Marines.Together We Served

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

November's Coming!

Well now! To date, this has been the most interesting mid-term election that I can ever recall. Seriously, can you call to mind a more important mid-term election?

The ground swell of interest in the direction our country is heading is unprecedented. The national emergence of the Tea Party continues to baffle both pundits and politicos of every stripe. I love it!

On a personal level I have been doing my own unofficial assessment of where people are when it comes to the election to be held in just 34 days from when you read this in the Ripon Record. For the past number of months when I have been discussing various matters of a political nature with folks, whether I know them or not, I will slip this statement in at some point: November’s coming! It doesn’t seem to matter whether we’ve been in deep discussion or simply a comment has been made of a political nature, usually regarding healthcare, joblessness, our military, illegal immigration, or whatever, but the moment I say, “November’s coming!” I get this look, eye-to-eye, followed by a slight nod of the head with an accompanying affirmation such as, “You’d better believe it!”

I have never seen people so interested in any election, mid-term or not. I mean, it’s almost our duty as American’s to not really care about off-year elections! The 2010 election is clearly breaking from the norm.

Just to be clear about all this, I do not see people with seething anger, or even the slightest hint of racial biases, or even a loyalty to any political party. What I do see are Americans who are fed up with the foolishness that passes for the United States Government. The people we have elected and entrusted with the country’s business have violated that trust. Have they all failed us? No. But the system inside the DC Beltway is so broken that even the good ones we elect to Congress are immediately neutralized before they can get their briefcases unpacked on Capitol Hill.

As you know, all 435 seats in the House of Representatives are up for reelection in November. Many of the talk shows on radio and TV have mentioned that there is such a grass-roots movement spreading across the land that every one of these seats are open. Not one single incumbent should presume the seat is theirs until after the final ballot is counted.

So, I asked myself, “Why this strong surge of support for candidates who hold to conservative values and principles; ideals originally espoused by our founding fathers?”

Here’s my take on it. My generation, known as “Boomers” (Baby Boomers from the close of WWII, 1945-1960) is the generation currently running the government, industry and the military. We are also the last ones who were taught patriotism and fidelity to God and country before the crippling events of the 1960s. This decade of the 60s nearly undid our nation. For those unfamiliar with these events, here is a recap, although it is not exhaustive: JFK assassinated; LBJ’s Great Society; Vietnam; Race riots in the inner cities; Campus unrest; Hippy movement; MLK assassinated; and RFK assassinated, followed by the Watergate debacle in 1972. We have yet to recover from this time period. I suspect we won’t fully until my generation is fully departed from planet Earth.

We were educated by teachers who understood and valued the warp and woof of this nation, and who unashamedly taught “American Exceptionalism” to their students. My generation knows the greatness of this nation. We know that God has blessed our nation from sea to shining sea. We know that it is American love of freedom that has willingly spilled the blood of her sons and daughters so others could know freedom! We know what this country was in the past, and even though we were the rebellious ones a few short decades ago, we don’t like what we see happening now. We realize that the next generations will not have the experiences of a robust and invigorated America to remember. Therefore, we’re the ones who will be going to the polls to vote in November in a show of force to turn our nation back from the brink of disaster; back to her roots; back to the values and ideals that made her a great nation. She can be that great nation again!

It’s an exciting day to live in America! Vote! It is a right paid for by the blood of patriots.

November’s coming!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Marines Forever!

Here we go again!

The United States Marine Corps will be celebrating its 235th birthday in a few weeks. The birthday of the Corps is a big deal to all Marines, whether active duty, reserve, retired, or former, as in my case. No truer words were ever spoken: “Once a Marine – Always a Marine!” On November 10th each year Marines congregate in small, private groups or in large, boisterous gatherings to lift a glass in honor of the Marine Corps, retelling the glorious acts of heroism that built the lore and legacy of this elite fighting force.

I admit, I am a dyed-in-the-wool Marine. I have a mouse pad for my computer in the church office that reads: “And on the 8th day God created Marines!” It is somewhat irreverent, I suppose, for a “man of the cloth,” I know, but Marines understand the sentiment behind the words.

So, I’m reading through my accumulation of e-mails earlier this week and notice a story that announces that the current administration is taking active steps to eliminate the Marine Corps. What! Not again!

This is hardly the first time the Marine Corps has been placed on the proverbial chopping block. The article I read is, “Send Away the Marines?” from September 14, The Washington Post. The subtitle for the article says, “Force review could leave the Corps high and dry.”

