Marines.Together We Served

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

All Volunteer Military

I was enjoying dinner recently following a wedding, engaged in discussions on politics, religion and “The War.” I know these are taboo topics in polite company, and you’re probably thinking I would do well to avoid such controversial, not to mention volatile, subjects.

Well, if you’re not discussing religion, politics, or war, then you’re probably talking about the weather, or somebody’s grandkids. And that will only take you so far. I enjoy lively, spirited discussions on such topics. Every evening at home while growing up, current events were discussed in the kitchen while dinner was being prepared. You quickly learned to defend your position, or remain silent. It was great fun!

So, I’m sitting with a group of people I’ve never met before, enjoying the wedding feast, and animatedly engaged in discussion with my table-mates. One lady had remained quiet early on, but finally chimed in. She said she was against the war in Iraq all along, and was particularly concerned that her nineteen year old son would be in danger. I asked her if her son was in the military. She said no. I replied, “Then you have nothing to worry about.” She said, “But they could bring back the draft.”

Allow me to present to you this nagging issue of the draft. There is no draft. Period. Even if there was a move to reinstate the draft, it would take a significant amount of time to get those wheels rolling. But just so you know, here’s what the home page of the Selective Service System says (http://www.sss.gov/):

On October 5, 2004, the House of Representatives voted 402 - 2 to defeat H.R. 163, the bill cited as proof that the Selective Service was preparing to reinstate a military draft. The vote made official what has been a reality since January 7, 2003, when H.R. 163 was introduced despite nearly total opposition in Congress to restoring the draft. Without Congressional support, the draft cannot be reinstated. A similar bill languishes in the Senate.
Both President George W. Bush and Senator John F. Kerry have stated for the record that they oppose a draft. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld also has opposed the draft on numerous occasions.

It’s important to remember that Congressman Charlie Rangel, Democrat from New York, introduced HR 163 in January 2003. I’ve frequently heard it said that reinstating the draft was the work of nefarious Republicans. Wrong! Along with Representative Rangel, five other Democrats joined in putting forth this bill before the House of Representatives. Please take note that the vote was 402 – 2. Let’s assume that these six men all voted on this bill that they put forth. Let’s further assume that two of them were the two votes for the passage of the bill. This means four of them voted against it, or else they did not vote at all, which is cowardly at worst, and irresponsible at best (there are 440 members in the House of Representatives).

Do we need a draft? No. As I shared with the lady who was so concerned about her son being drafted, our all volunteer military is doing just fine. Recruitment numbers continue to remain very promising, and military personnel are motivated by the actions our nation is taking to protect America from further terrorist attack, as well as liberating folks from despotic thugs.

Freedom is on the move, my friends. And for that, you can thank our military. An All Volunteer military.

God bless America!

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Frogs and Other Tough Questions

Art Linkletter probably said it best: “Kids say the darndest things!”

As the father of two daughters, there were times when I found myself challenged more by the questions of my beauties than by the propositions professorially propounded by erudite multi-degreed Doctors of Letters.

I can’t swear to it, but I believe my oldest daughter, Laura, began her questioning about the time when she was rudely awakened to the horrifying truth that her daddy could not fix everything! Laura, my wife, and I were in the master bedroom one day when Laura was about eighteen months old. My wife was grumbling about a run in her stocking when Laura boldly announced, “Daddy fix it!” I stood there as though nailed to the floor, sheepishly realizing the enormity of the moment: My daughter was receiving her first lesson in “The Fallibility of Parents.” Every parent faces this moment, and, to say the least, it is agonizing. I noticed after this that my daughter would temper her confidence in my abilities by saying, “Daddy fix it! Right?” Thus the questioning began.

Then there was the time I was approached by my little idolizer, whereupon she presented me with a balloon that did not even have the decency to just lose air. Instead, it had burst into many pieces. She said nothing, but as she offered the pieces to me her facial expression said, “I’ll give you another chance. Can you fix this?” I could see I was falling from my lofty perch in her eyes. To say, “I can’t fix mommy’s stocking, or your pretty balloon,” while looking into those trusting, believing eyes was devastating.

While we were stationed in Guam in the mid ‘80s, my wife told me of an incident with our youngest, Jenny. I was deployed on a ship for months at a time so was not there to enjoy this special moment. Jenny was a precocious five year old who loved geckos, lizards, frogs, and hermit crabs, all of which were in abundance in Guam. She came running into the house with a look of such urgency that my wife immediately gave Jenny her full attention. “Mommy,” Jenny asked, “Do frogs yawn?” To her credit, my wife maintained her composure long enough to answer, “Sure they do,” not knowing whether they do or not. Jenny, thus satisfied with the answer, raced back outside with this newly acquired knowledge. My wife, on the other hand, laughed until tears rolled down her cheeks. Honestly, friends, have you ever seen a frog yawn?

