Marines.Together We Served

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

War Drums

              There’s a whole lot of noise being raised over the possibilities of war with ISIS and other Islamic terrorist groups these days. The proverbial “war drums” have been beating louder and louder.

The evening news is parsing the word WAR in an effort to determine whether or not the United States is now at war with ISIS as a result of the President’s recent speech. He was outlining the administration’s plan to “push back” following the brutal beheadings of two American journalists – James Foley, who worked for the GlobalPost in Boston; and Steven Sotloff, who was a freelance writer for Time magazine, and Foreign Policy, a specialized publication. It’s hard to say whether war is in the mind of the president and his administration because there is a very murky message coming from these leaders. Contradiction seems to rule the day.

In all fairness, declaring war or not declaring war is irrelevant. The United States has historically been quite shy about making formal declarations of war. Isaura and I have been watching the Ken Burns series on “The Roosevelt’s” (Teddy, Franklin and Eleanor) each evening this past week (I highly recommend it). In this series we see how President Woodrow Wilson was doing everything in his power to avoid sending American boys to fight in Europe during World War One. Former President Teddy Roosevelt publicly takes Wilson to task for not having the courage to aid our European countrymen during their struggle against a juggernaut German army which was having its way throughout Europe. Even FDR (Franklin Delano Roosevelt) saw the handwriting on the wall concerning a reconstituted Germany under Hitler, and an empowered Japan under Emperor Hirohito. FDR knew America would eventually be drawn into World War Two. He had no answer for avoiding it.

So even when the U.S. has been faced with the certainty of war, we have avoided declaring the conflict a “war.” A declaration of war is a formal declaration issued by a national government indicating that a state of war exists between that nation and another.” In the 238 year history of our nation, only five times has the U.S. officially made a “declaration of war.” They are: 1) The War of 1812 (1812-14), 2) the Mexican-American War (1846-48), 3) the Spanish-American War (1898), 4) World War I (1917-18), and 5) World War II (1941-45).

Based upon this history of war declarations, I wouldn’t hold out hope for any such declaration coming from this administration (nor should there be) regarding ISIS or any other self-proclaimed group of militants who, technically, can’t even legitimately claim national borders of their own.

But let’s not mistake the lack of an official Congressional declaration of war to imply that we are not dealing with some very serious players on the stage of world dominance. ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham) is only the current player of all the numerous terrorist groups that have danced onto the world stage in an effort to cause fear and intimidation throughout the entire world, but particularly in Western nations. Why do they want to bring this fear and intimidation to us in the West? Because they believe we are evil, and because historically we have not taken such groups and their threats seriously. This, despite the fact that our third president, Thomas Jefferson, had to confront the Barbary Pirates (read: Muslims) in the Mediterranean Sea who were attacking U.S. ships of commerce, as well as towns along the coastline of Europe (Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, and even as far north as Great Britain). “The main purpose of their attacks was to capture Christian slaves for the Ottoman slave trade as well as the general Muslim market in North Africa and the Middle East.”

Make no mistake! These Muslim jihadists are not fooling around. ISIS, ISIL, or just IS as they now call themselves (Islamic State), is, according to their belief, the reintroduction of the 12th Caliphate which is supposed to rule the whole world under Sharia Law. I have written about Sharia Law in previous articles. You had better understand what these guys intend for us!

The President made a comment in a speech a few months ago that ISIS (he used ISIL) is, by comparison, “the JV team” on the world stage of terrorist groups. One undeniable truth that must never be forgotten is this: “Never underestimate your enemy.”

So, we may not have officially declared war on ISIS, or al-Qaida, or Hamas, or any of the other Muslim terrorist groups breathing hatred and fire at the West. But they have certainly declared war on us.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Father's Heart

             Several months ago I was contacted by the father of Tyrone Woods, the former Navy SEAL who was killed in Benghazi along with former Navy SEAL Glen Doherty. I had a most delightful conversation with Charles Woods, a retired judge.

Mr. Woods called me to discuss the article, “Courageous,” I had written immediately following the Benghazi travesty which was published October 3, 2012. A friend, who is a family member of one of the four Americans killed that day by Islamic thugs, had provided me with the initial information which I then wove into the article, highlighting the bravery of Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty.

Like many of you, I had seen Mr. Woods on FOX News being interviewed quite a number of times. From the FOX interviews it was clear to me that this man was a man who had his faith placed solidly in Jesus. During my first phone conversation with him back in the spring his strong faith in the Lord was abundantly evident. “You see,” he said, “Ty was not just a number – he was a real person.”

