Marines.Together We Served

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Party Animals

              I know what you’re thinking! This is not about that. University frat houses are best known for the raucous parties they host where indulging in copious amounts of booze, sex and drugs seems to be the entertainment of choice. Yes, those who participate in such degenerate activities are called “party animals.”

But the party animals I’m referring to are the mascots of the two political parties of the Republicans and the Democrats. The elephant is the well-known symbol of the Republicans, and the donkey is like-wise the symbol of the Democrats. So where did these two figures come from? And why were these two creatures the chosen beasts-of-choice? This is where the story has some interesting twists and turns.

You have to go way back to the earlier part of the 1800s to discover the first uses of these animals in representing their party’s image before the American public. When Andrew Jackson was running for the presidency in 1828, his opponents referred to him as a “jackass.” As often is the case in history, the derogatory name used by ones opponents becomes the name of the movement. Seizing on the pejorative term, Jackson, a Democrat, selected the donkey as his symbol, admiring its strong-willed temperament. The donkey was so effectively embraced by Jackson that he used it to represent the Democratic Party on posters in 1837. Jackson was also known for being stubborn and hard-headed – traits usually associated with a donkey. I guess you could say that Andrew Jackson rode this imagery all the way to the presidency. Besides the posters of 1837, a cartoon was published depicting Jackson, now retired, seated on a stubborn donkey, attempting unsuccessfully to get the donkey to go a certain direction. Jackson considered himself the self-acclaimed leader of the Democratic Party. The cartoon was entitled, “A Modern Balaam and his Ass.”

As for the elephant, the Republicans adopted this caricature as their party symbol after it had been used by political cartoonist, Thomas Nast in 1874. Nast, a dyed-in-the-wool Republican, created a cartoon in which he attempted to put the Republicans in a bad light due to the suggestion that Republican President Ulysses S. Grant might consider running for an unprecedented third term as president. The character in the cartoon representing the Republican vote was an elephant. The media, along with a complicit and anxious Democratic Party, lambasted the Republicans, effectively causing many Republican voters to shy away from voting for Grant. The cartoon also featured a donkey antagonizing a hapless pachyderm. The images were quickly picked up by the media, and subsequently the American public, and have been the main identifiers of the two parties ever since.

“The Democratic donkey represents hard work, diligence, humbleness and a dedication to the USA. The Republicans however, strongly disagree and consider the donkey a symbol of stubbornness.

“On the other hand, the Republican elephant represents intelligence, dignity and is considered as the symbol of strength (as it is seen as the only animal that stood up to a lion). In contrast to this, the Democrats see the elephant as comparable to a circus animal.”

Artist and cartoonist, Thomas Nast, was born in 1840 in Germany. He came to the United States, settling in New York City, where he soon assimilated into the American way of life. Besides being credited with creating the donkey and elephant symbols for the two dominant political parties, he became equally as famous for two other cartoon characters that are loved and revered by young and old alike not only in America, but throughout the world. Nast did not live long enough to see the impact of these two images, as he passed away in 1902.

What are the famous cartoon characters Mr. Nast created that live on today, you ask? Why, the first one was a red-cheeked, jolly fat man known as Santa Claus! Prior to Nast’s depiction of Santa as we think of him today, artistic drawings of Santa showed a slender character without the jovialness of our current Santa.

The second cartoon character that is part of our American image and legacy is that of the tall, dignified elderly gentleman we have come to call, Uncle Sam.

So, whichever party you affiliate with, or you remain party-neutral, you now know about the origins of the Republican and Democratic Party logos. And you have the added bonus of knowing that Thomas Nast (re)created the images of Uncle Sam and Santa Claus.

Only in America!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Benghazi Redux

              It has been just over eight months since the travesty in Benghazi. I remain sickened by what took place there, saddened for the devastation this event has brought on my country.

The unnecessary deaths of Ambassador Chris Stevens, information management officer Sean Smith, and two former Navy SEALs, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, hang now over the American conscience with the unanswered question, “Why?”.

Immediately following the attack on the consulate in Benghazi, a friend who is related to one of the SEALs called me with information that was contradictory to what was coming from the White House and the media. Because my friend is an honest person, with permission, I wrote an article entitled, Courageous, for the October 3, 2012 edition of Roots in Ripon. My purpose in writing this particular article was to eulogize the brave former SEALs. It was first reported that they saved the lives of as many as 20 American personnel, but in the process they killed a bunch of the bad guys. The report I first received from my friend was that Glen and Ty managed to wipe out 60 of the attacking force.

