Marines.Together We Served

Monday, June 19, 2017

Religious Liberty Rescued

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
19 June 2017

Religious Liberty Rescued

Amidst all the hullabaloo over collusions with the Russians, a disgraced former FBI director, illegal immigration wars, ad nausea, there are some really great things taking place in the first five months of the Trump Administration.

This is especially true for people of all faiths, but specifically Christians. Ever since the Johnson Amendment of 1954 (during the Eisenhower Administration) pastors, preachers and ministers have effectively had their hands tied, so to speak, when it came to discussing or preaching a particular viewpoint from the pulpit that may be construed as political influence. Then Senator Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ) of Texas introduced a bill into Congress that would make a provision in the U.S. Tax Code prohibiting “all 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations from endorsing or opposing political candidates.” These organizations “range from charitable foundations to universities and churches.”

Republicans and Conservatives for the past two decades have been working to overturn the Johnson Amendment. The good news is that President Trump has taken the first steps to reverse this law.

It has been disheartening for the last sixty-three years to see those who have been entrusted with proclaiming Jesus as the Savior in our churches silenced when it comes to speaking on what could be considered political issues and political candidates. Far too many ministers knuckled under to this law. Others ignored the law, realizing the IRS could remove their tax-exempt status if found guilty of violating the Johnson Amendment.

One of President Trump’s campaign promises was to reverse the Johnson Amendment. “We will not allow people of faith to be targeted, bullied or silenced anymore,” the president declared. In an article in Decision Magazine, June 2017, Reverend Franklin Graham, director of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, (BGEA) wrote about the president signing an executive order to help protect our religious freedoms in a Rose Garden ceremony. Hallelujah!

Graham elaborates, “The executive order counters the chilling effect on the speech of churches and charities. The president wants to protect the freedom of pastors and church leaders to address political issues and candidates.” Graham added this important caveat, “The order is also designed to help protect organizations from being forced to include abortion-inducing drugs in their health-care plans.” You may recall the brouhaha over the Little Sisters of the Poor, a Catholic order of religious women who care for the elderly poor, being forced by the United States government to provide abortion services in their health-care plan. This all began in 2013, finding its way to the United States Supreme Court. The Little Sisters’ case was eventually won three years later. President Trump signed his executive order just last May. In the order, he directed HHS (Health & Human Services) Secretary Tom Price “to protect the Little Sisters of the Poor and other religious ministries from the HHS Mandate.” Price said that the HHS “will be taking action in short order.” The executive order nullifies the HHS Mandate, stating that  other federal agencies “must end their unnecessary legal fights against the Little Sisters and other ministries in courts around the country.”

There is still much to do in reversing so much anti-religious laws and policies that have been allowed to become part of our national condition. One group that has been having its way against people of faith is the LBGTQ (Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay, Transgender, Queer) folks who intentionally target businesses owned and operated by people of faith, specifically Christians.

Another business owned and operated by a Christian came under attack from the LGBTQ. This was Chick-fil-A, the very popular fast-food fried chicken chain. In comments opposing same-sex marriage made by the COO (Chief Operating Officer) for Chick-fil-A, protests were staged attempting to force Chick-fil-A to change their tune or close their business. There was a huge reaction in support of Chick-fil-A, which effectively ended the protests.

It’s this sort of bullying that has evoked the need for political action on the part of the president. As a nation, our core beliefs as Americans came directly from the Bible. Those beliefs were then modified into our system of laws, not the least of which is the Declaration of Independence (1776), the Constitution of the United States (1787), and the Bill of Rights (1791). If we choose to stray from these beliefs, we do so at our own personal and national peril.

For now, we have a president who is in strong support of protecting our religious freedoms by passing legislation to secure, once again, those freedoms which for a time had been lost to us.

May there ever be American patriots who burn with such moral rectitude and courage as to forever stand for the right. This I believe will always bring about God’s willingness to bless America.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Knights in Shining Armor

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
12 June 2017

Knights in Shining Armor

Well, not really. But I thought I might catch your attention with this title. However, the knights part is correct, whereas the shining armor part is up for debate.

