Marines.Together We Served

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Bachen' It

It’s rather pathetic, really.

Here I sit at home wondering what I’m going to eat for dinner.

It’s not like I couldn’t drive to a local restaurant, or swing through a fast food joint. I’m even a fair cook, but I’m not sure I want to expend the time and energy necessary to put a meal together. You see, my wife, Isaura, is on a trip to Israel.

A couple of months ago, her brother Tony called and invited her to go on this trip with him. He’s a dairyman in Utah. The dairymen association he belongs to takes their members to Israel occasionally to attend workshops to learn the methods developed by Israeli dairymen. Apparently, Israel produces more milk from their cows than anywhere else in the world.

So Isaura asked me what I thought. Should she go? My answer was simple. Of course! It’s not every day you have such an opportunity, especially when you can go with your brother. She left for Utah November 16, and returns to Sacramento International Airport November 28. This is why I’m bachen’ it.

It’s not like I’m alone. My ninety-year-old mother lives with us and is a wonderful cook. However, she had knee replacement surgery in October. There’s been a physical therapist coming to the house to work with her for the past several weeks. She’s doing great, but her knee is still causing some pain as she adjusts, and she tires quickly, especially after her therapy sessions. So she’s in no frame of mind to throw some hash together either.

Our daughters, Laura and Jenny, live in Turlock. When they come home it’s usually on Saturday morning for one of my big waffle breakfasts. So, no help from that quarter. In fact, they’re coming over for Thanksgiving breakfast, prepared by yours truly. My sister, Joy, lives in Clovis, so she’s no help.

I was a bachelor for a number of years. Good thing, too. I was hardly the “marrying kind,” until after I had accepted Christ as my Savior at age twenty-four. Isaura and I met at San Jose State University in 1975. We were married the following June after I had graduated. My typical diet in those bachelor days was to consume a can of soup, and a sandwich, my favorite was and still is peanut butter and jelly. I’d make BLTs, and tuna, but usually I indulged in whatever was easiest at the moment. I was always coming and going, rarely spending time in my apartment except to study and sleep.

As I write this article, Isaura is about half-way through her trip. My mother and I look at each other with the unspoken question: What shall we eat tonight? We’ve nearly wiped out the canned soup stash. I bought more bread for sandwiches last night, and another box of cold cereal, along with replenishing our milk supply.

But there’s good news! My secretary, Gayle, has invited my mother and me over for Thanksgiving dinner. She told my mom that she’d be sure to send us home with plenty of left-over turkey and stuffing. Phew! At least this won’t be my last column for the Ripon Record!

On the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”

This is ironic, because I’m always the one taking off for parts unknown. On such junkets I eat out in restaurants, and I sleep in hotel beds. Now the shoe’s on the other foot, and I’m having to think about what I’m going to eat. Not to mention - my bed is awfully big!

Even in my temporary bachelor status, God cares about me, and provides. So, mom and I will survive while my wife is on the other side of the world. But, she can’t get home soon enough.

Bachen’ it is for the birds!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Bolton Who?

Remember this name?

You don’t? Well, John R. Bolton is President Bush’s choice to be the United States Representative to the United Nations. Remember now?

Let me ask you: Have you heard or read anything about this man since his confirmation in August? Neither have I.

I’ve been wondering what happened to him. After all, the opponents to his appointment screeched and wailed that he was a right-wing war-monger who would run roughshod over the rest of the United Nations representatives, alienating the United States from the world community. He was described as brash, arrogant, and a man who actually spoke harshly once to a poor performing subordinate. Wow. We certainly don’t want to have someone who only treats people with kid gloves, and molly-coddles those who do not do their job. Some of the best learning experiences I’ve had were when I was corrected by a boss, or, while in the Marine Corps, by a Drill Instructor, affectionately know as a DI.

I remember as a kid in the ‘50s a school project to help raise money for the newly formed UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) project. It was important to me as a kid to be involved in helping other kids who were obviously poor and in great need of assistance. But, I have to tell you, that even though I made the school field trips (that’s what they were called) from my home in New York State to the United Nations building in New York City, over the years I have found it difficult to see what relevance the United Nations has on the world stage. Add to that, inept leadership from people whose own countries are typically in a shambles, and I find myself wondering why we are involved in this organization at all.

Please don’t think this to be arrogance on my part. It isn’t. The picture that has emerged in my understanding of the world, is of a United Nations that is without a rudder. They have no clearly defined purpose or mission.

When countries cry out for assistance, they are either ignored, as in the case of the Sudan, or they are determined to require a military presence.