Recently I was contacted by a gentleman who told me he had previously served with one of the SEALs. He had read my article and wanted to update my earlier information. Glen and Ty, through their actions and bravery, killed as many as 100 of the attackers, not the 60 I had first been told. And they affected the safe rescue of some 40 or more American personnel before they themselves were killed, not the 20 first reported.

Because the information I wrote about was not in the main stream media, I received numerous e-mails and phone calls asking me where I had obtained my information. Of course, I could not reveal my sources without compromising my friend and the job he holds. I heard from quite a few special operations folks who appreciated my writing about this story since the media was not willing to do so. One of the more interesting e-mails I received was from someone in the State Department who was irate that I would dare to write about something that I had no knowledge of, and took me to task over my article. My reaction was to trust the information I received from my friend. I told folks to watch the news and wait to see if the things I wrote about were not proven correct eventually. I just didn’t know it would take this long, nor did I see this becoming a major scandal.

What is so troubling to me is knowing that within our government we have contingency plans in place virtually everywhere in the world, yet they were not implemented for these men in Benghazi. Why? I don’t know. With all that is taking place with Congressional inquiries, and the main stream media seemingly coming awake, this story is not going away. Nor should it.

There are those who are saying the Benghazi debacle is much to do about nothing. Or as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, “What difference does it make?”

I would like to answer Mrs. Clinton’s question. The difference it makes is that the four Americans died needlessly. Help was ready willing and able to come to the rescue. But that help was told to stand down. That decision has sent a chill through the soul of every single member of the military. Anyone who has signed on the dotted line to serve knows there are situations where you may not have help coming. Well, so be it. But this was not one of those instances.

Will our young people coming of age want to serve in our military if they have doubts as to whether their government has their back? I suspect they will. But our nation will rebound from this.

This is a painful chapter in our history, but the travesty of Benghazi does not define us as Americans. We yet remain the home of the free because of the brave.

At the end of the day terrorists are nothing more than thugs and are no match for our freedom-loving American military men and women.

God Bless America!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


              Growing up it seemed that every home had a can of 3-in-One Oil to take care of all those little tasks that needed just a squirt of lubrication – the noisy hinge on a bedroom door, or the rusted bicycle chain for instance.

In more recent times, the lubrication of choice is the ubiquitous spray can of WD-40. For years while I was serving in the military I always traveled with a small can of this wonder-oil. I was forever staying in hotels or the BOQ (Bachelor Officers’ Quarters). Invariably, there would be some hinge, fan or other device in the room that squeaked or screeched when opened or started. I would grab my trusty little can of WD-40, insert the plastic tube into the nozzle for more accurate aim, and fire away at the intrusive and irritating noise. One little spritz of the oil and, presto-chango! the problem was gone.

So what exactly is WD-40 and where did the name come from? I did a little research and would like to share with you the benefit of my findings.

         WD-40 is the trademark name, having been developed in 1953 by Norm Larsen. Mr. Larsen claims the name comes from “Water Displacement, 40th formula.” In his attempt to create a lubricant that would primarily remove water from a metal surface and thereby prevent rust and corrosion, he started a new industry. The product became commercially available in 1958, quickly becoming the standard household lubricant.

“In recent years the WD-40 company has acquired several household-products companies, adding such brand names as 3-In-One Oil, Lava, Spot Shot, X-14, Carpet Fresh, and 2000 Flushes to its roster.”

My wife, Isaura, sent me an interesting e-mail which she received from a friend in Minnesota. The message was entirely about WD-40 and its many uses. Space does not allow me to offer the 43 uses listed, plus I’m sure there are a great many more uses should you ask your friends and neighbors. On my Roots in Ripon website, I have provided the entire list: But here is a sampling from that list: *Protects silver from tarnishing, *Removes road tar and grime from cars, *Gives floors that 'just-waxed' sheen without making them slippery, *Keeps flies off cows (Huh?), *Restores and cleans chalkboards, *Removes lipstick stains, *Loosens stubborn zippers, *Untangles jewelry chains, *Removes tomato stains from clothing, *Keeps glass shower doors free of water spots, *Keeps scissors working smoothly.