The expression “knight in shining armor” has historically implied an upright, valorous and virtuous man who goes around rescuing maidens in distress. On a more intimate level, women often are looking for a husband who will be their “knight in shining armor”.  

This week’s missive toys with this idea of knights, but I’m coming at it from an entirely different perspective.

As most of you who have been reading my column know, I enjoy singing. And one of my hobbies is singing Barbershop 4-Part Harmony. I’m a member in the Barbershop Harmony Society (BHS) which is an international organization specifically focused on this uniquely American music form we know as “Barbershop Music”. The Society has grown to the point that Barbershop Music has spread throughout the world. Other countries that are currently singing barbershop are Great Britain, Holland, Germany, Ireland, Sweden, Russia, Australia, New Zealand, South Pacific Islands, South Africa, and more! To see what I’m talking about, go on YouTube and type in Barbershop Chorus Champions. Then listen to your hearts delight. Do the same with Barbershop Quartet Champions. But be careful! This can be addictive.

I actually am a member of three barbershop choruses. I’m active with Voices of California (VoCal, for short, 75 men) out of Sacramento, and the Golden Valley Chorus (GVC, 25 men) in Modesto. The third chorus is the Alexandria Harmonizers in Washington, D.C. My nephew, Josh Roots, is active with this chorus which boasts 125 men.

Each year choruses and quartets compete at various events in their districts to move up the competition ladder. If they are good enough, they earn the right to compete on the grand stage at the annual International Convention. This year the convention is being held in Las Vegas at Bally’s (July 4-9). The Voices of California (VoCal) will be heading for Vegas where we will compete against other big choruses, as well as the overall title of Gold Medal Chorus Champion for 2017. This will be my first time competing at an International.

So, last Saturday VoCal had an extra rehearsal in preparation for our big opportunity in Vegas. We spent four hours going over the two songs we’re required to perform, which includes a fair amount of choreography. We spent all four hours on our feet with only a ten-minute break. As you might surmise, we’re committed to this event!

The theme of our performance package is Knights of the Round Table. A package typically has an “up tune”, and a ballad. Our up tune is, ”The EPIC Knight Medley”, followed by the ballad, “If Ever I Would Leave You”. The Medley is a spoof on Knights of the Round Table, harkening back to the swashbuckling days of the Middle Ages in England with King Arthur and his knights. The EPIC Knight Medley, using known tunes, uses entirely different wording in order to stay true to the Knights theme. And should you be concerned that there might be copyright violations, rest assured: We are diligent in acquiring the needed permission.

The parody on the tunes we use for our Medley are: “Knights of the Round Table.” A classic line from this song is, “We dine while here in Camelot. We eat ham and jam and spam a lot!” We then bridge into the tune, “So Long Mother”, only the wording is, “Oh, Guinevere a little tear is gleaming in your eye. Your knights are all assembled, off to war where we may die!” Then we roll into “Just in Time”, only we sing, “It’s jousting time. Hooray it’s jousting time! Those pointy sticks are primed. Let’s have a show!” The next tune is the classic “Chariots of Fire” followed by “I Could Have Danced All Night”. We sing, “I could have lanced four knights, I could have lanced five knights and still have lanced some more!” Next up is the tune, “Bright Was The Night”. It’s changed to sound very much like the original, but instead, we sing, “This knight’s not bright! His head’s not right”. And then we end the up tune with “I Love A Parade”. But we sing, “Oh, I love a crusade!” One line in this part goes like this, “I love a crusade! The Bubonic plague, the loss of a leg or maybe a thumb, a Thumb! We’re off on a crusade!”

Remember what I said earlier. This is a spoof, a lampooning of knights as they prepare to go off on crusades.

The ballad, “If Ever I Would Leave You”, is sung straight, and is intended to illicit emotion as the character of the knight leaves his love behind while he rides off into an uncertain future.