That means the dreaded United States is asked to step in with our military might and gain control of an out-of-control situation.

Look, for instance, at the mess in Bosnia a few years back. This Eastern European country was involved in a civil war, each side attempting to exterminate the other. No European nation wanted to touch this mess that was taking place in their own back yard. President Clinton, when called upon, would only commit to an aerial assault, but no significant troop strength on the ground. At best it was a holding action. But it was the United States that was called by the United Nations. Ditto Kuwait in 1991. And Liberia in 2003.

Can you imagine, for example, a scenario where a European nation arrives on American shores to clean up a mess that was in our own back yard? This is why we developed the Monroe Doctrine, lo, these one hundred and eighty-two years ago. Here is the gist of the Monroe Doctrine: “Essentially, the United States was informing the powers of the Old World that the American continents were no longer open to European colonization, and that any effort to extend European political influence into the New World would be considered by the United States ‘as dangerous to our peace and safety.’ The United States would not interfere in European wars or internal affairs, and expected Europe to stay out of American affairs.” (Source: US Information on the Internet)

This is why President John F. Kennedy sent our Navy to stop Russian ships from bringing missiles into Cuba in the early ‘60s, threatening the safety and security of our nation. This was known as the “Cuban Missile Crisis.”

JFK, rightly so, was acting on the Monroe Doctrine. No nation, in other words, could come into any part of either North or South America and enforce their will on another nation - at least not without incurring the wrath of the United States. The Monroe Doctrine of 1823 was written and enforced at a time when many European nations were aggressively expanding their territories around the globe. The major players in this imperialism were France, England, Spain and Russia. Other nations had the will, but not the means. What this all meant was, our still young, fledgling nation, having fought off the British in the Revolutionary War, and then again in the War of 1812, was willing to take the necessary steps to prevent any European nation from flexing its muscle on the American Continents.

Many of the nations in the world would like to see a weakened American position in the United Nations leading to a repeal of the Monroe Doctrine. This would be very dangerous for the United States and all other countries in the Americas. This is one reason why our nation needs strong leadership in the White House and in the United Nations.

That John Bolton is a tough customer to deal with makes me smile. He knows his history, and will be standing up for your interests and mine in the halls of the United Nations. Those other national representatives know this, and realize that a weakened United States world position is not likely to occur any time soon.

In this instance, no news from the United Nations, is good news.

Hurrah for Mr. Bolton!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Progress

I just returned from my annual pilgrimage with my daughters to Hume Lake Christian Camp’s Father/Daughter Retreat. While there I was approached by a friend I see every year. He wanted to talk about the War on Terrorism. You see, he was having some doubts. So we talked. He’s much better now. The following is some of what I shared with him.

There is indeed progress in the Global War on Terrorism, what we call in the military, GWOT.

I’m very aware of the fact that the MSM (Main Stream Media, a misnomer if ever there was one) has reported mostly negative stories about America’s efforts to push back against the terrorists who have one purpose: rule by intimidation, or kill those who do not bow in subjection to their radically religious insanity. Repeatedly, Americans, specifically our military men and women, are portrayed in the media as the aggressors, bringing death and destruction on hapless, peaceful residents of far-away countries. So let me explain a few things for your edification.

First – America did not start this war. Islamic fanatics did. For the past several decades these terrorists have attempted to “beard the lion,” if you will. That is to say, they have sought to provoke the United States into a war they believe we cannot win. One thing they seriously misjudged was the resolve with which America would not only defend herself, but just how hard we would strike back. You see, these terrorists believe that we are soft and weak. They didn’t think we would stand up to them, let alone come after them with a vengeance. Surprise!

Second – A serious flaw in their thinking is that because we have so much of the world’s goods, and by any measure, are the wealthiest people to ever to occupy planet earth, we would be fearful of losing our material assets. Wrong! The reason America has such wealth is due to hard work and perseverance. Consider the generosity of the American people. While in the process of rescuing our own people from the ravages of successive hurricanes, we were sending relief supplies and military aid to a earthquake shattered region of Pakistan.

Third – The American military is the best trained and thoroughly equipped military in the world. The terrorists know they cannot stand against such well-trained soldiers. Terrorists operate mostly from emotion, whereas our military sets emotion aside in order to accomplish the stated mission. The one who fights from emotion, though unpredictable in his behavior, will exhaust himself and eventually make a fatal mistake. The one who fights with emotions under control will think clearly and overcome the adversary sooner or later. For instance, when you watch Islamists yelling and cheering in the streets, shooting their guns in the air (Where do they think those bullets are going?), shaking their fists and chanting their Anti-American slogans, the American military gives a collective yawn. They are unimpressed. Why? Because it’s all emotionally driven for show. I’ll take one Marine anytime against all the fist-shakers in the world.

