Many of our number are no longer with us. It is our hope to pass the baton of our reunions to the next generation of Brats.

For many of us, these were the best years we experienced growing up. Next August, we’ll drag out our Viking helmets and Nordic stuff and gleefully descend on Fort Worth, Texas to join the host of other Brats who are our Brat Family.

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Value of Seniors

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
18 September 2017

The Value of Seniors

Senior citizens, those with many miles on their frames, are meant to be a blessing to any culture and society. That’s a theme that is evident throughout the Bible. Both my wife, Isaura, and I can vouch for the truth of this role of the aged ones.

Isaura grew up on the Island of San Miguel, the Azores, Portugal. The village where she was born and raised, Arrifes, was also where most of her family still resided, even though some had made the long journey to North America. At age thirteen, and the oldest of her five siblings, her family also moved to America, settling in the Central Valley of California.

But during those formative years on San Miguel, she spent countless hours and days with her many aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents. Especially her grandparents.

On Sundays after church, Isaura would help her grandmother take food baskets to families in their community. This was food prepared by her grandmother. One of their shared loves was working in the garden, tending to the various flowers and plants. Both grandparents were strong Christians, exemplifying their faith by their actions each and every day. She has often mentioned seeing her grandfather through the door to his room which would be slightly ajar. There he would be with his Bible, on his knees, in prayer. She would quietly listen as he prayed out loud. As a farmer, he knew well the importance of the proper weather conditions, especially rain. He would implore the Lord for the crops to grow so he could pay his employees who had families to feed. They would often feed the poor children by bringing them into their home for a meal.  

I am forever grateful to her grandparents, because their example made a deep and lasting impression on my wife, who, not surprisingly, is a woman of prayer; she’s generous to a fault; and loves to work in her garden. When I step across into Glory, I’m going to search out her grandparents and thank them for helping shape my wife’s godly character.

On the other hand, I was born in Connecticut, right on the Long Island Sound. My parents were born and raised in Texas, but moved to New York in 1934 where my father was able to find a good job during the Great Depression. So, my brother, sister and I were all born in Connecticut. My parents divorced when I was five. My mother remarried shortly before I turned seven. My grandparents all lived in Texas. Traveling there in the late ‘40s and ‘50s was a major evolution, and costly. My new step grandmother who hailed from Concord, Massachusetts, won me over quickly with her homemade strawberry shortcake with real whipped cream! I can still taste it. She only cooked from scratch! She moved in with us when I was ten, having been widowed seven years earlier. She would make pancakes for me which I loved. They were the ugliest things you’ve ever seen, all misshapen and lopsided. But my taste buds and saliva glands could not have cared less.

All the grandkids called her Bambi. I don’t know why other than the older grandkids started calling her that long before I came along, even though her name was Ethel. I would open the bedroom window for her at night, and close it in the morning before heading for school. I also enjoyed brewing her a cup of tea in the morning. I learned a lot about cooking, especially baking, by watching her in the kitchen. She loved reading books of all kinds, along with working cross-word puzzles. But what I loved and appreciated most about her is the time she would take to listen to me talk about whatever was on my mind. She was so patient, listening to my childlike thoughts, but never making light of what I said. I always felt like I could bring up any subject with her, and she would listen intently. She was a gift to me. And guess what? I love to bake and putter around in the kitchen. I love to read all sorts of books. And I must have learned to listen because I spent a lot of time counseling as a pastor, and as a Navy chaplain.

When I was on active duty in the Navy, our girls were quite young. So, at each duty station we would look to “adopt” an older couple who would be surrogate grandparents for our girls. We were blessed with many people over the years who were willing to give of their time and energy with our girls.

Isaura and I have been retired over three years and are enjoying spending lots of time with our grandkids. They can be seen helping Meema (Isaura) in her garden, or baking goodies with me in the kitchen. I especially enjoy those moments when they have questions or simply want to talk.