This is hardly the first time the Marine Corps has faced the challenge for its own existence. When Congress historically mismanages the funds entrusted by “We the People,” these elected officials panic and look for places they can either grab more money (like Social Security!), or cut funded budget projects, such as the Defense Department. At the end of WWI, WWII, and Vietnam, the Defense Department was seriously cut back to the degree that when a new threat loomed on the horizon, we were not militarily prepared to take it on. A military force, by any definition, is costly. In today’s tenuous atmosphere of eggshell-walking amongst nations, the threat of war and nuclear attack is all too real.

The assumption that is made regarding a force like the Marine Corps is that with all the advances in modern warfare and the technological intricacies required, a knuckle-dragging, gun-toting, combat force is probably no longer a requirement on the battlefields of the 21st Century. This mistake has been made before. As long as nations find it necessary to engage in war, you will always need those who kick in doors and do the dirty work required to subdue a recalcitrant enemy. There’s nothing quite like looking into the business end of a fully-loaded M16 gun barrel to convince the enemy that resistance is futile. Saddam Hussein learned that lesson up close and personal!

An LA Times article last month spurred this story into the news, causing a renewed battle between left and right-leaning ideologues over the questionable future of the Marine Corps. “Defense Secretary Gates is ordering a review of the future role of the Marine Corps amid ‘anxiety’ the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had turned the service into a ‘second land army,’” so said the LA Times.

Different national leaders in the past, both political and military, have made serious efforts to have the Marine Corps eliminated. Most of the time these efforts were made by the heads of other service branches, who were jealous, threatened or both, by the mere presence of the Marine Corps. Let me be very clear on this point: No other branch of our military service can do what the Marines do.

There is a humorous bumper sticker about the Marines that is also very true: “When it absolutely, positively must be destroyed overnight: U.S. Marines” says it all. Why? Because the Marines are trained to be quick responders. When the call comes in to saddle up and ship out, Marines do it in a matter of hours. They want to go! They like it! This is what they train endless hours for. The other branches take days, if not weeks to respond with a force ready to engage the enemy.

Another reason we need a Marine Corps: Our enemies are terrified of having to fight Marines. This is not an exaggeration. There are plenty of documented remarks by former enemy leaders who have attested to this truth. Marines get it done, and they do it better than anyone else.

And the final reason we need the Marine Corps? The dress blue uniform! They are the best ever – no argument. Oorah!

God bless the United States of America! And God bless the Marine Corps!

Why not contact your Congressmen and let them know what you think about the Marine Corps?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Jones & Jesus

There is only one logical (or should I say, illogical) reason I can draw from this foolishness. The man wants his fifteen minutes of fame. Well, he’s certainly gotten it!

The media continues to refer to this man as Pastor Terry Jones. Fine. But the question that came to my mind when I first heard this story about a minister in Florida threatening to burn copies of the Muslim holy book, the Koran, Saturday, September 11, was, “What Christian church is he part of?” It didn’t take long to find out.

This whole story smacks of another minister by the name of Jones – Jim Jones – thirty-three years ago with the ghastly deaths of 914 church members from San Francisco’s, The Peoples Temple, who drank the cyanide-laced Kool-Aid. Who can ever forget the gruesome pictures of the bloated bodies of men, women and children in the Jonestown compound in Guyana? On the cover of the next issue of Time magazine following this unnecessary tragedy, the headline said it all: Cult of Death!

Here’s the point I wish to make in all of this. Whether it’s Jim Jones, Charles Manson, David Koresh, or Terry Jones, they have each exhibited the classic signs of being militantly “cultish.” It is a disservice to suggest that this man, Terry Jones, is godly, or that he in any way, shape, or form represents Christ and his church. I was reading the comments of one religion writer, David Gibson of Politics Daily (, who suggested that Jones is typical of the conservative religious right. What? Gibson says, “Now these conservative Christians are front and center in politics and in some of the sharper clashes of the culture wars. A few congregations, like the Dove Center (Jones’s church) . . ., are considered fringe elements. But they follow in some of the same patterns as their mainstream brethren, only more so.” The pattern he offers is the belief in the doctrine of “End Times,” a core tenet of all biblical teaching - that Jesus is coming back one day at which time he will close the door on the history of man.

What are the earmarks of a cult? First, let’s define “cult.” According to the World English Dictionary, a cult is: “a quasi-religious organization using devious psychological techniques to gain and control adherents.” Another way of defining cult states that it is: “a religion or sect considered to be false, unorthodox, or extremist, with members often living outside of conventional society under the direction of a charismatic leader.”