Fourth – There is a growing shift, a change in the way people think, not only in the Middle East, but around the globe. Afghanistan is free from the rule of the murderous Taliban, and is emerging as a democratic state. Pakistan under President Musharraf, is actively hunting down terrorists in general, and Osama bin Laden in particular. Iraq is making great strides in shedding itself of the long tyranny of Saddam Hussein. Egypt held its first ever free elections since Hosni Mubarak took the reigns twenty-four years ago. Libya has voluntarily surrendered all efforts to make nuclear weapons. Lebanon told the Syrians to go home and leave their country alone. And now, Jordan has let terrorists know that coming into their country and killing other Muslims is not going to be tolerated, all of which spells the doom of the failed Islamic extremists.

There was an interesting article in the Christian Science Monitor on November 10th. It was entitled, “Qatar opens doors to first church in 14 centuries.” This short article may seem like no big deal, much ado about nothing. But, let me tell you this – for a conservative Muslim nation such as Qatar (Pronounced: “cutter” or “gutter.” Both are correct.) to not only allow a church building to be built within their borders, but to have the land donated by the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, is raising eyebrows all over the world.

Now add to this, the fact that churches in Baghdad are open once again, as are synagogues. Did you know, for instance, that there are thirty-seven synagogues in Baghdad alone?

The evidence that any country is making progress will be seen in the exercise of religious freedom. This is happening everywhere. It is having a wonderful affect, not only where American soldiers set foot, but in places we might least expect. Keep watching.

Ain’t it grand!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

No Bull

It was late May of 1975.

I had met Isaura about five weeks earlier at San Jose State University where we were both attending. I was completing my bachelor’s degree after having served four years in the Marine Corps, and Isaura was recently transferred from Merced Junior College.

We met on a warm spring day at the chapel on campus. I had been invited to attend a Bible study with some friends, and Isaura was coming to the chapel to spend time in prayer. The rest, as they say, is history.

So shortly after we began dating, we drove to Alameda one weekend where my parents lived so I could introduce her. It was a delightful visit, topped off with my father taking me aside and saying, “Don’t let this one get away!”

A few weeks later we made plans to drive to her family’s home in Dos Palos, located in the California Central Valley, where they had settled after emigrating from Portugal. Feeling really good about how this relationship was coming together, I looked forward to meeting her (large) family. We had the choice of driving in my classic 1966 Volvo P1800, or her 1972 Ford Pinto. Actually, it was no choice at all. After all, I have my pride.

There we were cruising along in the Volvo enjoying the countryside, when the reverie was interrupted by Isaura informing me that her father had never liked any guy she’d brought home. “No problem,” I thought. Then she said, “He’s always wanted me to marry someone who is rich and Portuguese.” Oops! I didn’t qualify on either of those two criteria. The rest of the drive had me praying for God’s wisdom in knowing how to best handle this situation. One thing I determined at that moment: No matter how long it took, I was going to wait until I had her father’s approval.

We arrived at her home in time for dinner which is a major event. Her father and two brothers worked the dairy where they lived. Plus she has three sisters. Isaura is the oldest, so I figured I might have to win over some of the family members. Her mother was most gracious to me. I still like to tell her she’s my favorite mother-in-law. She’ll look at me and say, “I’m your only mother-in-law.” To which I reply, “I know, but you’re still my favorite.”

Her father was another story. He was polite, but that was as far as it went. Later, after dinner, Isaura and I were sitting in the living room. Her mom was in the kitchen preparing the endless meals for a large family. In through the back door barges her father, obviously not happy, muttering something about “vacas.” I knew that was cows in Portuguese, so I asked her what the problem was. She said the cows had escaped from the corral and were scattered all over the field. It was time for the evening milking. I told her to ask her father if I could be of any help (He does not speak English). As he came back down the hall after waking her brothers to come and help, she asked him if I could help. I heard his reply and waited for Isaura to give me the translation. She sat there quietly, saying nothing. Curious, I asked her what he’d said. She replied, “Well, let’s see. It goes something like this: ‘Don’t bother the city boy.’” City boy? I wasn’t going to take that sitting down!

