Marines.Together We Served

Monday, March 19, 2018

An Act of Political Courage

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
19 March 2018
The Ripon Bulletin

An Act of Political Courage

As an amateur student of history, and in particular American History, I have always been amazed at the manner in which the United States of America came into existence. How were these colonialists of the seventeen hundred’s in what was known then simply as America, able to come together from a variety of backgrounds and experiences, and form a more “perfect union”?

In the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States, we read these enduring words: We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence (British spelling of defense), promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
What I should like to point out in this Preamble is the focus on the wording. The Founding Fathers purposefully wrote a Constitution that was for all Americans and was intended to last into perpetuity. That means it’s as relevant today in providing America with a basis for rights and liberties as it was the day it was drafted in 1787.

Enjoying the comforts of a prosperous nation such as we have become, fogs the image of embattled patriots encamped against the most powerful monarch in the world at that time (King George III), and the most powerful army, the British Redcoats. Yet fully two-thirds of the colonists were preparing themselves to resist Britain, even if it meant war.

The Constitution was written for the American colonists, but it was also written to King George as a challenge that these colonists who had been mistreated and denigrated as second class British subjects, had had enough. That is not to say that all Americans were wanting to push back against the oppression of the British crown. Some were willing to grovel and fawn before the power of the rule of Britain.

Thomas Jefferson wrote in his “Summary View of the Rights of British America” in 1774, these words of challenge that he knew full-well would be read by the king. “Let those flatter, who fear. It is not an American art form.” Americans do not, and will not, ever bow to a head of state, including our own. In fact, George Washington would not hear of being made King of America, as some petitioned. And he had the foresight to recommend for the presidency no more than two four-year terms.   

“We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The delegates from the original thirteen states set in motion the eventual undoing of slavery with these words, “All men are created equal.” To them, the truths that were self-evident, were truths ordained by God so that the entirety of the human race would recognize that all humans are of one family. To oppose such an understanding, or to treat others as lesser beings, is in direct contradiction to what God had declared in Holy Scripture.

“And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” It’s at this point, these final words of the Declaration of Independence, that the signers on this hallowed document laid everything on the line. The year was 1776, and the Revolutionary War was already underway. In fact, the outcome was in serious doubt.

Of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence, all knew what they were getting into. If the colonists should lose the war, then they would be hung, shot, or otherwise dispatched from this earth. The best they could hope for was to be captured, returned to England for a trial and then executed in some hideous manner. The members of the 2nd Continental Congress had been arguing over many issues. Once the Declaration was finished and all agreed to sign it, a comment was made to Benjamin Franklin that they must all hang together in a show of unity. Is said that Franklin responded with this quip: “We must all hang together, or most assuredly, we will all hang separately.”

Though these men were of varying backgrounds, educational levels, even places of birth (some born in Britain, while most were born in America), and though they did not agree on all issues (slavery, for instance), they also realized if they had any chance to be free from the oppressive rule of Britain they must, at all cost, come together in unity. And they did!

The signers of the Declaration were not revealed until January of 1777, following General George Washington’s Christmas victory in the Battle of Trenton (NJ), and in early January, the Battle of Princeton (also NJ).

The Revolutionary War would last until 1783, but the die was cast. The army Washington commanded would indeed defeat the vaunted British crack troops, and America would be reborn as the United States of America, all because a few dozen patriots were willing to give up everything they had in life, including their own lives, to establish for the world the “land of the free, and the home of the brave!”

Monday, March 12, 2018

Warrior Culture

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
12 March 2018
The Ripon Bulletin

Warrior Culture

Over the expanse of human history, a definite group of people in each society has emerged and remained. This group is often referred to as a “warrior culture.”

A warrior is a person specializing in combat or warfare, especially within the context of a tribal or clan-based warrior culture society that recognizes a separate warrior class or caste.

There is a strange phenomenon that takes place within cultures that have a warrior culture. When that culture finds itself threatened by outside forces, they turn to the warriors, or army, to confront the foe in order to protect the general populace. Though this warrior class is expected to be prepared to take on all comers, when the battles are over and all has returned to normal, the warriors who have done all the heavy lifting are expected to disappear until needed the next time a threat is on the horizon.

Many of the greatest and most fearsome warrior cultures became more than protectors of their tribe or people group. Often these warriors took advantage of their military power and acumen, becoming predators of the very people they were expected to shield from evil forces.

The United States of America is a rare exception when it comes to establishing and maintaining a warrior culture. When it became evident that the colonists were going to end up doing battle with Great Britain and her vaunted Red Coats, the Continental Congress met in Philadelphia to establish a standing army. It was on April 19, 1775 that the “Shot heard round the world” was fired during a stand-off between the American “Minutemen” and the British Redcoats on Lexington (Massachusetts) Green. This brief skirmish quickly moved to the next town of Concord, and the American Revolutionary War was underway.  

However, it was not until June 14, 1775 that Congress approved the raising of 10 companies of riflemen to enlist in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia until the end of the Revolutionary War. At the time, this band of warriors was known as the Continental Army but is still regarded as the birthday of the United States Army.

Some months later, the Continental Navy was formed, giving birth on October 13 to what would later become the United States Navy. In all six frigates were commissioned and used for several decades, especially against the pirates from four Muslim African Mediterranean countries preying on ships, stealing cargo, and taking control of the ships for their own use. The sailors were taken prisoner and made slaves on these pirate ships.

The next military force to be birthed was the Continental Marines on November 10, 1775. In a famous watering hole known as Tun Tavern in Philadelphia, the first Marines were recruited to conduct ship-to-ship fighting, provide shipboard security and discipline enforcement, and assist in landing forces. They were known primarily for their exceptional fighting ability.