A few more uses for WD-40: *Removes splattered grease on stoves, *Keeps bathroom mirrors from fogging, and *Lubricates prosthetic limbs (Bet you wanted to know that!), *Folks even spray it on their arms, hands, and knees to relieve arthritis pain, *The favorite use in the state of New York: WD-40 protects the Statue of Liberty from the elements (Who knew?), *WD-40 attracts fish! Spray a little on live bait or lures and you will be catching the big one in no time (My son-in-law will be all over this!).

This got me to thinking. Have you ever watched the movie, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”? Isaura and I went with friends to see it shortly after it was released and thoroughly enjoyed it, mostly because it was so very descriptive of our relationship. If you saw the movie you’ll recall that the girl’s father was thoroughly convinced that Windex could cure anything. It was hilarious! They’d be in the middle of a conversation when someone would complain of an ache or pain, and out would come the spray bottle of Windex, and the offending body part would be immediately sprayed much to the chagrin and embarrassment of the rest of the family.

It’s in this same vain that I see the many uses of WD-40. Just the other night Isaura was frantically scratching her feet. Apparently some bug found her to be tasty while she was padding around in the back yard. She had red spots and what appeared to be a couple of areas that looked blistered. She had applied some ointment I had from my time in Iraq ten years ago. However, the intervening years had caused it to lose its potency, so about 2 o’clock in the morning I awoke to find Isaura frantically scratching at her feet. I glanced over and said, “What’s going on?” Isaura apologized for awakening me, but her feet were driving her nuts. So what’s a husband to do?

I got up, fumbled my way downstairs and into the garage where I retrieved my trusty can of WD-40. I then grabbed an old wash cloth from the rag drawer and headed back upstairs. Isaura waited anxiously, desperate for any relief from the incessant itching. I sprayed both of her feet liberally with the blessed ointment. I then slipped a pair of my white athletic socks on her feet. To mask the odor of the WD-40, I sprayed the room with our bathroom deodorizer. After washing my hands I crawled back into bed. Isaura was out cold! No more itch. And she slept the rest of the night without further trouble.

         WD-40 . . . the Wonder Cure! Wish I’d bought some of their stock 40 years ago!

WD-40 uses:

1. Protects silver from tarnishing.                 
2. Removes road tar and grime from cars.
3. Cleans and lubricates guitar strings.
4. Gives floors that 'just-waxed' sheen without making them slippery.
5. Keeps flies off cows.
6. Restores and cleans chalkboards.
7. Removes lipstick stains.
8. Loosens stubborn zippers.
9. Untangles jewelry chains. 
                                                                           10. Removes stains from stainless steel sinks.
11. Removes dirt and grime from the barbecue grill.
12. Keeps ceramic/terracotta garden pots from oxidizing.
13. Removes tomato stains from clothing.
14. Keeps glass shower doors free of water spots.
15. Camouflages scratches in ceramic and marble floors.
16. Keeps scissors working smoothly.
17. Lubricates noisy door hinges on vehicles and doors in homes.
18. It removes black scuff marks from the kitchen floor! Use WD-40 for those nasty tar and scuff marks on flooring. It doesn't seem to harm the finish and you won't have to scrub nearly as hard to get them off. Just remember to open some windows if you have a lot of marks.
19. Bug guts will eat away the finish on your car if not removed quickly! Use WD-40!
20. Gives a children's playground gym slide a shine for a super-fast slide.
21. Lubricates gear shift and mower deck lever for ease of handling on riding mowers.
22. Rids kids’ rocking chairs and swings of squeaky noises.
23. Lubricates tracks in sticking home windows and makes them easier to open.
24. Spraying an umbrella stem makes it easier to open and close.
25. Restores and cleans padded leather dashboards in vehicles, as well as vinyl bumpers.
26. Restores and cleans roof racks on vehicles.
27. Lubricates and stops squeaks in electric fans.
28. Lubricates wheel sprockets on tricycles, wagons, and bicycles for easier handling.
29. Lubricates fan belts on washers and dryers and keeps them running smoothly.
30. Keeps rust from forming on saws and saw blades, and other tools.
31. Removes splattered grease on stove.
32. Keeps bathroom mirror from fogging.
33. Lubricates prosthetic limbs.
34. Keeps pigeons off the balcony (they hate the smell).
35. Removes all traces of duct tape.
36. Folks even spray it on their arms, hands, and knees to relieve arthritis pain.
37. Florida’s favorite use is: Cleans and removes love bugs from grills and bumpers.
38. The favorite use in the state of New York: WD-40 protects the Statue of Liberty from the elements.
39. WD-40 attracts fish. Spray a little on live bait or lures and
you will be catching the big one in no time. Also, it's a lot cheaper than the chemical attractants that are made for just that purpose. Keep in mind though, using some chemical laced baits or lures for fishing are not allowed in some states.
40. Use it for a fire-ant bite. . . It takes the sting away immediately and stops the itch.
41. WD-40 is great for removing crayon from walls. Spray on the mark and wipe with a clean rag.
42. Also, if you've discovered that your teenage daughter has washed and dried a tube of lipstick with a load of laundry, saturate the lipstick spots with WD-40 and rewash. Presto! The lipstick is gone!
43. If you sprayed WD-40 on the distributor cap of your car, it would displace the moisture and allow the car to start.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Welcome to the Family