The Dove World Outreach Center “demands obedience from church members and directives to cut off most contact with relatives.” This is a classic sign of a cult: Isolate the person from their family. Jones' daughter, Emma Jones, has accused her father of operating outside of the traditional church. “Emma Jones had broken with the church, calling it a ‘cult’ that ‘forced us with oppression to be obedient.’ They used mental violence. They'd say, 'If you're not obedient, God will punish you,' Emma Jones told The Gainesville Sun.”

What are the signs of a cult? Here are six taken from one web site on the topic. There are more according to some authorities, but these six sum up the problem well enough. 1) Every cult has a single powerful human leader. 2) The cult leader’s word, or the teachings of the cult, becomes absolute truth, overshadowing the Word of God. 3) Each cult uses force to coerce its members into submission. 4) Each cult leader will teach a Jesus that is not found in the Scriptures. 5) A cult will teach a gospel of “good works” in place of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And, 6) Cults often urge their converts to leave their families.

Some basic instruction from the Bible would resolve this issue if Jones was simply willing to accept the teachings of the real Jesus. “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” And then Jesus gives this instruction regarding treatment of enemies. “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you . . .” Jesus never once called for violence against other religions, its people, their beliefs or practices, or even for the destruction of their religious icons and idols.

To hate comes easily. To love requires a commitment – a commitment to the One who loved us first! Only then can we love as Jesus loves.

More on this next week.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

The Army Mule

Anything having to do with the Civil War gets my attention!
So, last week I received a call from my favorite bookstore, Yesterday’s Books, in Modesto. They were letting me know that one of the books I had ordered as part of a series of books on the Civil War had come in. I began acquiring this series to my collection about two years ago. It’s called the “Collector’s Library of the Civil War,” recollections obtained from veterans of the War Between the States within twenty years of the signing of the surrender of General Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia (in essence, the Confederacy) to Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse.

As I was thumbing through this particular book in the series, called, “Hard Tack and Coffee,” I was intrigued by the information they supplied about the function and role of the Army Mule. I’m no expert on mules, but I can tell you this much: a mule is the offspring between a horse and a donkey. The mule is genetically incapable of reproducing with another mule, since they are self-neutered by the odd mix of parentage.
Army Mule
I got to thinking about my Great Grandfather Daniel Thatcher Lake, circuit riding preacher in East Texas, and Civil War veteran from the Confederacy. I have in my possession his memoirs, written in the late 1880s. One of my favorite stories which he wrote, had to do with a mule he “liberated” from a Union force after they were routed on the battlefield. His own wounds were serious enough the he was discharged and sent home to Texas. With mule in tow, he would stop at southern farms for a bite of dinner and a nights rest, usually bunking in the “Preacher’s Cabin,” a separate building from the main house provided for ministers who frequently traveled far from home to preach the Word of God. After spending the night at one German-American farm in Mississippi, the next morning Great Granddaddy Lake prepared to settle accounts with his host, whereupon the farmer asked him how much his mule was worth. Great Granddaddy said “About $75.00.” The farmer said, “I’ll give you $75.00 for it.” “It’s not for sale,” Great Granddaddy replied. “But you said it was worth $75.00!” the farmer persisted. At this my Great Granddaddy was peeved! “And I said the mule is not for sale!” “I’ll give you $150.00 for the mule and a buggy ride the rest of the way home to Texas!” “And I told you the mule is not for sale!” Great Granddaddy said emphatically, at which point he climbed aboard his mule and rode off. Four years later in 1867, he sold the mule for $250!

We all know that mules are stubborn, cantankerous critters that will balk and buck at any moment without cause or reason. They are amazingly strong, but ill-tempered.

Shoeing a cantancerous mule
It is generally conceded by both Union and Confederate veterans that, among other things, it was the extensive use of the mule by the North that finally turned the tide against the South. Up until the Civil War, horses and mules were used interchangeably in farming. In battle, however, horses were the better animal for the cavalry. Mules did not do well on the front lines with the crash of the cannon and the fury of battle sounds. They were much better suited for pulling wagons of ammunition and provisions, and supply and bridge trains. “Mules have a great advantage over horses in being better able to stand hard usage, bad feed, or no feed, and neglect generally. They can travel over rough ground unharmed. They will eat brush, and not be very hungry to do it, either.”