The United States Coast Guard was established on August 4, 1790, known then as the Revenue Marine. Not until January 28, 1915 was this naval force named the United States Coast Guard.

With the advent of flight, early military fighting forces were part of either the Army, the Navy, or the Marine Corps. Formed initially August 1, 1907, the Army Air Corps became a significant force all in its own, eventually separating from the Army to become the United States Air Force on September 18, 1947.

What makes our military unique in the realm of warriors is that all branches of our military serve at the pleasure of the head of the civilian government – the President of the United States. The President is Constitutionally appointed to be the president of all Americans, but (s)he is the Commander in Chief of every single person serving in the uniform of our military. This was brilliantly thought out by the Founding Fathers so as to deter the threat of mutiny, junta, insurrection, or a military takeover of the civilian government from within the military. The President is the boss over every single general and admiral, period. He can promote them to positions of greater authority and responsibility, or he can fire them.

Another fact that makes our military unique is that we do not wage war or engage in military conflict with the purpose of expanding our reach and power around the world. Some territories have been gained through treaty and purchase. And even land we have won at the expense of American blood on foreign shores we eventually turn the land back over to the original owners. Or if a country which we formerly liberated and where we had military bases decides they don’t want us there any more, we pull out. France is a good example. We saved their bacon in two world wars last century, yet sometime in the 1960s they wanted all of our military bases closed. Same with the Philippines in the 1990s. We even returned the blood-soaked island of Iwo Jima to the Japanese, where more than 6000 Marines were killed toward the end of World War II.

Our military is part of that historical warrior culture, but we who serve or have served, are perfectly content to live in peace. Please remember this. They are not to be feared except by those who are enemies to liberty and freedom.

These are our sons and daughters. May God bless them and the USA!

Monday, March 05, 2018

Where the Blame Is

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
05 March 2018
The Ripon Bulletin

Where the Blame Is

In light of the tragedy that occurred in Parkland, Florida where 17 high school students were gunned down by a former classmate, I thought I might step into this hot-potato issue. I’ve written before about guns, the National Rifle Association (NRA), and the 2nd Amendment which insures every American the right to self-protection.

In this article I wish to approach this emotionally laden subject from a bit of a different slant. Perhaps you have read about these incidents.

*A man attacked 22 primary school children and an adult, as these children were arriving at school. All 22 children and the adult were injured.

*In another attack, an unemployed middle-aged doctor killed eight children in order to vent his frustration and anger over a thwarted romantic relationship.

*Yet another man broke into a middle school, injuring two students before fleeing the scene.

*Still another man attacked 1st and 2nd grade students, injuring eight. His actions were caught on security cameras, charging after children in order to hurt or kill them.

These are just a few of the stories I found, and they are chilling. You may be thinking, “Where did these horrible attacks occur?” The answer is: China, from 2010-2014. And there are more, many more such stories. But you get the point. And did I mention that not once was a gun used? In every instance, a knife, a machete, or a meat cleaver was used to injure and kill students.

Oh, but the politicians in Washington DC, assure us that such horrific attacks occur only in the United States. And, after all, guns are the real problem, they say. And isn’t the common denominator, whether in China or the U.S., that all the attackers are males!

Is getting rid of guns going to stop these horrible crimes? No. Is confiscating all sharp objects going to make the children in China safer? No. Since all the attackers were males, then just kill off all males! That’s what King Herod of Israel did in ordering the murder of all the baby boys two-years old and under in his attempt to kill the baby Jesus.

A reality that far too many folks ignore or refuse to deal with today is that there is evil in this old world. Granted, some of these situations are caused by a person who is clearly not right in their head. They need professional help. But in way too many other situations, it is simply a matter of a person choosing to commit an act of pure, unadulterated evil.

But why would anyone who is normal in every other way, choose to perpetrate such a heinous crime on children, or on anyone? Because they can, that’s why.

America, and to a larger extent, the world, has opened the proverbial Pandora’s Box. How have we done this, you ask? Let me give you three ways, though there are certainly more.

First, as a nation, America agreed that God was no longer essential or wanted in our nation. Many of you will remember when the Supreme Court of the United States authorized the removal of prayer from our public schools in 1962. Bad idea.

Second, the value and sanctity of human life was dealt a devastating blow when, again, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in favor of abortion on demand through the 1973 Roe vs Wade decision. Another bad idea.

Third, the pampering and molly-coddling of our youth. Many are afraid of their own shadow, needing safe spaces, and teddy bears to comfort them from the evil that people do. They are ripe for attack from bullies who see them as easy prey.

So, here’s my proposal: Let’s invite the Lord God back into our lives, our schools, our society. Let’s recapture the respect for one another that the Bible clearly teaches. Let’s revisit this antiquated idea that we should fear God. Why? Because every single person will one day be presented before God to give an account of their life. Our actions will ultimately speak louder than our excuses.

Why were there no such awful crimes against children when I was in elementary school during the 1950s? Because there was still a very strong fear of God and his judgment which prevented many people from choosing to do evil against others. They feared punishment from society and from God.

And it’s past time to begin toughening up our young people. Life isn’t often easy. And it isn’t often fair. But we are not doing the next generation any favors by attempting to remove all the bad things that could happen. There are great lessons to be learned through adversity and conflict. I was often picked on because I was short as a kid. Every so often I would get into a fist-fight with the guy bullying me. One thing always happened whether I won the fight or not. The bully quit picking on me. And sometimes we even became friends.