              While back in Virginia last week I had the opportunity to visit with a pastor friend who is the pastor to my brother and his family. Pastor John Bradford is the senior pastor of Christ the King Lutheran Church in Great Falls, Virginia. I happened to read the current church newsletter and was intrigued by the title of his article: “We are Family!”

This idea of family got me to thinking. What triggered this was his comment that said, “Family is important! But we all have to understand that the picture of the family in the Bible is quite different from the picture that many people draw of the ‘biblically sanctioned, ideal family.’ Truth be told, there is no ‘ideal family’ in the Bible. Every family in the Bible is deeply and tragically flawed.”

Hmmmm. There is no “ideal family” in the Bible! My wheels started turning with that comment. I had to agree with Pastor John. There do not appear to be any sound, wholesome families portrayed in the Scriptures. Now, the question that comes to my mind is ‘Why aren’t there?” As I thought about it, I had to conclude that families in the Bible, beginning with the sons of Adam & Eve, are really no different than our own struggle with sound and intact families today. The idea of families in the Bible existing in some sort of Pollyannish euphoric existence where troubles are non-existent is simply unrealistic.

There is often this misconception among the unchurched that Christians are somehow immune from life’s normal troubles. Nothing could be further from the truth. A short walk through some of the main characters in the Bible will quickly reveal the problem of sin being ever present in all families. As I mentioned already, Adam and Eve’s son Cain, allowed his own anger and resentment to bring him to the point where he killed his brother Abel. Abraham lied about his relationship to his stunningly beautiful wife, Sarah, because he was afraid for his life. He did this twice! What respect could she have for him after that? Then guess what happened? Their son, Isaac, did the same thing with his wife Rebekah! Jacob (Israel) connived with his mother, Rebekah, to obtain the blessing intended for the first-born son. This caused a rift between him and his brother Esau.

Joseph’s brothers hated his position as the favorite son to their father Jacob. So they sold him to slave-traders, and then lied to their father that Joseph had been killed by wild animals. Moses had troubles with his siblings, Aaron and Miriam, after the miraculous delivery of the Israelites by God from Egypt. They didn’t like that Moses had married a Cushite woman. God’s punishment was visited on Aaron and Miriam for their disrespect toward God’s servant, Moses.

On and on it goes throughout the pages of the Bible. King David lost his family and his kingdom because of his adulterous relationship with Bathsheba. And even the family of Jesus was not exempt from conflict. Because Mary gave birth to a son before she was legally married to Joseph the community they lived in assumed she had been fooling around before actually entering into the marriage covenant with her husband. Also during his ministry Jesus’ brothers were derisive of his activities.

So all of these fractured, dysfunctional families are no different than those we see today. Is there an ideal family structure then? Yes!

As in anything, there are certain signs to watch for when evaluating the value of anything. Jesus gives us some keys to the family which may be a bit different than what you might be thinking. In Mark 3:35 he says, “Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” Stay with me now. Jesus is saying that your biological family, the one you are connected to through your DNA, may be a disaster. Or it may no longer exist for you. Perhaps you were adopted and couldn’t find your family if you wanted to. Jesus says if you are willing to trust your life to him, thoroughly being committed to following him by doing God’s will, then you have a ready-made family. You have a new family made up of others who have chosen to accept Jesus as their Savior. You all are from the same blood, the same DNA – the blood of Jesus! And ultimately Jesus makes us into his perfect family.

Because of Jesus we know we have an eternal family. Would you like that kind of family? Have you accepted Jesus as your Savior? If not, do it now. And welcome to the family!

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Pretty in Pink

             Last week Isaura and I flew back to my brother, John’s home in Virginia. On the surface there’s nothing unusual about that primarily because we have come back nearly every summer for the last fifteen years or so to vacation with him and his wife, Lynne, our sister, Joy, and our mother, Christine.