I followed her brothers out to the back porch where we slipped on rubber work boots. I was out the door first, startled by the bright spot lights that illuminated the barnyard area. Knowing the cows were not there, I turned right and headed into the field. It was quite dark, and I hadn’t allowed my eyes to adjust from the lights. I went face first into the dirt. I picked myself up, having learned a valuable lesson. Fields have furrows. I brushed myself off and continued into the field.

I had no idea what I was going to do, but a thought came to mind, either from something I’d heard or read, that if you can get the cow that is furthest from the barn to begin moving back that direction, all the rest of the bovines will fall right in line. So I kept traipsing through the field until I located the last cow. Standing at a respectful distance I looked at this four-legged milk machine and said in my most authoritative Marine voice, “Get back to the barn!’

I felt really stupid. This cow just stood there, chewing her cud, staring at me with mild interest. Not knowing how to proceed, I said, “Lord, I need some help here, please!” Casting aside my dignity, I looked at this cow again, repeating my previous command. I stood there with no other alternatives, when to my complete surprise, Miss Bossy slowly turns around and begins her trek back to the milking barn. I followed at a distance. Sure enough, each cow fell right into line. The cows were milked and everyone was happy.

Well, let me tell you, Isaura’s father couldn’t get over this turn of events. He couldn’t say enough good things about me after this.

A year later we were married.

I still don’t know if cows will naturally fall in line that way. Regardless, God had mercy on this “city boy,” knowing I would need a life-mate like Isaura. He used a cow to allow me to gain favor with my future father-in-law.

And that’s no bull.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Let's Remember

We are at war.

As a nation we established our legal system and social order on the basic teachings of the Bible. Several principles emerged that have stood our country in good stead for better than two hundred years. First, there was the basic premise that we are united together as Americans; therefore we would stand shoulder-to-shoulder in support and defense of our fledgling nation. Second, we implemented the principle of the Golden Rule: Do for others what you would have them do for you. And third, we would consider others and their needs before our own. All these concepts have to do with being a servant.

“A servant?” you ask. Yes! This one trait alone set us apart as unique from the rest of the nations. We have always been ready to serve others, even at personal setback and loss. When another nation was in trouble, they turned to the United States. We would restore the natural order of things, or at least attempt to thwart the evil doers, often times at significant cost both in money and lives. Let me offer an example.

Much hew and cry, and no end of hand-wringing, has been on public display over the announcement that we have reached the 2000 mark in the number of dead American military members since we began the war in Iraq two and a half years ago. Each one of those American lives is precious and irreplaceable. As a Navy chaplain, it has been my great honor and great sorrow to lay to rest some of these patriots.

Now consider this: Sixty years ago, on a tiny island in the Pacific Ocean, more than 6,000 Marines died battling an entrenched Japanese force on the black, sandy beach of Iwo Jima, known as “Sulfur Island” in Japanese. This was not six thousand dead in two and a half years. This was in FOUR DAYS! And that was just to secure a toe-hold on the beach. The rest of the ten-square-mile island still needed to be wrested from the enemy. Why was this island needed? To secure the airfield in the middle of this island; an airfield Japanese planes used to attack our Navy ships with impunity. Once we conquered Iwo Jima, an effort that took about seven weeks, we were then able to use this island airfield to attack mainland Japan. It was a critical battle against Imperialist Japan. How ironic that several decades later we would return this island to the Japanese.

Let me ask you. Would we as Americans stand for such losses today? Would we have fair reporting from the media? Would FDR’s motives be roundly criticized by partisan senators and congressmen on Capital Hill? Would the Cindy Sheehan’s of the world be protesting the war and the deaths of their sons on Main Street, U.S.A.?

Consider Corporal Jeff Starr, a Marine on his third tour in Iraq. He left a message for his girlfriend on his computer in the event that he was killed. This is what he said. “I don't regret going. Everybody dies, but few get to do it for something as important as freedom. It may seem confusing why we are in Iraq. It's not to me. I'm here helping these people so that they can live the way we live. Not have to worry about tyrants or vicious dictators. To do what they want with their lives. To me that is why I died. Others have died for my freedom. Now this is my mark.” He died in an attack last April.

May I remind you that we are in a War on Terrorism? It is expedient that we stand firm in this fight. If the United States were to withdraw from Iraq tomorrow, these Islamic terrorists would not stop their merciless slaughter of freedom-loving people. We were attacked by them on 9-11. Remember?

The men and women of our military are servants. They serve us as Americans by protecting us from the wolf at the door. And they serve the world by taking the fight to an enemy that would otherwise rule by intimidation.

Next Friday, November 11, is Veteran’s Day. Please offer a prayer for our military. Then remember September 11 – and thank a veteran.

Psalm for the Day