I have more to say on this, but it will have to wait.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Well Done, Billy

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
26 February 2018
The Ripon Bulletin

Well Done, Billy

If ever there was a person to emulate, it would have been Billy Graham. This past week, Reverend Graham breathed his last on this side of heaven, leaving the cares of this mortal life behind at age 99.

There are few names that are known world-wide, but Billy Graham is among those few. His ministry has been, by any measure, phenomenal. His compassionate delivery of the Gospel message of Jesus Christ to millions around the globe through his crusades are the stuff of legends.

Billy Graham was truly an inspiration to those of us who lived through the many decades of his ministry. Whether or not you believe in the Gospel which Billy Graham preached, it cannot be denied that he faithfully proclaimed the Good News right to the end of his life. There was nothing phony about him. He is the real deal.

How many people of every race, tongue, and tribe around the world have accepted Jesus as their Savior because of this man’s ministry? Year after year his Billy Graham Crusades filled stadiums and arenas around the world. At the end of each sermon, an invitation would be offered to anyone desiring to accept Jesus. Having attended a couple of crusades, and even working in one in San Jose in the early 1980s, I was impressed with the simplicity of his delivery, while at the same time the winsomeness of Christ was unmistakable in his appeal to sinners.

We Christians often get excited about what it will be like when we get to heaven. A verse from a song by a Christian singer known as Honeytree several decades ago rings in my mind. She wrote, “Heaven is a wonderful place, filled with glory and grace! I wanna see my Savior’s face, ‘cause Heaven is a wonderful place! I wanna go there!” Well, Billy Graham must have experienced that wonderful reception when he stepped across that great divide between here and eternity. I suspect that after he has seen Jesus face-to-face for the first time, he will then begin the time of being greeted by those who accepted Jesus at his crusades. He may be busy for a while!

I never had any personal contact with Rev. Graham other than he walked within an arm’s length of where I was serving in the San Jose Crusade. My mother attended the Oakland Crusade in 1972 where she committed her life to Jesus. The Lord must have been working on both my mother and me at the same time. I was overseas then, totally unaware of my mother’s decision. A few months later I gave my life to Christ at a Christian Serviceman’s Center (the ministry known today as “Cadence”) in Yokosuka, Japan.

Over the years my wife, Isaura, has told me how when she and her family immigrated to the United States from the Azores, Portugal in 1966, she needed to learn to speak English so she could fit in in this new language and culture. She studied hard, picking up on the language quickly.

What amazed her was after only being in America six months, listening to Billy Graham on the radio or television, she found that his speech delivery was so basic that she could understand what he was saying, bringing her great comfort and hope as she acclimated to her new home in America.

Wanting to learn all I could about living for Jesus, I naturally looked to Billy Graham shortly after receiving Christ as my Savior. I learned some valuable lessons about his life which I still adhere to to this day. One of those is Billy would never meet with a woman who needed counseling with the door to his office closed. His secretary could always look in through the partially open door to confirm nothing untoward was taking place. This protected the reputations of both Mr. Graham and the woman. I have held to the same practice throughout my years of pastoral ministry and military chaplaincy.

Another stroke of wisdom which Billy insisted upon was during his many travels, he would often be staying in hotels. As he became increasingly popular world-wide the concern for someone wanting to sully his reputation would increase. So, before he would walk into his hotel room, his staff would check it out from top to bottom to ensure that there were no surprises which could wind up on the front page of the tabloids.

When it came to Scripture he would read through the Book of Psalms, the book of Proverbs, and the Four Gospels each month. This way he covers the vast array of life experiences as portrayed in the 150 Psalms; the wisdom found in the 31 chapters in Proverbs; and the life, ministry and words of Jesus in the combined 89 chapters of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. I have found this practice to be immensely helpful in my own life, and in ministering to others in their time of need. 

And then there’s this final action he insisted upon from the inception of his ministry in 1949. So as to be sure his ministry could never be proven to have mishandled funds in any way, he had the IRS audit the books of the Billy Graham Association every single year.

In my estimation, Billy Graham was without peer. We’re not likely to see someone like him again for quite some time, if ever.

And now he has heard God say to him over in glory, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into your rest.”

Well done, indeed, Billy! Thank you for your faithfulness. See you in glory!

Monday, February 19, 2018

Norway in My Heart

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
19 February 2018
The Ripon Bulletin

Norway in My Heart

I have been deliberating with myself as to what topic I should address in this week’s article. There is the tragedy of yet another school shooting, this time in Florida, where a lone gun-toting teenager entered his former high school intent on mayhem and bloodshed. Believe me, this is a topic I could spend countless articles expounding, but my heart just isn’t in it right now.

There is the ever-pernicious Russian Collusion, raising its ugly head yet again with a report from the State Department indicting thirteen Russians and three Russian companies, charging them with attempting to influence the outcome of the 2016 Presidential election. Interestingly, the point was made that no Americans were involved in any collusion effort. This story was scrapped because it has become tiresome, with a media that is boorish in their frantic attempts to pin something, anything on this president in a strained effort to tear President Trump down.

Rather, the highlight of the week for me has been the Winter Olympics, held this year in Pyeongchang, South Korea. I am always fascinated by the dedication and toughness Olympic athletes demonstrate, whether in the Winter or Summer Games, spending countless hours training just for the opportunity to compete against others in your chosen discipline. I will say that I’m glad the two games have been rotated so that one of the games is held every two years instead of the old format where the Summer Olympics were quickly followed a few months later by the Winter Olympics. Then you had a four-year wait for this pattern to repeat itself.

