Marines.Together We Served

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Great Character

              For some of you this article may not be of particular interest. But before you check out and move to something else, hear me out.

I’m delving into sports, specifically: golf. Stay with me! I’ve made no bones about the fact that I love sports. Like many other guys growing up, I played all sorts of sports. As a healthy, red-blooded American boy I played baseball in Pee-Wee League and Little League before my family moved to Europe. Football was all backyard stuff until I played a year in high school and a year in college, plus a couple of years in the Marine Corps. Basketball was there too, but it was not my favorite, partly because I was much shorter than all the other guys growing up.

While in Europe I learned to play soccer in France and ice hockey in Norway along with speed skating and skiing. I’ve studied Martial Arts over the years and have generally enjoyed myself in whatever sport I was engaged in at the time.

But for a game that I can play throughout my lifetime and which presents new challenges every time I step up to the first tee, golf is the winner, hands down!

My step father took me out to play my first round when I was ten. Even though I had very little understanding of the game I was familiar with names like Arnold Palmer, Ben Hogan, and Tony Lema to name a few. I believe my step father liked Tony Lema mostly because Lema had served as a Marine in Korea, only a few years after his own service in World War Two.

Jack Nicklaus came on the scene in the early 60s and wowed fans for decades, establishing himself as arguably the best golfer ever. Tom Watson emerged in the early 80s and carried the mantle of greatness for a time. Then we saw Tiger Woods (born Eldrick Tont Woods) burst onto the golf scene and absolutely dominate the game like no one else ever had. Today, twenty years after Tiger captivated the world of golf, a young heir to the throne of golf stardom has made his mark in a most convincing manner.

Jordan Spieth is taking over the golf world with a workman-like approach to the game. He is not charismatic like Tiger, nor flamboyant like Tony, nor sagacious like Jack, nor folksy like Arnold, nor aloof like Ben. If anything, he might be more closely likened to Tom who captivated the hearts of golf fans around the globe with his freckle-faced, sandy-haired, awe shucks, boyish manner. But Jordan is more than that.

Jordan has a maturity about him that is both surprising for someone so young, and refreshing in a world of sports figures that believe they are the greatest thing since sliced bread. This young man plays with intensity and drive. But he is also the consummate gentleman, very much like the Southern Gentleman, Bobby Jones. Just prior to the Masters’ in April, Jordan was being interviewed by a sports reporter who commented on Jordan’s obvious humility which the golf world had been quick to notice. The reporter asked him to talk about this humility, to which Jordan said, “Me speaking about humility is very difficult because that wouldn’t be humility.” As one sports writer put it, “Jordan Spieth is the man I want my future son to be. Not only is he one of the greatest golfers on the PGA (Professional Golf Association) Tour right now at the age of 21, but he is also one of the greatest all-around guys you’ll ever meet” (taken from an article by Harrison Lee).

While a sophomore at Jesuit High School in Dallas on a work grant program, he was awarded the Joseph M. Murphy Memorial Scholarship that helped fund his tuition at the school. In his junior year he hand-wrote the following letter to the family that set it up, dated September 8, 2009. “Dear Mr. & Mrs. Murphy, My name is Jordan Spieth, and I am currently a junior at Jesuit. I appreciate all the help you have offered to Jesuit. Thank you for the Joseph M. Murphy Memorial Scholarship Fund. I have received this due to the work grant program, which allows us to work for our tuition here at Jesuit. I have made many new friends due to this program, and I feel it is a great way to help out my family. I play on the Jesuit golf team, and I am ranked the number 1 junior golfer in the country. My dream is to play professionally and win the Masters. Because of your scholarship fund, I am able to strengthen my academics as well as my golf game at Jesuit in order to get one step closer to achieving my goals. Thanks again for your kindness. Sincerely, Jordan Spieth.”

As I mentioned earlier, he is only 21 years old and has won three tournaments this season alone. Of those three wins, two of them are what are called Major Championships. In April he won the Masters in Augusta, Georgia. And today he topped the field of contenders by managing to win the U.S. Open in Chambers Bay, Washington.