Mule Driver
Black Snake
Mule Drivers were masters at controlling their mules. Even still, they fully understood the old saying about mules, “To break a mule – begin at his head!” These drivers used the “Black Snake,” a type of whip which was between 6 and 12 feet long with a hard butt handle containing a lead piece for use as a blackjack. The most sensitive part of a mule is his elongated ears. An experienced mule driver could crack the whip right above the ears and get that mule to do whatever he wanted.

These beasts of burden are frequently mentioned in the Bible. Psalm 32:9 says, “Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.”

Has God been calling you? Are you hard-headed? Has he had to use the Black Snake? The question is: Are you listening, or are you like the mule?

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Presidential Succession

I was in the bank the other day taking care of some business when I saw Donna behind her desk, so I stopped to say hello. She and a couple of other employees had been discussing who would be the next person in line should something happen to the president and vice president. So Donna looked at me and asked who was next in line after the vice president. I replied, “The Speaker of the House.” We kicked this topic around for a few minutes, particularly recalling the assassination attempt on President Reagan in 1981 and how General Alexander Haig, the Secretary of State, said on national television, “Constitutionally, gentlemen, you have the President, the Vice President and the Secretary of State in that order, and should the President decide he wants to transfer the helm to the Vice President, he will do so. He has not done that. As of now, I am in control here, in the White House, pending return of the Vice President and in close touch with him. If something came up, I would check with him, of course.”

Believe me, there was no end of hooting and hollering with the obligatory barrage of criticism of Haig, and by association, President Reagan, for not being well versed on the Constitutional line of succession of the presidency. In truth, the Secretary of State is fourth in line to the presidency, not second as Haig declared so forthrightly!

The following is a list of the line of Presidential Succession. Please take note of the names on this list.

1. Vice President                                          Joe Biden
Joe Biden

2. Speaker of the House                               Nancy Pelosi
Nancy Pelosi

3. President pro tempore of the Senate          Daniel Inouye
Daniel Inouye

4. Secretary of State                                     Hillary Rodham Clinton
Hillary Rodham Clinton

5. Secretary of the Treasury                          Timothy Geithner
Timothy Geithner

6. Secretary of Defense                                 Robert Gates
Robert Gates

7. Attorney General                                       Eric Holder
Eric Holder

Now that you’ve had a chance to peruse this list, how comfortable are you with the people who are named in succession to the presidency? Do they inspire confidence that they could make the hard decisions for our nation if required?

Our forefathers understood how important it was for “We the People” to elect men and women to office; people who would conduct the business of the country well; people who would represent their constituents back home by doing what is right for the nation; and not for self-aggrandizement, nor for the particular interests of the folks back in their home state. One of the reasons for the rise of the Tea Party movement was this very point: Elected representatives were placing their own selfish interests first – ahead of their constituents, and ahead of their country.

There has been an attitude of entitlement displayed by those we send to Washington to represent us that has grated long and hard on the American people. It’s quite possible that this November is the year when the professional politicians are going to receive their comeuppance (a deserved rebuke or penalty) from the electorate.

Will putting new people in the place of the “old guard” really change anything? I don’t know. But I’m willing to give it a try. This much I do know: Give me someone who is dedicated to the principles of this country and the Constitution, and I’ll gladly accept their inexperience in D.C. Even as I write, six Republican “establishment” Senators (candidates backed by the RNC) have been defeated by Tea Party candidates in the primaries for this November’s election. This is simply unprecedented!

Some of you may be saying, “Yeah, but most of those positions in the line of succession are appointed.” You would be correct. So, how do we turn this around? Simple. By voting people into office who will stand their ground, taking seriously the pledge to support and defend the Constitution (from the Congressional Oath of Office). By electing such grass-roots Americans, regardless of party affiliation, the message will be received in Washington: Shape up! Or you’re next!

Between now and November 2nd, election day, there will be no end of fiery rhetoric and political barbs crisscrossing the various media with Armageddon-like scenarios if you don’t vote for this party, or dooms-day fear if you vote for that party. Please, ignore that stuff! Focus on what the candidates have demonstrated in past action instead of what they say. There’s a whole lot of flip-flopping going on from both sides of the aisle right now because those who have surrendered their principles will say and do anything to stay in power.

You are voting this November for every single member of the House of Representatives! That’s 435 state representatives who are supposed to “represent” you and me. This includes Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, the one who is second in the line of succession to the presidency. We are also voting for 1/3 of the Senate. Since there are 100 members of the Senate (two from each state), we are voting for more than thirty.

Listen! Your vote counts! Make sure you have registered where you live. And encourage others to do the same. “We the People” can and will make a difference!