Admittedly, I enjoy the Summer games to the Winter, but both are great to watch. Having spent two years in Norway in my early teens, I learned to appreciate some different sports than what was offered back in the U.S. The games that we played in Norway were primarily of the winter sport variety, such as cross-country skiing, ice hockey, slalom skiing, downhill racing, and speed skating. Many more winter sports have been added since the early ‘60s. Snow-boarding in a variety of forms is a big one.

So, I’m turning on the TV early in the week and already Norway has launched into a massive lead in the medals count. As of this writing, Norway has amassed 26 medals. In second place is Germany with 18 medals, followed by Canada with 16. The U.S. is presently in 6th place with 10 medals. Even South Korea has 6 medals, three of which are gold. That’s very exciting for the host country.

I am a member of the Overseas Brats which consists of kids of military families who at one point attended a Department of Defense school somewhere around the globe. For the past thirty years or so, many of the Brats have been gathering each year somewhere in the U.S. to have a reunion. Last fall it was in Huntsville, Alabama, which I wrote about in an article entitled, “Vikings Rule!” (, September 25, 2017).

The school I attended in Norway was called the Oslo American School (OAS). Though one of the smallest schools in number, the kids from OAS always seem to outnumber the kids from schools elsewhere. We genuinely enjoy each other’s company at these reunions. And we keep in touch throughout the year, mostly by Internet.

So, when the Norwegians began to rack up the medals, we OASers began group texting each other, excited to cheer on our adopted country, Norway. It’s rather stunning to see Norway cleaning up in these winter games when they have a population of just over five million. Especially when you compare them to the United States, Russia, China, and Canada. But skiing and skating are more than winter games in Norway. It is a part of everyday life. I used to ski about a half-mile to the bus stop for school. I’d strap the skis to the side of the bus and ride the hour-and-a-half to school. I would pack my ice skates in my backpack so we could play ice hockey during lunch (I still have scars to prove it!). Parents would glide along on their skis with their toddler standing on the parent’s skis while being held up by the hand by the parent. Kids sometimes learned the balance of skiing before they learned the balance of walking.

The two most exciting events for me this week was watching the women’s cross-country relay ski race and the men’s as well. Both had the Norwegians lagging well behind the Russians, or the dreaded Swedes. In each race, the Norwegian athlete overcame the gap and raced to the finish line earning the gold medal.

I know it probably doesn’t mean anything to you. But to Brats who lived in this northern country for a time, it is special. We were lamenting in out texts that we wished we still had our wooden skis, or wooden ice hockey stick. OASer Steve Robinson reminded us that he took ski lessons from the 1960 Norwegian Olympic slalom champion, Tom Murstad. A lesson cost about $1.40!

Of course, we all want to see the United States do well in the Olympics, and there’s another week still to go. But there’s a soft spot in our hearts for the athletes of Norway. And there always will be.

OASer Maryl Ball Sellman summed it up best: “We have so many wonderful memories from Norway. I think that’s why we all get together every year, just to hold onto them.”

Amen, Maryl, amen!

Monday, February 12, 2018

Homage to Patrick Henry

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
12 February 2018
The Ripon Bulletin

Homage to Patrick Henry

School was a drudgery for me. I don’t mean the school itself. My teachers were very patient and helpful. The teachers I had throughout elementary, junior and senior high always dressed well. The men wore a coat and tie, and the ladies wore dresses or skirt/blouse combos. I wanted to like the subjects, such as math, science, English composition, and so on, but it was a continuous struggle for me to earn the barest of passing grades.

The one subject I always gravitated to was history. World history, Ancient history, American history – it didn’t matter. It was fascinating to me how others lived their lives and dealt with life’s challenges.

In particular, I loved American history, and still do to this day. Of special interest to me is the Revolutionary period from 1770-1790. This was the time of trial for an emerging nation faced with internal conflict and external threat from the parent nation, Great Britain, forcing the colonists to kowtow to the King of England and the pernicious offing’s of a self-absorbed monarchy . . . or else!

The colonists who were already settled in New England and the eastern seaboard enjoyed a thriving commercial venture with the parent nation, England. Tea, tobacco, and cotton were just a few of the products brought in or shipped out of the colonies. However, the government of England ignored the growing complaints from the slighted colonists who took umbrage to the fact that their attempts at being heard suffered a cold shoulder by a callous, uncaring monarchy. Instead, they were given short-shrift, often never giving audience to distant aggrieved loyal American subjects. Some historians suggest that as many as one third of the colonists were opposed to war with Britain.

These American colonists were faithful to the British crown, believing that their hard work and steadfast dedication as subjects to an ever-growing British influence world-wide would be to their benefit. Such wishful thinking was not to be.

Colonists struggled under the increasing taxation levied against them. In addition, they resented the heavy-handed manner imposed by a British military requiring by force the housing of troops in American homes against the will of the home owners. Further grievances included a deaf ear from the British parliament concerning a myriad of issues the colonists felt were wrongly imposed on them. Thus, the cry of “No Taxation without Representation” was given a voice. A forced religious acceptance (the Church of England), a free press, and a host of other protests were gaining traction within the American colonies.

So, on March 23, 1775, Patrick Henry stood to speak at St. John’s Church, Richmond, Virginia. It is often listed as the “Give Me Liberty, or Give Me Death!” speech. The British army and navy had amassed along the shoreline of Virginia. This was not a church service, or a meeting of the congregants. No, this was a meeting of the Second Virginia Convention, meeting in a church far away from the capital which was then Williamsburg. In so doing, the delegates hoped not to incite reprisals from the British Lieutenant Governor.