All seventy-five of us are dressed in period costume. Originally, I was one of the townspeople, and my singing position was strictly on the risers. Last week I was informed that I would now be one of the soldiers which requires coming off the risers and doing a lot of foot and hand movements all performed on the stage along with other soldiers and knights.

I wish you could be in Vegas to see us perform. But one thing you can be certain of: I will be writing an article (or possibly two) about the experience. Isaura will be accompanying me, so we’re going to have a blast!

Monday, June 05, 2017

A Weekend Jaunt

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
5 June 2017

A Weekend Jaunt

          By definition, a jaunt is usually understood to mean a short journey meant for pleasure. Thus, jaunt is the exact word I would use for this article.

          This weekend foray came about after we learned of a friend’s illness in El Cajon (ka–hone) which is just east of San Diego. Gary has been struggling with a debilitating sickness for some number of months, and is currently in a nursing facility. Isaura and I looked at our calendars and decided this past Friday thru Sunday would work best for us to make a drive to see Gary.

          Isaura reminded me that some dear friends we have known since before we were married had just moved back to Azusa (near Pasadena) from their home in Cincinnati, Ohio where they have lived the last twenty-two years. I used to sing in a Gospel group with Ed and Dolly when we all lived in San Jose. We called ourselves, The Redeemed. We absolutely had a blast traveling around the Bay Area and Central Valley of California singing at a plethora of events and venues.

          On Friday after playing a round of golf with my friends at Spring Creek, Isaura and I hopped in the car and headed for our rendezvous with Ed and Dolly, arriving in time for dinner. Ed’s dad (also goes by Ed) joined the four of us at a Mexican restaurant in Azusa called, Max’s. We sat around stuffing ourselves with massive portions of food and drink. I have never seen such serving sizes, literally covering the entire platter. And the drink mugs were more like the size of a beer stein. I could not finish my meal!

          We spent a delightful evening with our friends, with Ed pulling out his six-string guitar and leading us in singing a couple of the songs we used to do. We finished up with, I’ll Fly Away! After a restful night in their guest room, we had breakfast in the kitchen before Isaura and I headed for San Diego. It was such a joy to catch up with these friends whom we have not seen in at least a half-dozen years.

          Another part of our trip while in southern California was to visit with our niece, Emily. She is the daughter of Isaura’s youngest sister, Judy and her husband Greg. Emily is now working in San Diego and is dating, Alex, an active duty Marine who is stationed at Camp Pendleton. We met them for lunch on Saturday at Seaport Village, which is a fun place to visit. There are numerous stores and shops of various kinds all along the waterfront. One of our favorite restaurants there is the Greek Islands, known for its great Mediterranean style food. Of course, I was curious about Alex. I was very impressed with him. The four of us talked over our food for a couple of hours, learning that Alex has been in the Marine Corps for eight years, and has every intention of making this his career. Before we left Emily and Alex in the parking lot, we took the obligatory pictures which the rest of the family was dying to see.

          Next stop was a visit to Gary in the nursing home. He was in fine spirits even though he has a trache which certainly limits communication. However, I learned they have a device now that allows the person with the trache to still be able to speak, and it was surprisingly clear. Gary also spent twenty-five years in the National Guard, so we have a military connection as well. We chatted with him for a time, and then I read a number of passages to him from the Scriptures. I then anointed his forehead with oil followed by prayer from Isaura and me. It was, indeed, a special moment!

          After saying goodbye to Gary, we drove to Camp Pendleton where we were booked in the Inns of the Corps lodging for Saturday night. But first we stopped in the Marine Corps Exchange (MCX). This is one of Isaura’s favorite things to do when we visit any military base. There are a lot of good deals and no sales tax! I usually wander over to the sporting goods to see what they have in golf equipment. Aha! To my great delight, I found a putter I had wanted, and it was the last one. It cost all of $25.00! I snagged it right quick and will have an opportunity to try it out this Wednesday morning.