Even after winning his second Major in a quest to win the Grand Slam of Golf (the British Open in July, and the PGA Championship in August), during his post win news conference, he spoke very little about himself, directing his remarks toward his fellow golfers and how well they all played.

He’s already establishing himself as a great golfer. But for me the thing that shines through in this young man is his great character.

Remember: Character matters!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015


               Leaving the house just after six the other morning for an early round of golf, I was aware that my wife and I would be having all three of our youngest grandchildren for the day. Since a round of golf takes less time when there are no players in front of you, I figured to be home sometime around 9:00ish.

So there I am enjoying the early morning, playing my favorite game – golf (and have I mentioned that I’m retired?) when I received a text from Isaura. It read, “Little boy here asking for pancakes. When r u coming?” That little boy is Colson Charles, our 3-year-old grandson. He and his sister Brooklyne had arrived from their home in Turlock joined shortly by cousin Alyssa just up the street from us here in Ripon. Three little ones anxiously waiting for Granddaddy to come home and make breakfast. What could I do? I went home.

My wife is an outstanding cook, so I have no desire to compete with her in the kitchen. That would be utterly foolish on my part. However, I do have an edge on her when it comes to desserts and breakfasts. When I walked into the house I was greeted by squeals of excitement! “Granddaddy’s here! Granddaddy’s here!” You simply cannot put a value on such enthusiasm, especially when you are the focus of their exuberance. If I could just capture that moment and never let it fade.

There was a time thirty years ago when I was serving in the Navy as a chaplain when I was assigned to a ship, the USS White Plains (AFS4), home ported in Guam. Being as it was a supply ship, we spent very little time in home port because we were constantly out to sea resupplying the fleet around the western Pacific Rim and the Indian Ocean. We would be gone for months at a time, the longest separation from my family being nine months. I missed Isaura and our girls terribly. Arriving back in Guam was such an anticipated moment that it was difficult to sleep the last night before sailing into Agana Harbor. As we made our way into the harbor virtually all hands were on deck watching for the families gathered on the pier, who were equally anxious to see us. Catching a glimpse of Isaura, Laura and Jenny was euphoric! At that point I found myself conflicted. On the one hand I was overjoyed at seeing them. On the other hand I couldn’t wait for the ship to be nudged up against the pier, secured with lines around the stanchions, and the brow finally being set in place. The girls were about 8 and 5, so they’d be jumping up and down until we were finally reunited on the Quarter Deck. That was akin to the feeling of my grandkids being excited to have me home to make breakfast.

So back to pancakes. Colson was adamant about having pancakes this particular morning. The girls were fine with that, so I asked the same question I do every time we’re in the kitchen preparing to make something. “What’s the first thing we do before making something in the kitchen?” I’d ask. The response was immediate, “Wash our hands!” Colson hasn’t figured it out yet, but his sister and cousin are seven years old so they know the drill and are more than happy to show him.
Then we bring out the ingredients. Considering three small children and three adults, I doubled the batch. I use this as a teaching moment, from how to break an egg so as to separate the white from the yolk, to learning how to select the proper measuring spoons and cups. Visual, hands-on learning always worked best for me, so I use this with my grandkids. Looking at a ½ Cup alongside 1 Cup makes it easier to explain how 1 Cup is two ½ Cups. They are so proud when they get this stuff right! All the while Meema (grandkids’ name for Isaura) is preparing the bacon.

Perhaps the moment enjoyed by all the kids is when we set up the electric pancake griddle. I’ve had this one for years and it works great. I allow the girls to pour batter on the hot griddle in a large enough circle that they can then use a cookie cutter to cut shapes. To see their faces when they are seated at the table with a heart or star-shaped pancake is worth all the extra work.

What is our favorite way to eat these pancakes? Why with fresh sliced strawberries and Cool Whip, of course! And Colson is our bacon boy!