Patrick Henry listened to various speakers, all recommending supplication to the British crown. Henry had heard enough of this blather. He is literally disgusted with the quisling attitude of his fellow Americans colonists.

In the remainder of this article I will share snippets of Patrick Henry’s speech. It should genuinely stir a flow of patriotic blood coursing through your veins.

“MR. PRESIDENT: No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well as abilities, of the very worthy gentlemen who have just addressed the House. But different men often see the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, I hope it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen if, entertaining as I do, opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely, and without reserve. This is no time for ceremony . . . Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offence, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the majesty of heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.

“They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? . . . Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. Three millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. There is a just God who presides over the destiny of nations . . . The war is inevitable and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come.

“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!

          What a patriot!

Monday, February 05, 2018

Making Some Sushi

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
05 February 2018
The Ripon Bulletin

Making Some Sushi

The article I wrote last week ended with me attempting to use chop sticks for the first time in a Japanese home in Hiroshima, valiantly attacking a sticky rice ball in clear broth. Mr. Shaw Fuji, or Fuji-san as I called him, became a good friend. On those weekends that I had off, I would grab the train and spend the weekend at his home.

          His was a traditional Japanese home. He and I would sit cross-legged on a tatami mat with a table before us for drinks and food. I say it was a traditional home because Fuji-san’s wife was only seen when she brought in another heated bottle of sake (Japanese rice wine), or food. Otherwise, I never saw her. We would sit and have lengthy conversations about all sorts of topics, consuming quite a bit of sake. Sake is served hot, and goes down very smoothly.

          I discovered that he studied English solely in Japan. He never traveled to an English-speaking country, or attended an English-speaking school. He was proficient enough to be a teacher of English. His command of the English language was indeed admirable. I asked him one time what the Japanese thought about the United States having dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, and then Nagasaki to force an end to World War Two. He was thoughtful for a few moments, and then said, “We don’t talk about it, really. But, if we had had the bomb, we would have used it on you.”

Since he taught in a high school, from time-to-time I would meet some of his students. On one occasion he introduced me to two teenage girls from one of his classes. I smiled, shaking their hand, saying, “My name is Chuck-san.” Both girls immediately started tittering, looking from me to Fuji-san and back to me while holding their hand over their mouth (it’s considered impolite for them to show their teeth). This puzzled me, so I asked Fuji-san, “Why are they giggling?” He smiled and said, “Well, in Japanese, Chuck (or it’s equivalent sound) means zipper.” I’m not sure if I turned red at that point, but I suspect I did!

One evening Fuji-san said, “Let’s go to a sushi bar.” Sounded good to me, so we left the house and walked to the local sushi bar which I learned was a favorite of his. It was early in the evening, so we were the only customers at the time. We sat at the bar watching the chef put together a platter of sushi for the two of us. I was intrigued at the way the chef sliced and diced various sea food and vegetables for the fingers of rice on the platter (the finger of rice is an oblong, compacted mound of rice). The next thing I knew, the chef was beckoning me to join him behind the counter. Sounded good to me, so I jumped up and made my way around the counter. After scrubbing my hands at the sink, he handed me an apron which I put on and stood beside him where he taught me to make the rice fingers. He then showed me how to slice the different kinds of raw fish to go atop the rice, including sea weed. I was really getting into it when I heard the door open. Looking up I saw a Japanese couple standing there, awe-struck, staring at this white guy from America with a Marine high-and-tight haircut, making sushi. The expression on their faces was priceless! Unsure at first, they finally decided to come in and sit. They even ate the sushi I had prepared. That was a special moment for me!

Since I was unfamiliar with many of the customs of Japan, I learned an embarrassing lesson at the Fuji home. Wishing to take a bath, Fuji-san showed me where the tub was. After the house was quiet that evening, I stepped into the bathing room. I noticed an odd shaped tub full of hot water. I stuck a toe in to test just how hot it was. It was hot! Well, I figured that if these folks could take a really hot bath, then so could I. The warning signs went off in my head, and the good sense that God gave me was over-ruled by my declaring to no one but myself, that I’m a Marine, and I’m tough, and I can do this!

When I was done, I looked a lot liked a boiled lobster. I dried myself off, drained the tub and went to sleep on the tatami mat. The next morning Fuji-san came into the room smiling. He asked if I had slept well. I assured him that I had. He proceeded to inform me that the hot water I bathed in and then drained is their supply of hat water for use throughout the day. What I failed to realize was there was a pitcher for dipping the hot water and then pouring it over your body on the ceramic tile flooring. Then you soaped yourself down and rinsed with more hot water. The water would then run down to a drain at a low spot on the floor. I felt really foolish. I don’t know If I was still red from the hot bath the previous night, or I was just red from embarrassment, but it was a painful lesson.

It was about eight months later that I was back in Japan playing football for the Subic Bay Admirals (from Subic Bay Naval Base, the Philippines) when I walked into a Christian Servicemen’s Center in Yokosuka. I heard the Gospel presented in such a way that I simply knew I had to make my decision to trust Christ as my Savior that night.

I have always been amused with the realization that I was born and raised in the most Christian nation in the world, and yet I had spurned Christ and the Gospel. Yet at the age of twenty-four and a sergeant in the Marine Corps, I find myself accepting Jesus in perhaps the most closed nation to the Gospel in the world.
Many years later as a Navy chaplain I would return to Japan numerous times while the command chaplain of the supply ship, the USS White Plains (AFS4). More on that later.

Monday, January 29, 2018

My Time in Japan

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
29 January 2018
The Ripon Bulletin

My Time in Japan

The island nation of Japan and its colorful and often violent history was shrouded in mystery to the rest of the world for centuries. By their own standards, the Japanese historically maintained an isolationistic philosophy toward any other nation or people group.