          While stationed at Camp Pendleton in the mid-80s, we had found two favorite restaurants which we always try to patronize when we are in the area. So we drove to the Armenian Café which serves the best lemon soup you’ll ever have. To our great shock and dismay, the building was gone! The area was encircled with construction barriers, but nothing to indicate what had happened. So we drove two blocks over to the Vera Cruz Fish House, which also was vacated and a new sign indicating who the new business was to be. Both of these places are wildly popular, so we were stunned, to say the least. I had the phone numbers for both in my phone, so I called. The Armenian Café is under totally new construction and will open again, however the date is unknown. As for the Fish House, it is in a new location. All is right with the world again!

          I’ve been asked if I miss the military life, and my answer is always, no. Thirty-four years was enough. But as Isaura and I stood outside the Ward Lodge at Mainside on Camp Pendleton this morning, I looked at her and said, “This is what I miss.” There is a quietness on a military base that is very calming. You can almost feel it. I explained what I meant, and she agreed.

          Our drive back to northern California was uneventful. But it did include a stop at our youngest daughter’s home in Turlock for a birthday party for granddaughter, Brooklyne who is nine.

           It was truly a weekend jaunt, full of delight!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A Soldier's Reflections

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
29 MAY 2017

A Soldier’s Reflections

          Memorial Day is now passed. As Americans, we celebrate this special day each May acknowledging the sacrifice of patriots who placed their lives in harm’s way so you and I could live in peace and freedom.

          So, all of this attention on the price of freedom and the visit to a special Memorial Day service at a local cemetery got me to thinking. Browsing through my shelves of books on the Civil War, I ran across one particular volume about Charles W. Sherman, a soldier with the 12th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry. The book is the compilation of letters (160 in all) that Private Sherman wrote home to his wife, Virtue, during his two years of military service. Entitled, Letters to Virtue, the book is subtitled, A Civil War Journey of Courage, Faith, and Love.

          Charles Sherman is truly and American story! He was born in England in 1828, immigrating to the United States in 1838 with his family. In 1848, Charles married Virtue James, also an immigrant from England. They had five children. He seems to have been something of a Jack-of-all-trades, working first as a harness maker in Connecticut as recorded in the census of 1850, then as a carpenter in Webster, Massachusetts in the census of 1860.

          The Civil War began in 1861, requiring men to leave their families and their vocations to serve their country in order to preserve the Union. In January of 1862, at age 33, Charles Sherman enlisted in the 12th Connecticut. He must not have had much of an education as his letters reflect poor spelling and grammar usage. However, his ability to express what was important to him comes through with clarity. You see, “Charles enlisted because of his strong belief in the principles of his adopted country as well as his firm opposition to slavery.”

          It is a fascinating journey to catch glimpses of a soldier’s life during the most arduous of wartime challenges. His unit left Connecticut, traveling to Louisiana, then to Virginia, before finally returning to Connecticut at war’s end. He is quick to express his love for his wife and five children in each of his many letters. His graphic descriptions of combat and its horrors are not enjoyable reading, but he is frank and honest in his assessment of their conditions and the combat they are frequently engaged in.

          In his last letter home, dated October 15, 1864, Cedar Creek, Virginia (The Battle of Cedar Creek), he shares a thought that must have been troubling him for quite some time. Describing preparations for battle, he writes, “It is not fear, but a sad feeling when you see the skirmishers deploy into line, and the regiments unfold themselves into a line of battle.” He further describes the cacophony of battle. “When the thunder of the artillery comes upon you, you forget everything else and look out for the shells that come screaming toward you, not that you can dodge anything, but you want to see where they are coming from.”

          He conveys the relief in returning to camp, saying, “A man feels better in going away from danger than in going to it.” I can vouch for that!

          But it was this expressed thought that captured my attention, and his reluctant acceptance of war’s horrific devastation, regardless of who wins and who loses. He wrote, “I do wish this cruel war would come to an end, for this going about to kill one another has an unchristian look to me, when you come to look at it in that light, but it has to be done, I suppose.”