Are you a senior citizen? Do you have grandkids or great-grandkids you can invest your time and energy into? Perhaps they live too far away for that. Then let me suggest that you look for children in your local neighborhood, church, or school who could definitely benefit from your life and experiences.

You may be retired and feel you are no longer of much use or value to society. But you would be wrong about that! There are children who desperately need you to give them your time.

It was meant for you to live this long so you could be a blessing. In being a blessing, you will also be blessed, many times over.

What are you waiting for!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

End of the Age?

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
11 September 2017

End of the Age?

As typically happens whenever there are natural catastrophes of immense destruction, there are those who come out with doomsday pronouncements declaring the world is being judged, or the end of the world is at hand.

As the 24/7 news cycle has so breathlessly attempted to keep us up to date, we have watched as massively destructive hurricanes ravage Texas along its Gulf of Mexico coastline, and now Hurricane Irma is about to pounce on Florida from stem-to-stern. There is a virtual national hysteria over the size and force of Irma as she bears down on Sunshine State, having her way, disrupting all the inhabitants from Key West to Jacksonville and beyond. This hurricane has already left in her wake death and destruction, ripping through the Caribbean Islands. A retired Navy chaplain friend who hails from Saint Thomas, the Virgin Islands, informed me that he finally made contact with his brothers and sister back in St. Thomas. They are all well, but one cousin was killed. And not a single roof survived the fury of the storm.

I find myself getting really annoyed by fools who decide to stay even after a mandatory evacuation has been called for. I’m referring specifically to those who are very capable of leaving the area, but choose not to for whatever foolish reasons they imagine. I heard of one professional surfer who decided he would like to ride the wave produced by Irma. I’m not sure where he did this, but the end result was his death. Others are seen running around like frat boys acting stupidly in the face of certain death. You would think that the horrors of Hurricane Harvey would have been enough to convince folks that these storms are nothing to trifle with.

Mexico has had its own natural disasters over the past couple of days. First, it was an 8.2 seismic reading some 60 miles off the western coast of Mexico now known as the Chiapas Quake. It is listed as the strongest quake anywhere in the world during 2017. Last report listed 61 people died. A day later, a hurricane hit the other side of Mexico wreaking destruction and additional loss of life.

Back home in the western part of the USA, we have experienced devastating forest fires in Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, and Colorado. I looked at a map on the Internet that showed where all the fires are. It’s frightful to literally see ten of the western states going up in flames. A golfing buddy just returned from Denver where he said they fires had created so much smoke that you couldn’t see any blue sky. Another friend said the air quality in Oregon and Washington was horrible, all due to out-of-control fires.

Add to these assaults by mother nature a crazy man as the leader of North Korea, who seems to think it’s okay to “beard the lion.” Kim Jung Un is doing his utmost to draw the US into a war. This is lunacy! He threatens to use nuclear weapons against our allies, South Korea and Japan, as well as nuke the US territory of Guam and even mainland USA! What chutzpah! Can this madman actually cause destruction and death? Certainly! Can the US wipe him and his nation out quickly? Yes. But only if we are forced to do so. Let’s pray that this nut job will take a hiatus.

One more devastation is the widespread famine that has affected significant portions of Africa. Famine is nothing new on the African continent, but most of the time these famines are caused by sparse rainfall. Two the worst famines in Africa at this writing have been caused by warring factions, each destroying the fields and crops of the other. Literally tens of thousands are dying due to lack of food.

It’s at times like this that I’ll hear someone intone, almost as a prayer, “Jesus has to be coming back soon! Things can’t possibly get any worse.” My response is, “Not so fast!” Does the Bible have anything to say about this? Well, yes it does. In the 13th chapter of the Gospel of Luke, we read, “When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.”

What does all this mean then? The beginning of the End Times will be evident through earthquakes, wars and rumors of wars, and famines, among other things. But this would only be the beginning of that lengthy time period leading up to the triumphant return of Jesus.

You and I have no control over the natural cataclysms that take place, nor do we have the power to prevent war and its aftermath.

But we can decide whose side we’re on. Joshua said, “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord!”

Psalm for the Day