On the subject of forgiveness, Sean Hannity of FOX News asked Tyrone’s three teenaged half-sisters, Joy, Faith, and Hope, this question, “Can you forgive?” referring to forgiving the Islamists who killed their brother. One sister responded, “As a Christian we should act how Jesus would want us to act.” The question of forgiveness came up in my talk with Mr. Woods as well. He said to me, “I have forgiven those in (Benghazi) Libya, and in Washington D.C.” That’s quite a statement in light of the serious questions that remain as to the possible mishandling of the Benghazi affair from a host of players within our government.

Last weekend, Bret Baier from FOX News interviewed three of the surviving members from Benghazi, security team members, Kris (“Tanto”) Paronto (former Army Ranger), Mark (“Oz”) Geist, and John (“Tig”) Tiegen (both former Marines). They partnered with author Mitchell Zuckoff, producing a book that was released September 9, entitled, “13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi.” These men were ordered to “stand down” from aiding Ambassador Chris Stevens and the other three who all died in the ensuing battle. The order apparently was given by the top CIA officer in Benghazi.

I waited a couple of days after this news special, and then I called Mr. Woods to basically see how he was taking this information. I’m pleased to report that I came away from the conversation uplifted and blessed by him!

The following story is one which Mr. Woods shared with me during the phone conversation we had the other night. Because of what happened to his son, Tyrone, you might expect Mr. Woods to hate Muslims. This should give you a good idea of this man’s character and faith. Little wonder that his son became the man he did. In 1985 Mr. Woods felt he should go on a mission trip which found him in Northern Uganda, Africa. He and others from their team were hiking into some remote areas when they were accosted by a band of Muslims. Fear and intimidation are the tactics used by these guys, except that it didn’t seem to bother Mr. Woods. One of the Muslims, noticing the calm demeanor exhibited by Mr. Woods despite the threats, said to one of the other team members, “This one doesn’t seem to be afraid.” When Mr. Woods was then questioned by this Muslim man as to why he was not afraid, he replied, “If I were to kill you, I know you would not go to heaven. But if you killed me, I know I would go to heaven.”

Concerning the loss of his son, he said, “This is just a brief interruption before I see him again.” It is this strength of faith in Jesus that enables Mr. Woods to carry on. He demonstrates a father’s love and heart, just as God out Heavenly Father demonstrates toward us, offering us eternal life through his Son, Jesus.

Tyrone is buried in a national cemetery in the San Diego area. But in Hawaii, on the Big Island, Mr. Woods told me that a Milo Tree was planted in Ty’s honor and memory in the West Hawaii Veterans Cemetery. I asked him why this tree. He said that it is commonly believed that this tree lives forever.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Benghazi Update

             This Thursday, September 11, will be two years since the attack on our embassy personnel in Benghazi, Libya.

During this time I have written two articles about this travesty. Initially I wrote about the deaths of Ambassador Chris Stevens, Foreign Service Officer Sean Smith, and former Navy SEALs Tyrone Woods, and Glen Doherty because a friend of mine was related to one of the SEALs and shared information he had obtained from a military officer who spoke at one of the funeral services for the fallen. I was fascinated with the strange twist the whole affair had taken with the tragic results, results that brought then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, upon being questioned about this obvious screw-up during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing of January 23, 2013, to express with frustration, “What difference at this point does it make?”

Well, Mrs. Clinton, if I may say so, it makes a big difference to the Americans murdered at the hands of Islamic thugs. And it sure matters to their families. It has also cast a pall over our military who have realized that Americans in trouble and who called for help that was readily available were denied that help. That’s the difference it makes.

My first article, written for the October 3, 2012 publication of the Ripon Record, was entitled, “Courageous.” Over the next six to twelve months I received countless phone calls, emails and letters from folks wanting to know how I had obtained my information on Benghazi. I was not at liberty to divulge my sources without compromising folks I knew and trusted. Most folks were supportive of my article, but there were some who were, to put it bluntly, angry with me. One individual called me from the State Department, so they said, angrily calling into question my knowledge of what actually happened, insinuating that as a Navy chaplain what could I possibly know about such things. I replied, “Prove that the facts in my article are wrong.” They hung up.

I also heard from a number of special ops guys, thanking me for writing the article, which prompted my second article, “Benghazi Redux,” May 22, 2013. I received a call from someone claiming to be a flag officer (a general) who was in the Special Forces. It has made life exciting for a while, I can assure you!

This past weekend, Bret Baier of FOX News did a special report where he interviewed three men who were part of a security detail directly involved in the battle in Benghazi. They were with Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty throughout the thirteen hours they defended the embassy annex compound where the fight raged. It is based upon a book, “13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened In Benghazi,” written by Mitchell Zuckoff along with the Benghazi American Embassy Annex Security Team.

