Marines.Together We Served

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Sacrifice - Part 2

          Greece, Rome, China, Russia, Germany, Britain, and so on, all wanted to add to their kingdoms. The United States, on the other hand, has a history of defeating its enemies and then rebuilding that aggressor nation from the ground up. We have defeated Germany twice in the past 100 years, along with Italy, and Japan. We have engaged in wars and skirmishes in Central and South America also during that same period of time. We have acquired other nations from defeated foes like Spain in 1898. As part of the war settlement, we were given control of much of Spain’s vast acquisitions, namely: Puerto Rico, the Philippine Islands, Guam, and Cuba. Each of these countries was eventually granted its independence. In the case of the Philippines, we have liberated them twice from conquering nations. First, from Spain in 1898; and second, from Japan in 1945. Even after defeating Imperialist Japan, we eventually returned all their islands, including Iwo Jima.

The United States has had the muscle and the technology to conquer as much of the world as we could want – yet we have not done so. We have been accused of being imperialistic – but are we? Imperialism is “the policy of extending a nation's authority by territorial acquisition or by the establishment of economic and political hegemony over other nations.”

In one sense we are imperialistic, but for a reason. We have maintained bases in countries that are friendly to us in order to protect not only that country from another aggressor nation, but to also protect America and her interests around the world. If there were no other threats then we would be content to leave those countries. Even after driving the German army out of France twice last century, the French government asked us to leave which we did in the 1970s. The same thing occurred with the Philippines in the early 1990s.

Today we are faced with many challenges to our nation. War and rumors of war abound. Our State Department is acknowledging that we are prepared to stop the bloodshed occurring in Syria; and that we have the capability and the willingness to halt the advances of the nuclear development of bombs by a rogue nation, Iran.

President Calvin Coolidge, circa 1925, made this insightful quote regarding patriotism, “Patriotism is easy to understand in America; it means looking out for yourself by looking out for your country.”

The Marine commanding general in Afghanistan read this letter for Memorial Day written by a Marine sergeant who left this for his family in the event of his death.

"My death did not change the world; it may be tough for you to justify its meaning at all," Allen wrote. "But there is a greater meaning to it. Perhaps I did not change the world. Perhaps there is still injustice in the world. But there will be a child who will live because men left the security they enjoyed in their home country to come to his. And this child will learn in the new schools that have been built. He will walk his streets not worried about whether or not his leader's henchmen are going to come and kidnap him. He will grow into a fine man who will pursue every opportunity his heart could desire. He will have the gift of freedom, which I have enjoyed for so long. If my life buys the safety of a child who will one day change this world, then I know that it was all worth it.

"Semper Fidelis means always faithful. Always faithful to God, Country and Corps. Always faithful to the principles and beliefs that guided me into the service. And on that day in October when I placed my hand on a bible and swore to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic, I meant it."

Patriots are never in abundance. We need them every bit as much today as when George Washington was tasked with raising the Continental Army.

Our freedoms come at great cost. It is the blood of patriots that has purchased our liberties.

Such patriotism is needed today. Please, speak of the heroics of our fallen to your children and grandchildren. They need to hear about this from your lips. That is how it must be passed on if our freedoms are to be defended into the future.

God bless you, and God bless America!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Sacrifice - Part 1

             Our nation has borne the burden of sacrifice from its earliest days, taking up arms against an oppressive British monarchy that cared little for the personal desires of the colonists. The longing of those early Americans was simply to be free from tyrannical rule by a king thousands of miles away across the Atlantic. From the first shots fired at Bunker Hill in Massachusetts to the latest battles in the mountains of Afghanistan, American men and women have always stepped up to the fight. Personal sacrifice has been the requirement. Our American fighting men and women have never failed to answer that call.

Patrick Henry’s famous words ring as true today as they did in 1775: “It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace-- but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”

I believe the reason Americans have always answered the call to arms is based in our spiritual DNA. A people desiring freedom to worship came to this land nearly four hundred years ago. That desire to be free to worship continues to this day. And the greater desire for freedom in all aspects of life yet remains.

It is my contention that the present-day Tea Party is the rebirth of the spiritual freedoms embodied in each of us. We dare not lose this precious desire to be free regardless of any personal cost or the cost to our nation.

     What exactly does sacrifice mean?

     Sacrifice is taken from a Latin word, sacrificium, which is a compound word meaning “to make sacred.”

     The dictionary offers several definitions for the various uses of the word sacrifice. The one that applies to our fallen heroes is also the definition that applies to Jesus. Here’s what I mean.

     “To forfeit (one thing) for another thing considered to be of greater value.”

     Did you catch that?

     Sacrifice means something determined to be of lesser value is exchanged for something that is of greater value. Let’s personalize this. When a man or woman steps up and takes an oath “to protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic,” they are in essence stating that their life, as an individual, is of lesser value than the lives of those they choose to defend. That Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Marine, or Coast Guardsman, in uniform that you see is publicly announcing that you, their fellow American, is of greater worth and value than their personal life. Furthermore, your freedom and the freedoms enjoyed by our nation are worth defending.

     Some might say that we should be able to “just all get along.” War is terrible, it’s true. So why can’t we just all get along? One word answer: SIN. Adam and Eve opened a Pandora’s Box when they sinned in the Garden of Eden. Sin has warped and distorted the image of God in each and every human ever since. We’re never satisfied. The grass is always greener. We want what someone else has. Jealousy, envy, covetousness, and a host of other ungodly attitudes and desires cause us to be leery of each other. Motives are questioned. Trust is hard to come by. Is it any wonder that we need a Savior?