          On October 23, 1864, Sergeant Edward S. Larkum wrote a letter to Charles’ father. “Dear Sir, It devolves on me as a tentmate of your son to line (write) the sad news of his death, which occurred in terrible battle of the 19th of the present month. As a soldier, he was much respected. He was courteous alike to everyone and there was not a man in his regiment who did not respect him. He was killed in the foremost rank, bravely fighting for his country which he thought so much of. . . . Any information that I can give will be gladly attended to, and if I can be of any benefit to you in any other way, willingly will my services be offered and gladly will I pay the last tribute to him who was so brave and so kind.”

          Corporal Charles Sherman joined the ranks of the fallen, but whose shed blood has helped to insure a future for all Americans, whether native born, or naturalized citizen.

          God bless America!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

My President

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
22 MAY 2017

My President

On January 20 of this year, Donald John Trump became the 45th President of the United States. This is not news, I know, but the way some folks are behaving, you’d think it was.

President Trump may not have been your choice for president. He may not be in your political party. Heck, he wasn’t my choice either. As a Conservative, I was definitely voting for a Republican. But of the seventeen candidates who threw their hats in the ring to be the Republican nominee, Mr. Trump was number seventeen for me. As I felt then, and still feel now, he is brash, arrogant, unduly critical of those who do not side with him, and generally boorish in his behavior. And, yes, I voted for him.

But, an election was held last November and Donald J. Trump won. He is now my president. Period.

Listen, I remember only too well watching the returns on TV in the 1992 election. I was stationed in Rota, Spain at that time. On Election Night Isaura and I decided to call it a night since we were many hours ahead of the polls closing in the States. We were hopeful that George H. W. Bush might pull off a victory and serve a second term. We were sorely disappointed to find out the next morning that William Jefferson Clinton was our new Commander in Chief. Same thing occurred with the election of Barack Hussain Obama. Did I throw a hissy fit and publicly declare that the new president was not my president? No! Of course not. To be honest, that thought never crossed my mind. In fact, such a thought to me is absurd.

We are Americans. Which means we are a free people. We enjoy liberties others around the world can’t even fathom. So as imperfect as we are, I still trust the system of government we have. This means in an open and free election I willingly accept the will of the American people in their choice for president, and most importantly, even if I disagree with the outcome.

As I watched the President make an historic speech in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia over the weekend, I got to thinking: “How is it that this man is honored by a foreign government that has been openly opposed to the freedoms and liberties enjoyed by all Americans?” This is, after all, the home of Islam. Saudi Arabia was home to 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11. If you watched the news about this trip at all, you saw how the Saud royal family received the President and his entourage, including a ravishing, eye-popping First Lady, Melania Trump. The royal carpet was literally rolled out to the stairway of Air Force One. King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud personally greeted President Trump as he deplaned, something he never did for President Obama. Later that evening at a royal dinner, the king presented President Trump with the highest civilian award known as the Collar of Abdulaziz al Saud medal.

Later in the evening, President Trump was asked to address the heads of state from some fifty different Islamic countries. Our president was absolutely brilliant! In a gracious and humble manner, he made it clear that neither he nor the American people had any interest in changing the culture and beliefs of the Saudi people. This is one of his opening statements, [America’s] vision is one of peace, security, and prosperity—in this region, and in the world. Our goal is a coalition of nations who share the aim of stamping out extremism and providing our children a hopeful future that does honour to God.” What he did say, and with a wonderful sense of historic and religious sensitivity, was that the Saudis, and all other Islamic nations, must drive out the terrorists in order for there to be peace.

I encourage every reader of my column to take the time to read the transcript of the President’s speech in Saudi Arabia. You can pull it up easily on the Internet. The speech was forceful, yet respectful. I will close with these remarks made by our President in his speech as he addressed the terrorist problem head-on.

“Every time a terrorist murders an innocent person, and falsely invokes the name of God, it should be an insult to every person of faith. Terrorists do not worship God, they worship death.

“If we do not act against this organised terror, then we know what will happen. Terrorism's devastation of life will continue to spread. Peaceful societies will become engulfed by violence. And the futures of many generations will be sadly squandered.

“If we do not stand in uniform condemnation of this killing – then not only will we be judged by our people, not only will we be judged by history, but we will be judged by God.