These men, two former Marines and one former Army Ranger, stated unequivocally in the interview with Bret Baier that when they were first alerted to the attack on the annex compound in Benghazi where Ambassador Stevens was in mortal danger, they grabbed their gear and were heading for their vehicles to attempt a rescue when they were ordered to wait, and then to “stand down.” They were confused by this order to stand down, but assumed they would be released shortly once info came in from two drones circling over the city. After 30 minutes had passed, and three refusals to allow them to initiate the rescue, they jumped in their vehicles anyway and drove the few minutes to the embassy compound. They described in detail the slugfest they found themselves in with Islamic terrorists which resulted in the deaths of Ambassador Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods, and Glen Doherty.

Toward the end of the hour-long TV special Bret Baier asked each of the men if they firmly believed that if they had been allowed to go to the rescue immediately, instead of enduring the frustrating thirty minute stand down order, if the Ambassador and the others would be alive. They said without hesitation, “Yes. Definitely.”

There is presently a Congressional Investigation into the Benghazi affair being chaired by U.S. House of Representatives Trey Gowdy. I believe Mr. Gowdy to be an upright man and a straight shooter. What he and his investigative committee will be able to conclude from the Benghazi mess only God knows.

But here’s what you need to know: The administration, specifically the White House and the State Department, continues to deny that any stand down order was ever given, and that available assistance was never refused. The three special agents who battled the Islamic terrorists in Benghazi say otherwise.

For my money, I trust the agents.

Next week I’ll share from a phone conversation I had with Charles Woods, a retired judge and the father of former Navy SEAL Tyrone Woods.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Knowing Your Roots

             Home again! To quote Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, “There’s no place like home!” To which Isaura and I would say, Amen!

Despite the obvious reasons for wanting to be home (your own bed, familiarity with your own stuff, grandchildren, friends, etc.) one of the primary reasons I was anxious to get home was to get to work on my family tree. This all began innocently enough last fall . . .

I was invited to speak to the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) in Turlock which turned out to be a delightful experience. The ladies were anxious for me to have my granddaughters join the DAR so they might be eligible for scholarships to college. However, in order to be eligible for these scholarships you have to prove that one of your relatives had served in the American Revolution. I admitted to the ladies that I did not know of any family members having served that far back. The Civil War? Yes! But I had no knowledge of any family serving in the Revolutionary War.

I shared this information with my daughters, Laura and Jenny, which was immediately seized upon by Laura. She jumped in with both feet, as it were, signing up on Before we knew it, Laura’s research had borne much fruit. She managed to trace as far back as 1693 to a Major Philip Rootes (born in Virginia) who served in the English militia in America. He died in 1756. And yes, the spelling of the last name is different than mine. Major Philip Rootes had a son, Captain John Reade Rootes (1735-1798), who, interestingly, was assigned as the personal attorney for General George Washington throughout the Revolutionary War! Who’d a thunk it?

So the question of having a family member serve during the American Revolution has been satisfied. But wait! There’s more!

Captain John Rootes had a son, Lieutenant Philip Reade Roots. Did you catch that? The last name was changed! Why? We don’t know. However, it was not uncommon for these new Americans to change the spelling of their names even though they defeated the vaunted British Redcoats. You will remember that the British came back again to try and even the score in the War of 1812. Making some separation from British connections was considered by some as a prudent move at the time. That’s pure speculation, as I have not been able to substantiate this through my research.

Now here’s one of those Twilight Zone moments. I mentioned above that our family member who served in the American Revolution was Captain John Reade Rootes. He held the rank of captain in the colonial army. He was also a lawyer by vocation. He was also assigned as the personal attorney for General Washington. I know that’s really cool, but here’s what’s so fun about this. My brother, John Christopher Roots, is a retired Marine colonel. He is also a lawyer (retired) by vocation. And he also served in the White House during the Reagan and George H.W. Bush Administrations. Whoa! That’s just a little bit weird.

There’s so much more that I’ve discovered! For instance, Major Philip Rootes married Mildred Reade. She is the granddaughter of George Reade who was born in Hampshire, England in 1608. George became the acting governor of Virginia in 1640. But check out this next paragraph, taken straight from documents I researched.

“In 1641 George Reade married Elizabeth Martiau, daughter of Nicholas Martiau, one of Virginia’s early settlers and a skilled engineer of French origin, who had first come to Virginia in 1620 as a representative of Henry, the fifth Earl of Huntington. Their daughter, Mildred Reade married Augustine Warner of Warner Hall, and the daughter of this marriage, Mildred Warner, married Lawrence Washington, the grandfather of George Washington.”

Nicholas Martiau was a captain in the French Army, having been born in France in 1591. He was also a Huguenot. After arriving in Virginia in 1620, he became responsible for developing the area called Yorktown, earning him the moniker, “The Father of Yorktown.”

So, as you no doubt have discerned, I am presently engrossed in researching my Roots. And now that I’m retired, I plan to spend a lot more time digging into my ancestral past.