     Because sin puts us at odds with each other, we need to have people who will stand up against those who would take our land, our freedoms, and yes, our very lives. Sin does that.

     This is why on Memorial Day we must remember that of the more than one million Americans who have died for our freedom, we dare not forget. By their sacrifice they have declared that we who yet live are of greater worth.

     What is it our service members fight for? FREEDOM!

     When you study history you will see that almost without exception armies are raised to conquer other nations or territories so as to expand their territory, subduing cultures and peoples to a new way of living. That is, only if the conquerors allow the people they have conquered to live!

 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Mayday!

          We all know what Mayday means, right? Yes, it’s the international radio signal of distress for ships and planes. This is a term that most of you reading my column grew up hearing, and assumed it has been a part of the American English lexicon forever. Not so fast!

         Mayday actually came about in the 1920s. And it’s not English in origin. It’s French, from the word, “m’aider,” which means, help me! The entire expression in French is, “Venez m’aider,” meaning, “Come help me!” Bet you didn’t know that!

         Well, with events in our country and around the world seeming to be deteriorating at an alarming rate, I find myself thinking “Mayday!” a lot. But the event that really got me going here of late was the Veterans Administration in Phoenix. Here’s what CNN said as their opening paragraph of this breaking story. “At least 40 U.S. veterans died waiting for appointments at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care system, many of whom were placed on a secret waiting list.”

Wait! What?

         The article goes on to say, “For six months, CNN has been reporting on extended delays in health care appointments suffered by veterans across the country and who died while waiting for appointments and care. But the new revelations about the Phoenix VA are perhaps the most disturbing and striking to come to light thus far. Internal e-mails obtained by CNN show that top management at the VA hospital in Arizona knew about the practice and even defended it.”

         I couldn’t believe that I was actually getting this story correct. The Phoenix VA intentionally withheld medical treatment for sick veterans! The obvious question is, “For what purpose?” Well, that’s what’s most disturbing in all of this. The Phoenix VA was scheduling veterans who needed treatment promising them an appointment. When the veteran would call to find out when their appointment was they would be told it was being scheduled and they’d get them soon. Instead, the policy at this VA was to “cook the books.” By taking down the name of a veteran who would be scheduled sometime in the future, it made the Phoenix VA appear to the big wigs in DC as being a smoothly operating facility meeting the needs of the veterans in need of medical treatment.

There is something between 1,200 and 1,400 veterans waiting to be seen in the Phoenix area. The way the VA administration in Phoenix gets around this is to have two lists for veterans. One is the official list which shows the veterans are being seen in a timely manner. The other is the real list, known as the hidden list. The official list has the name of the veteran but there’s no indication that he’d been waiting more than the 10-14 day period required. When the veteran came in for an appointment their name would be entered into the computer and then given a hard copy printout, but the information would never be saved on the computer. Their name would then go on another list for them to be contacted at some point in the distant future. Months might go by with no word from the VA. When the 10-14 day window opens, the veteran is contacted for the appointment, at which point the scheduling looks real good for the VA. As far as the official record goes, everything looks fine. If what I wrote about scheduling doesn’t make sense to you, it doesn’t make much sense to me either.

Now, I’d like to believe that this is a problem that has only occurred in the Phoenix VA. The head office in DC is supposed to be doing an investigation of all the VAs to make sure there is no more funny stuff going on.

Our veterans do not need to be made over because of their service for the country. In fact, most don’t think they did anything that noteworthy to begin with. Veterans do, however, expect that the government for whom they served would also keep their promises in providing them with appropriate healthcare, disability pay, and other agreed to compensations.

But I suppose I shouldn’t be all that surprised that our veterans are being poorly treated at times. For the last several years various politicians and high profile personalities have made disparaging comments about veterans. For instance, one politician called his opponent’s service as a colonel in the Army reserve in Iraq as not being a “real job – not demonstrating leadership.”

Kathleen Belew wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times suggesting, Veterans are dangerous, violent people that society should be weary of.” She has a particular distaste for Vietnam Vets apparently. She claims “the return of [Veterans] from combat appears to correlate more closely with [Ku Klux] Klan membership than any other historical factor.” She then linked the murder of three innocent people in Kansas by one man to a generation of Vietnam Veterans.

HBO Talk show host Bill Maher had this to say about the Greatest Generation wanting to visit their newly opened World War II museum accompanied by Republican Michele Bachmann. They’re the greatest generation – nobody said they were the brightest generation.”

The Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, has shown she doesn’t think much of veterans. Barack Obama's Secretary of the DHS is stubbornly refusing to apologize to our nation's veterans for issuing a DHS intelligence assessment which disparages veterans as possible terrorist threats.” I wrote about this in an article a couple of years ago. It was written somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but with the continued denigration of our military I’m taking these comments a whole lot more seriously.

Our TSA at the Sacramento Airport just last summer totally dishonored a Marine veteran of Iraq who was severely wounded. He was on his way to be honored as Veteran of the Year at the state capital, but not until the TSA shamefully treated him first. Wearing his Marine Dress Blues, he was sent through the body screener where he was asked to raise his arms up over his head. Due to injuries which nearly killed him in Fallujah, he was incapable of raising his right arm much above chest level. The agents poked and prodded his injured right arm, ran their hands under his rack of medals, swabbed his shoes (for explosive contaminants), and made him take off his uniform because it had too much medal! Is there an apology forthcoming from these TSA agents? Don’t hold your breath.

We have lost our minds! This is why I want to scream, Mayday!

Psalm for the Day