“This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects, or different civilisations. This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life, and decent people of all religions who seek to protect it. This is a battle between Good and Evil.”

Now THAT’S my President!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Value of a Smile

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
15 MAY 2017

The Value of a Smile

One of the things that makes us authentically human is a smile. A smile says so very much through that one simple act. And every single person needs this reminder every day.

A smile, as defined by Webster’s Dictionary, says the act of smiling is “to make the corners of the mouth turn up in an expression that shows happiness, amusement, pleasure, affection, etc. Also, to bestow approval; and to appear pleasant or agreeable.” Ah! But there is so much more to it than that.

With the giving of a smile, there is an approval that is transmitted from one person to the other. And only if for a brief moment, a slight nod of acceptance by the recipient of the initial smile, with a return smile, secures the transaction.

It is said that it takes fewer muscles to smile than to frown. Is it true? I checked it out on the Internet. Here’s what I found out on, Cecil’s Storehouse of Human Knowledge. Apparently, Cecil Adams contacted a doctor David H. Song, MD, FACS (Fellow of the American College of Surgeons), plastic surgeon and assistant professor at the University of Chicago Hospitals. Dr. Song, among other things, reconstructs faces.

Now, for your educational benefit, here are the findings presented by Dr. Song. The first listing is for the muscles involved in smiling. The second is for the muscles required in frowning, or what is also known as a scowl. This is fun!

Muscles involved in a "zygomatic" (i.e., genuine) smile:

Zygomaticus major and minor. These muscles pull up the corners of the mouth. They're bilateral (one set on either side of the face). Total number of muscles: 4.

Orbicularis oculi. One of these muscles encircles each eye and causes crinkling. Total: 2.

Levator labii superioris. Pulls up corner of lip and nose. Bilateral. Total: 2.

Levator anguli oris. Also helps elevate angle of mouth. Bilateral. Total: 2.

Risorius. Pulls corner of mouth to the side. Bilateral. Total: 2. Grand total for smiling: 12.

Principal muscles involved in a frown:

Orbicularis oculi (again). Total: 2.

Platysma. Pulls down lips and wrinkles skin of lower face. Bilateral (though joined at midline). Total: 2.

Corrugator supercilii (bilateral) and procerus (unilateral). Furrow brow. Total: 3.

Orbicularis oris. Encircles mouth; purses lips. Unilateral. Total: 1.

Mentalis. Depresses lower lip. Unilateral. Total: 1.

Depressor anguli oris. Pulls corner of mouth down. Bilateral. Total: 2. Grand total for frowning: 11.

“Despite the fact that smiling uses more muscles (12, to 11 in frowning), Dr. Song believes it takes less effort than frowning — people tend to smile more frequently, so the relevant muscles are in better shape. You may feel this conclusion assumes a rosier view of the human condition than the facts warrant, but I defer to the doctor. Incidentally, a superficial, homecoming-queen smile requires little more than the two risorius muscles. So, if your goal in expressing emotion is really to minimize effort, go for insincere.” (Cecil Adams)

I’m betting that as you read the list of muscles required for smiling and frowning you were attempting to try those muscles to see if this was true. Be honest! You really did move your mouth around, making your lips either curve up or down, right? I know I did!

I found this whole list amusing, if for no other reason than it should cause us all to recognize the importance of smiling every day. So, regardless of how many muscles it takes to produce that much pleasantness, make the effort. Lord knows, our world needs more genuine smiles!

Here are six direct benefits to smiling: 1. Lowers blood pressure, 2. Creates a better mood (especially for bad days), 3. Relieves stress, 4. Strengthens the immune system, 5. Lessons pain, and 6. Smiling is contagious.

Finally, take note of these three verses from the book of Proverbs: 1. A cheerful look brings joy to the heart (Prov 15:30), 2. A joyful heart is good medicine (Prov 17:22), and 3. A glad heart makes a happy face (Prov 15:13).

Or, as the old Merry Melodies cartoon and song said, “Smile, Darn ya, Smile!”

Psalm for the Day