After cleaning up, the kids were playing outside in the back yard, which included “feeding the birds.” I have a 4 Cup feeder for the humming birds. I make a large batch of “juice” (water, sugar and red food coloring so I can see the level) and keep it refrigerated until use. It takes about one day for the birds to consume the feeder! Alyssa took her cousins out to show them how it is done, which I’ve been doing with her since she was a newborn.

I’m enjoying being a grandfather more than anything else I have experienced in life. It is particularly gratifying to watch the three grandkids working together measuring all the ingredients, but particularly seeing Brooklyne and Alyssa teaching Colson.
Thank you, Lord, for the blessing of family, and especially grandkids!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Stand and Defend

             Several years ago I came into the possession of a great book about the Civil War. My brother, John, was heading for Maine to spend some time at a favorite cabin we often frequented during the summer located in the wonderful lobster village of Corea. A short drive from there was the Chicken Barn, one of those great old places where you could find all sorts of treasures. I had seen a book there the previous summer which I dearly wanted. John picked it up for me, shipping it to California.

The book is entitled, “The Book of Anecdotes and Incidents of the Rebellion,” by Frazer Kirkland, published by Hartford Publishing Co., Hartford, Connecticut, in 1866. What intrigued me about this book when I first laid eyes on it was the date – 1866. The Civil War (The Rebellion) had ended the year before in 1865, yet here was this sizable tome with three hundred lithographic engravings, a full color front cover page, and 705 pages of anecdotes and incidents of the Civil War from civil matters to military blunders. A reprint of this has come out within the last ten years, but mine is original. This means it must be handled carefully as the leather cover has dried out considerably over the last 149 years.

Reading from this treasure of Civil War minutiae is like eating a bag of potato chips – you can’t eat just one. Anyway, I thought you might be interested in some of the stories recorded within these pages of American history.

The young lady’s name was Miss Brownlow, daughter of Parson Brownlow of Knoxville, Tennessee. The good parson was known and respected in his community for being “bold-hearted and outspoken.” The Brownlow home was at one time the only home in Knoxville where the Stars and Stripes were raised. Much of Knoxville and most of Tennessee had joined the Southern Cause, the Confederacy.

Early one morning around first light, two men who were secessionists (pejoratively called “Secesh” by Northerners) came to the Brownlow home to forcefully take down the American flag. Twenty-three year old Miss Brownlow saw them coming and challenged them as to their intentions. They said, “We have come to take down them Stars and Stripes.” Much to their surprise, Miss Brownlow produced a revolver which she had held at her side, effectively hidden in the folds of her dress, and said, “Go on! I’m good for one of you, and I think for both!” One of the men then said, “By the look in that girl’s eye she’ll shoot. I think we’d better not try it.” The other man said, “We’ll go back and get more men.” “Go and get more men,” said the noble lady, “get more men and come and take it down, if you dare!”

Sure enough, the two Secesh returned with ninety armed men. In all their brag and bluster they demanded that the Stars and Stripes flying atop the Brownlow home be hauled down. The beauty of this story is that the Brownlow home was filled with men who were equally armed and ready to defend Old Glory should the rabble out front dare touch the blessed threads of the American symbol of freedom and liberty. The ninety men of the Secessionists wisely decided this was not their day and left.

A second incident of interest were the words spoken by President Andrew Jackson in 1830, thirty-one years before the Civil War began. For more than a decade a strong movement was taking place in Southern states, pushing back against what was thought to be an overbearing federal government in Washington, D.C. The occasion was the birthday celebration of Thomas Jefferson who had died only four years earlier. As was protocol for such a prestigious dinner party, honored guests were called upon to make a toast after the meal was consumed. The president was called upon first as the senior person present. In a most stately manner, stretching to his full height of six feet, one inch, President Jackson was brief, yet direct: “The Federal Union: It must be preserved!”

Jackson was born somewhere in the area that divides what are today North and South Carolina, of Scots-Irish heritage. Though technically a Southerner (perhaps the first true Southern Gentleman) he was totally opposed to any talk of Southern states seceding from the Union. He threatened military action should any such attempt be made during his presidency (1829-37).