This trip, however, was not for vacation. Lynne has battled cancer for twenty years, enduring chemotherapy treatments, and any other medical procedures that might work in her favor. Her battle ended April 18th.

Lynne was one of the most energetic, vivacious people I have had the privilege to know. She entered into any endeavor with gusto. There was never anything half-way with her. One of the aspects of Lynne that caused her to be so wonderfully loved was a zest and flamboyance that would literally draw you into the contrails of her exuberance for living. Even in the midst of mega-doses of chemo which could knock her down for a few hours to a couple of days, she never once gave in to self-pity. She would quietly retreat to her bedroom, only to reemerge later as the Lynne we all knew and loved.

A couple of Lynne’s trademarks are her love for the color pink, especially flamingos; and being a spitfire redhead from Texas, she loved cowboy boots. The first song played at the reception was Lyle Lovett’s song, “That’s Right, You’re not From Texas!” Word went out that if folks would like, they should wear something pink and/or cowboy boots to the service.

I stood to share Lynne’s eulogy, wearing black cowboy boots and a pink shirt and pink tie, and was tickled to see so many people sporting something pink. The church was even decorated in pink – with pink plastic flamingos situated at the inside end of the aisle. The attendance was SRO (Standing Room Only). The following are some of my remarks about this wonderful woman.

“I have a couple of people in my life that I have looked upon as heros. By definition they are endowed with great strength and ability. They achieve great things and exhibit noble qualities, showing great courage.

Those descriptions certainly speak of the Lynne Roots I have known for more than 45 years. Since my brother, John had the good fortune, and the good sense to ask this amazing woman to be his bride, she took over the family by storm.

Every family gathering was an event of magnified proportions when Lynne was there. We always wanted to make sure she was coming. John – well, not so much!

I took a walk down memory lane, in a manner of speaking, by recording for this event the numerous quips, quotes, and pithy sayings I found hung up and displayed throughout the household of John & Lynne Roots.

“A wild wacky wonderful woman lives here!” Now, if that isn’t the most apt description of Lynne Roots, then I don’t know what is!
“Around me I wear a coat of many colors, fabrics and textures. It is made of friends and family here and no longer here, far and not so far. They are all part of my coat which keeps me warm wherever I go.” As a preacher of the gospel myself, I couldn’t help but make the correlation to the story of Joseph and his coat of many colors.

“Mother’s hold their children’s hands for a short while, but their hearts forever.” Josh and Abi have been the pride and joy of the family. As a mother Lynne allowed her children to grow up making decisions for themselves, even watching her son, Josh follow in his father’s footsteps by becoming a Marine pilot in wartime.

“Don’t be worrying today! Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians 4:6. This is such sound biblical advice! I know Lynne has battled cancer for twenty years, and it tore at our hearts. But I must tell you, not once can I ever recall her complaining. I never heard a “Why me, Lord?”

“To look up and not down. To look forward and not back. To look out and not in. And to lend a hand.”  About a year ago, Lynne was video-taped going through the hour-long Zumba class. She didn’t miss a move. She simply refused to give in to the barriers life threw up against her. She was smiling and laughing – and that’s how she faced life. And that’s why so many of you are here this morning. You are drawn to an irresistible and insatiable zest for life and the living of it, that emanated from everything that Lynne put her hand to. And as you know, she did not live this life in a bubble, selfishly grabbing for the benefits of life. She invited all of us to enjoy the journey – come what may. Just look at yourselves! Many of you are festooned with pink and cowboy boots!

“If you want a thing well done, get a couple of old broads to do it.” This classic statement from actress Bette Davis epitomizes Lynne and the manner in which she tenaciously tackled any of life’s many challenges.

“I understand the concepts of cooking – just not how they apply to me.” I’ll wrap up my thoughts of Lynne with this. Lynne knew her strengths and her weaknesses – her many talents, and those areas where her talents came up a bit short. The kitchen was not her domain. But she never apologized for it. She was Lynne, and we all knew that when you went over to the Roots’ home, you went there to enjoy a warm and gracious home where the queen of the domain made you feel like you were the most important person in the world. You just wanted to be there in an atmosphere of love and acceptance. AND that’s the reception she has now received from Jesus. And I wouldn’t be surprised if, as he greeted her on heaven’s shore, he had a swatch of pink in his hair.”