I readily admit to having had a growing interest in all things Japanese while growing up in the 1950s. The only thing about Japan I remember then was we defeated them in WWII, and products made in Japan were junk. By the time I actually set foot on Japanese soil in 1971, a lot had changed. Their economy had grown significantly, and their manufacturing had done a complete one-eighty. Japan had become a major force in the world, economically. They showed great vision and foresight in the development and manufacturing of everything from digital watches (remember Swiss watches?), to computers, to automobiles.

In 1960 our family moved to Paris, France. My brother John, wound up attending a college prep school in Saint Gallen, Switzerland. As a twelve-year-old, I was given my first watch that Christmas of ’60. It was a Swiss watch. Knowing it was the land where the best watches were made, I was feeling very proud of my new timepiece. A decade later, I was buying a digital watch in Japan. You see, when the idea of digital watches was first introduced, the Swiss watchmakers passed on it. After all, they had the watch market all sown up. Boy, did that ever change. And the Swiss are still trying to figure out what happened.

As a newly promoted corporal in the Marines, my first duty assignment over seas was to MCAS Iwakuni, Japan. I flew out of Travis AFB on December 23, 1971 landing at Yokota AFB many hours later. Upon arrival, we were informed that there would be no connecting flight to Iwakuni until the 26th. Once I secured billeting in the transient barracks, I decided to head for Tokyo, roughly an hour’s train ride away. A Marine buddy asked me where I was going. I said, “Tokyo.” “Do you speak Japanese?” he asked. “No. Do you?” I replied. He didn’t. I said, “Look. You and I are obviously Americans. And with Marine Corps ‘high & tight’ haircuts, we’re obviously military. If you get lost, just say to any Japanese person, ‘Iwakuni?’ They’ll point you in the right direction.”

First stop in Tokyo was to the USO where I figured we could learn what might be the best course of action during our three-day-layover. The director asked me if I was hungry. When I said I was, he suggested I walk a few blocks over to the McDonalds. I looked at him thinking he was pulling my leg, but he quickly assured me there was indeed the famous Golden Arches just around the corner. Before heading over to check this out (remember, this is 1971), the director had also set it up for me to have Christmas dinner with an American family in Tokyo.

At McDonalds, I enjoyed a Quarter-Pounder with cheese, fries and a coke. But I had to wait in line for quite a while! I remember McDonalds being roundly criticized for planning to put some of there stores in Japan where fish and rice are the staple foods. As we have all learned over the years, McDonalds does their homework. This store was the only one in Tokyo (possibly in all of Japan), but a decade later in 1986, I was back in Japan, this time as a Navy chaplain, and discovered there were four McDonalds in Tokyo alone! And, yes, the meal tasted just like you get back here in the States.

I arrived on the 26th in Iwakuni where I checked into my new command. That first weekend I decided to do some exploring. I had been given the name and contact number of a Catholic nun who served in a diocese just outside of Hiroshima (where the first atomic bomb was dropped in 1945). Sister Margaret was delighted to hear from me and said to come visit right away. I took the 30-minute train ride to Hiroshima, then somehow found my way to the church. This lady was one go-getter! She was a blur of energy. I just followed in her wake as best I could. It was the Japanese New Year, a time of celebration. She had Japanese friends who had invited her (and me by extension) to a celebratory meal at the home of Mr. Shaw Fuji. I discovered he was a teacher at a nearby Japanese school where he taught English. He was a gracious host, and we quickly became friends.

There is a traditional food that is served on New Years in Japan. It is a ball of sticky cooked rice in a bowl of broth. I can well remember looking at this ball of rice sitting at the bottom of the bowl of broth, wondering how I was going to eat this. The eating utensils were a set of chop sticks. So, I grabbed the sticks, watched how others ate, and copied their moves, clumsily. It was one of those moments that stays with you the rest of your life. I’m sure I provided some amusement for the rest of the dinner guests. I’m still not sure how I managed to eat that sticky ball of rice. It was a great experience! And I was honored to have been invited into the home of a Japanese family after only being in the country a few days.

Over the next fifteen years or so I would have several more trips to Japan which I will share with you next week.

Monday, January 22, 2018

It's a Faith Thing

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
22 January 2018
The Ripon Bulletin

It’s a Faith Thing

There are times in life when you have the opportunity to look back and see how events came together in a way that you simply could not have seen looking forward at that time. I’m not referring to what might be called coincidences. The path I’m talking about has to do with faith.

When I say faith, I’m not talking about crossing my fingers in hopes that everything will work out. Instead, what is at work here is my having learned to trust Jesus with my life: every aspect of it. Let me explain.

At twenty-four years of age I had an encounter with Jesus while serving in the Marine Corps. There was no doubt in my heart and mind that this meeting, if you will, took place. The realization that God loved me, and Christ died for my sins was overwhelming. I knew then I needed to surrender my entire life to him completely. I remember distinctly saying to Jesus in my prayer of surrender to him that he could have my whole life to do with as he wished. It stands to reason that if he can save me from my sin, his taking care of the remainder of my earthly life should be a cake-walk.

Some might say that’s a bit risky. After all, you really don’t know what following Jesus in a walk of faith may get you. That’s true. But you have to remember that I was serving in the Marine Corps. And I was in Vietnam. People I couldn’t see were trying to kill me. When I took the oath to serve my country, I was, in effect, signing a blank check over to the government stating that my government, the leaders of the United States, and in particular the Commander in Chief, the President, could use me up to and including the sacrificing of my life.