The Southern states continued to fester over the next several decades, eventually erupting into Civil War due to the election of Abraham Lincoln. I therefore consider that in view of the Constitution and the laws, the Union is unbroken; and to the extent of my ability I shall take care, as the Constitution itself expressly enjoins upon me, that the laws of the Union be faithfully executed in all the States.” --March 4, 1861 Inaugural Address.

Andrew Jackson, who was a founder of the Democrat party, and Abraham Lincoln, who was the first Republican president, both agreed and worked toward the preservation of the Union of states and the protection of our rights and liberties as enumerated in the Constitution.
May there be those today who defend the flag and the Constitution against aggressors, whoever they may be, and from wherever they may come.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Beware AB 953

               I don’t spend a lot of time reading about political issues, but there are certain topics that catch my attention. In this case, two topics that I found caused me to grind my teeth.

On Friday I attended the Ripon GRC (Government Relations Committee) where I heard a report from our police chief concerning Assembly Bill 953 (AB-953). I was alarmed and decided to check into this to find out more. Chief Ormande is not given to being bombastic, so I was immediately concerned with his analysis of this bit of legislative chicanery. As it turns out, this bill, now before the California Assembly, is a direct assault on our personal freedom – specifically, the 4th Amendment – addressing unreasonable searches and seizures. Issued by Assembly Member Shirley Weber from San Diego, this paragraph provides a peek into the problem with this bill. It reads, “This bill would declare the intent of the Legislature to enact legislation that revises the definition of ‘racial profiling’ and requires law enforcement departments to collect, analyze, and report data on individual stops in order to identify and eliminate unjustified racial disparities and bias.”

       Okay, on the surface this all sounds really good. The tone in the country today toward law enforcement has been damaged due to Ferguson and Baltimore and other hot spots where clashes have occurred between police and the local citizenry. There are those who want to make sure there are no racist cops anywhere. So let’s pass another law!

I chatted with Chief Ed Ormande of Ripon, discussing the various aspects of AB 953. I wanted to make sure I had understood his comments about this assembly bill. He assured me that I had understood what he said just fine. Too bad. I was hoping I had heard wrong.

The Chief said that if this bill, which has already passed the Safety Committee, winds up passing in the Assembly, police officers will be required to ask Joe Citizen a litany of questions every time he is pulled over or simply questioned on the street. There are four questions the officer must address during this encounter. The answers may be determined by the process of talking to the individual, or a question may need to be asked.

Here are the four questions: the person’s sexual orientation; the person’s religious affiliation; the person’s mental and/or physical adeptness; and the person’s proficiency with the English language. Read these four again. What does this have to do with anything?

Officers will be required to ask and evaluate the person’s responses every single time they are required to speak to an officer on official police business. So let’s say you have a tail light out on your Chevy. The officer pulls you over. You go through the license/registration/insurance drill. No problem, right? You’re still wondering what you’ve been pulled over for. The officer tells you your tail light is out. “Phew!” you sigh. A fix-it ticket. No problem. Oh, but we’re not done! The officer must ask you some questions. It’ll just take a few moments. You're thinking, I resent this intrusion into my life. I know the officer is merely carrying out his duties, but something is wrong when my government is asking questions like this.

One of the issues the Chief told me is what the officer will be obligated to do if Joe Citizen refuses to answer the questions. I’m pleased to report that the California Police Chiefs Association has pushed back on this bill. I asked the Chief what that means exactly. He said the chiefs are asking their members, the sworn officers, to contact their state representatives to express their displeasure with this intrusive questioning.

Ripon’s Finest will be receiving “body cams” by the end of June. So even if an officer might be inclined to ignore the questions, he can’t because he’s live on camera. Every move and word is recorded.

If you are as irritated as I am with this heavy-handed manner being forced on our folks who are sworn to defend and protect the citizenry, then you need to contact your elected officials and let them know your thoughts.

The second item I was miffed about will have to wait till another time. In the meantime, look closely at the 4th Amendment. Our Founding Fathers put this in place to protect the citizens of this great land. It must be preserved at all cost.