Then there came the day when my wife violated the cardinal rule, “What to do when your child asks tough questions.” One thing for certain is you do not pass the buck. Now, here’s the scene: my wife is sitting at her desk working on the family budget while Jenny is contentedly playing with her dolls on the couch. Ah! But who can know what debilitating questions lurk in the mind of a five year old? Jenny’s small voice pierced this pastoral setting. “Mommy, if God made everything, then who made God?” Near panic best describes my wife’s broken reverie. She could have correctly replied, “No one made God, Jenny. He’s always been here.” Of course, had she given this answer she would have had to field a series of questions on this, like, “Where did God come from?” and “Does God have a mom and dad?” To have bravely answered these questions in a mature manner would have been the right and responsible thing to do. Did my wife do this? No. She panicked. She committed the unpardonable. She violated the cardinal rule. She opted to pass the buck. She said, “Ask your father.”

Now, you would think that this would be a simple enough matter for an ordained minister with a Master of Divinity degree, a Doctorate in Counseling (More than twenty years of schooling – and I’m not done!) a student of the Bible spending countless hours over jots and tittles, the truth is, a question like this still remains a mystery to even the greatest of scholars and deepest of thinkers.

When it is all said and done, tough questions about God and faith often leave us stupefied. Sure, I can present solid biblical answers with deep theologically deduced answers to the tough questions. But in the final analysis, my faith is in God and what he has chosen to reveal about himself, particularly through the Scriptures.

Then some day, I’ll get to ask God the really tough question: “Do frogs really yawn?”

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

The Last Laugh

What a special weekend we just experienced!

To be watching the news events of the election in Iraq absolutely lifted my spirits, bringing me nearly to tears as I took in the jubilation of these long-oppressed people. Can you ever forget the ink-stained finger being lifted in victory, and in defiance of the terrorists’ threats and intimidation? Or the dancing at the polling centers, whether in Baghdad or Detroit? If these scenes did not warm your heart, check your pulse!

I have recently been thinking about one Iraqi man I met in Babylon nearly two years ago. He was probably in his seventies, so he would remember the last time elections were held in his country. How I would like to sit with him over a cup of their strong Arabic coffee and have him share his thoughts about this historic event. He had asked me then, in 2003, that our forces not leave Iraq before his people had the opportunity to establish themselves as a democracy. I’m so glad our nation has stayed the course, despite the criticism and rancor from certain quarters.

Many of our military personnel have been asked to express their views on the election. These American patriots have expressed in glowing terms, the pride in being a part of this historic moment in the history of Iraq. Even news people openly opposed to the war in Iraq were stunned that the injured military personnel they interviewed at military hospitals, to a man, said it was worth losing a limb, an eye, or physical mobility if it meant the Iraqi people could be free.

It’s important to take notice what has been happening around the world in the last few years. First, after the Afghanis were liberated from the oppressive regime of the Taliban and gained their independence, they held free elections. Second, since the fall of the Soviet Union, we have seen a significant number of the former satellite countries embrace the democratic process, not the least of which is the Ukraine. They only recently held popular elections to choose their own president. Third, there was the death of Palestinian leader Yassar Arafat a few months ago. Now we see free elections taking place there. And now, Iraq.

People long to be free. Free to engage in the expression of ideas and free debate; free to enjoy an opportunity to engage in free enterprise; free to live free from tyranny and oppression; and free to pursue the vocation of their own choosing.

Freedom is contagious. What is happening in these countries may well take on a life of its own, spreading across borders to places like Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the beyond.

Remember when we first entered Vietnam? Our country believed, as did the rest of the world, that Communism was spreading around the globe, particularly in Asia. It was referred to as the “Domino Theory.” It may be a bit premature, but I am very hopeful that we may be seeing a reverse Domino Theory, only this time it is democracy that is running around the globe.

Regardless of your political views, yesterday should have put a smile on all freedom-loving people’s faces. In fact, did you see the story of the little girl in the mid-West who has started a campaign of solidarity with the Iraqi people by dipping her finger in indelible ink? She’s encouraging all her friends and the adults in her life, to join in. Even kids know the importance of freedom.

I’m loving this! In fact, I’m going to dip one of my fingers in ink. It’s a way to rejoice with the free people of Iraq. It may seem silly, I suppose. After all, who would have thought two years ago that Iraq would be holding legal, democratic elections?

I find it all delightfully amusing. The free Iraqis have the last laugh.

Psalm for the Day