The decision to trust Jesus was easy compared to trusting a gaggle of politicians. After all, the politicians did not create the universe, nor the sun, moon and stars. They did not bring about the forms of life that inhabit this amazing globe we call earth. I am useful to them, yes. But they do not know me, and they certainly do not love me.

God made the universe and rules over it and all that it contains. And he doesn’t even break a sweat. Politicians, on the other hand, can’t even run the postal system without screwing it up. I’ll take God, thank you.

When my enlistment in the Marines was up in 1973, I planned to return to college and pursue something altogether divested from the military. After graduating from San Jose State University in 1976, Isaura and I were married and moved to Portland, Oregon where I was to attend Western Evangelical Seminary. I wasn’t sure which of the three masters programs I should take. While standing in line to sign up with the registrar, I sensed the Lord prompting me to sign up for the Master’s in Divinity (M.Div) degree. But I could not shake the need to go with the M.Div.

Three years later I graduated with my M.Div. and returned to our home church in San Jose to be the youth minister, all the while seeking for an avenue to enter the field of Christian Radio & TV. The superintendent and pastor approached me the need for me to be ordained. I argued against it but they prevailed, so I went through the two-year study program to be officially ordained.

In my early thirties at this point, I felt I needed to move away from youth ministry and get into Christian Broadcasting. Nothing opened up for me, except the opportunity to pastor a church in Fresno.

While in Fresno I reenlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve as a side ministry to go along with pastoring the church. Eight years had passed since seminary and I was still wondering where I was heading in serving the Lord.

One day I received a phone call from a man who identified himself as a Navy chaplain. He had heard of me and wondered if I’d consider being a Navy chaplain. I asked him what the qualifications were. He listed three, in this order: Masters in Divinity, ordination, pastoring a church! I now saw how all three of those things came together so I would be prepared for ministry to sailors and Marines.

I had did not stayed in the Marine Corps because I did not want to keep doing for 20 years what I had been doing – fixing black boxes in jet aircraft.

I did not want to earn a Masters in Divinity because it was a three-year program, not two like the other degrees. Plus, I didn’t need that degree for broadcasting. And I wanted nothing to do with Greek and Hebrew, required for the M.Div.

I also did not want to go through ordination because I felt it was a waste of time since I was going into broadcasting.

Lastly, pastoring a church was not on my list of things to do. I could not see myself preaching to a congregation.

What hit me like a bolt when presented with the Navy chaplaincy was the realization that God had been working to get me to the point where I would be qualified to serve him in the Navy.

Had I chosen to be bull-headed and not have been obedient to his promptings, I would have missed out serving 25 years as a chaplain to the men and women of the sea services. I didn’t want to do it, but I’m so glad I did!

Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Sum of Character

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
15 January 2018
The Ripon Bulletin

The Sum of Character

Following up on my article from last week, Character Matters, I shared a number of Trump character stories from journalist Liz Crokin. In her article entitled, Trump Does the Unthinkable, the rest of her stories about Donald Trump are provided here. Her job as an entertainment reporter was to cover then Mr. Trump for more than a decade. As she stated, “Keep in mind, I got paid a lot of money to dig up dirt on celebrities like Trump.”

Just as a reminder, I am not suggesting that President Trump is perfect, nor should we be making plans to place his carved visage on Mount Rushmore. However, I wrote in a previous article that in voting for Mr. Trump I was not voting for a Sunday School teacher. It has been said that the definition of character is what you do when no one is watching.

*In 2008, after Jennifer Hudson’s family members were tragically murdered in Chicago, Trump put the Oscar-winning actress and her family up at his Windy City hotel for free. In addition to that, Trump’s security took extra measures to ensure Hudson and her family members were safe during such a difficult time.

*In 2013, New York bus driver Darnell Barton spotted a woman close to the edge of a bridge staring at traffic below as he drove by. He stopped the bus, got out and put his arm around the woman and saved her life by convincing her to not jump. When Trump heard about this story, he sent the hero bus driver a check simply because he believed his good deed deserved to be rewarded.

*In 2014, Trump gave $25,000 to Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi after he spent seven months in a Mexican jail for accidentally crossing the US-Mexico border. President Barack Obama couldn’t even be bothered to make one phone call to assist with the United States Marine’s release; however, Trump opened his pocketbook to help this serviceman get back on his feet.

*In 2016, Melissa Consin Young attended a Trump rally and tearfully thanked Trump for changing her life. She said she proudly stood on stage with Trump as Miss Wisconsin USA in 2005. However, years later she found herself struggling with an incurable illness and during her darkest days she explained that she received a handwritten letter from Trump telling her she’s the “bravest woman, I know.” She said the opportunities that she got from Trump and his organizations ultimately provided her Mexican-American son with a full-ride to college.

*Lynne Patton, a black female executive for the Trump Organization, released a statement in 2016 defending her boss against accusations that he’s a racist and a bigot. She tearfully revealed how she’s struggled with substance abuse and addiction for years. Instead of kicking her to the curb, she said the Trump Organization and his entire family loyally stood by her through “immensely difficult times.”

Trump’s kindness knows no bounds and his generosity has and continues to touch the lives of people from every sex, race and religion. When Trump sees someone in need, he wants to help. Two decades ago, Oprah asked Trump in a TV interview if he’d run for president. He said: “If it got so bad, I would never want to rule it out totally, because I really am tired of seeing what’s happening with this country.” That day has come. Trump sees that America is in need and he wants to help – how unthinkable! (“Trump Does the Unthinkable”, by Liz Crokin, July 10, 2016,

          This past week I was speaking with a long-time acquaintance who has served three previous presidents. Here is a composite of some of his remarks and thoughts while serving in the Trump administration.

          During the primaries last year, a black Secret Service agent assigned to Mr. Trump at Trump Towers in New York City, asked one of the maintenance workers what it’s like working for Donald Trump. “I couldn’t ask for a better boss,” he said. Or as my acquaintance says, “He takes care of his people.”

          The salary for the president is $400,000 a year. President Trump has refused the salary. Instead, he asked that it be given to charity. Have you ever heard of any other president doing this?

          The President loves the American flag, bringing back a resurgence of patriotism. He has demonstrated a genuine love and appreciation for our military veterans and active duty personnel.

          During the White House staff Christmas Party last month President Trump made it a point to wish everyone a Merry Christmas several times, including Happy Hanukkah.

          On the evening of the Inaugural, President Trump asked the chef to prepare a dinner for the entire family in the residence of the White House. Afterward, the President and First Lady made it a point to go to the kitchen and thank the chef and his staff for an excellent meal.

          So, think about these reports when you hear the Mainstream Media, Hollywood elites, and the Trump Nay-Sayers attack the character of our president.

          Personally, I’ll take Donald Trump, flaws and all.

Monday, January 08, 2018

Character Matters

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
8 January 2018
The Ripon Bulletin

Character Matters

You may recall the brouhaha surrounding then President Bill Clinton when his character was being called into question. Those on the political left came to his defense espousing this absurd blather, “Character doesn’t matter!” It was during the height of Bill Clinton’s dalliances that the American people were expected to swallow the preposterous lie that “Character doesn’t matter as long as the President’s policies are sound.”

Such a statement would be laughable if it wasn’t so serious, because whatever roads a person travels in life, is greatly affected by their character. Virtues are tantamount to being trusted by others. The Boy Scouts have a code or law consisting of twelve points. “A Scout is: Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent.” It sure sounds like the sort of code a person with good character should have!

I find it interesting then that a story about the character of President Donald Trump receives virtually no attention from the mainstream media. The article is entitled, Trump Does The Unthinkable, written July 8, 2016 by journalist Liz Crokin for Townhall. Ms. Crokin sets the stage for this article in the next two paragraphs. The remainder of this article lists many of the examples of the President’s character. In next week’s article I will post the remainder of the stories from Ms. Crokin’s article.

“Donald Trump is a racist, bigot, sexist, xenophobe, anti-Semitic and Islamophobe -- did I miss anything? The left and the media launch these hideous kinds of attacks at Trump everyday (sic); yet, nothing could be further from the truth about the real estate mogul. As an entertainment journalist, I’ve had the opportunity to cover Trump for over a decade, and in all my years covering him I’ve never heard anything negative about the man until he announced he was running for president. Keep in mind, I got paid a lot of money to dig up dirt on celebrities like Trump for a living so a scandalous story on the famous billionaire could’ve potentially sold a lot of magazines and would’ve been a “yuge” (sic) feather in my cap. Instead, I found that he doesn’t drink alcohol or do drugs, he’s a hardworking businessman and totally devoted to his beloved wife and children. On top of that, he’s one of the most generous celebrities in the world with a heart filled with more gold than his $100 million New York penthouse.

Since the media has failed so miserably at reporting the truth about Trump, I decided to put together some of the acts of kindness he's committed over three decades which has gone virtually unnoticed or fallen on deaf ears.”

• In 1986, Trump prevented the foreclosure of Annabel Hill's family farm after her husband committed suicide. Trump personally called down to the auction to stop the sale of her home and offered the widow money. Trump decided to take action after he saw Hill's pleas for help in news reports.

• In 1988, a commercial airline refused to fly Andrew Ten, a sick Orthodox Jewish child with a rare illness, across the country to get medical care because he had to travel with an elaborate life-support system. His grief-stricken parents contacted Trump for help and he didn't hesitate to send his own plane to take the child from Los Angeles to New York so he could get his treatment.

• In 1991, 200 Marines who served in Operation Desert Storm spent time at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina before they were scheduled to return home to their families. However, the Marines were told that a mistake had been made and an aircraft would not be able to take them home on their scheduled departure date. When Trump got wind of this, he sent his plane to make two trips from North Carolina to Miami to safely return the Gulf War Marines to their loved ones.

• In 1995, a motorist stopped to help Trump after the limo he was traveling in got a flat tire. Trump asked the Good Samaritan how he could repay him for his help. All the man asked for was a bouquet of flowers for his wife. A few weeks later Trump sent the flowers with a note that read: We've paid off your mortgage.

• In 1996, Trump filed a lawsuit against the city of Palm Beach, Florida, accusing the town of discriminating against his Mar-a-Lago resort club because it allowed Jews and blacks. Abraham Foxman, who was the Anti-Defamation League Director at the time, said Trump put the light on Palm Beach not on the beauty and the glitter, but on its seamier side of discrimination. Foxman also noted that Trump's charge had a trickle-down effect because other clubs followed his lead and began admitting Jews and blacks.

• In 2000, Maury Povich featured a little girl named Megan who struggled with Brittle Bone Disease on his show and Trump happened to be watching. Trump said, the little girl's story and positive attitude touched his heart. So, he contacted Maury and gifted the little girl and her family with a very generous check.

There are those who will never give this president any credit for anything. Regardless of your political leanings, you have to admit that Mr. Trump has demonstrated a generous spirit which belies the vicious assaults on his character launched daily by a media complicit with Hollywood to destroy this good man and his family.

Next week I’ll conclude this look into the character of President Trump.

Psalm for the Day