Marines.Together We Served

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The French? Really!

The Islamic terrorists who launched the deadly attacks in Paris last weekend are evil. There’s no other way to state it. These degenerates are evil personified.

The utter disregard they have for human life is breath-taking. Even more astonishing is one of the terrorists was a woman, who, when she realized she was about to be captured by the French police, detonated a bomb vest she was wearing. Unfortunately, a bomb-sniffing dog was killed in the blast.

This whole calamity has produced some strange bed-fellows. For instance, the Russians have “sent a puppy to France in tribute to the French dog, Diesel, who was killed in an anti-terrorism raid after the Paris attacks,” Sky News reported Saturday. “Diesel’s death prompted an outpouring of grief, and Russia hopes the puppy, named Dobrynya, fills the void.” Nice gesture by the Russians, who, by the way, have their own bone to pick with Muslim terrorists going back a long way in their history.

In a New York Post article, November 22, written by Amir Taheri, entitled, “ISIS is inherently cowardly – to defeat it, hit it hard.” A couple of weeks ago I wrote an article about the difficulties the United States has had with Muslim terrorists since before we became a nation. It was not until President Thomas Jefferson said, “Enough!” that we were finally rid of Muslim pirates harassing our ships in the Mediterranean. Jefferson sent Marines by way of Navy ships to deal with these characters who were doing then the same things they are doing today – raping, pillaging, enslaving, forced conversion to Islam, beheadings, stoning’s, and the requirement to pay tribute money to Muslim leaders, and so on. After the Marines did what Marines do, we had no problems with these Muslim terrorists for many years. The one thing these reprobates seem to understand and respect is a good punch in the nose. At least until a new generation of Muslim radicals starts to feel their oats.

Here’s the irony in all of this war on terrorism. Of all people, the French, under the leadership of President François Hollande, is taking the initiative and going after the ISIS stronghold in Syria. French bombers are delivering the payloads on ISIS targets! The Russians have already done so, and may well do so again following the Paris attacks. The U.S. is slowly catching up under the leadership of a president who leads from behind. After the horrific terror attacks in Paris, French President François Hollande is talking a lot about a “strategy” to deal with the threat posed by ISIS, one he hopes to sell to President Obama and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin within the next week or so.”

Perhaps I should explain why I find this action by the French to be so rich. It has always been the United States who steps in and fills the gap when any Western nation is threatened. Case in point: England and Great Britain twice in the last century. France in particular was completely overrun by the Germans in both WWI and WWII. Had it not been for the leadership, grit and determination of the U.S. military, the French would be speaking German today. But today we find the current administration is reticent to commit to any aggressive military action, particularly against any Muslim group. Instead, Hollande of France, and Putin of Russia are embarrassing the United States with their quick and aggressive action against ISIS.

Taheri writes, “Twenty years and so many atrocities later, in more than 30 countries on every continent, it is perhaps time for France and the European Union to persuade the UN to provide the international framework needed to combat terrorism based on the principle that one man’s terrorist is every man’s terrorist.” Ah, would that could be realized! But, Alas! I fear our current administration simply does not have the stomach for such a fight even though we may well be inviting Muslim terrorists into the United States through Syrian refugees. If this happens, we can expect to see the same sorts of violence and attacks currently experienced by Europe. And it is laughable to think for a moment that the United Nations (an organization of self-satisfied pomposity if ever there was one!) can be persuaded to do anything that would help protect member nations.

So I say good for the French for going after these terrorist creeps. Who knows – the United States may need to call on the French as we did more than 200 years ago when we were up against it in the revolutionary war with Britain. Is there another Jean Lafitte who would help us defeat the enemy within our borders?

America has always stood up to the world’s bullies, standing alone at times when no other nation would venture into the fray. I pray this administration discovers its steely resolve to defend and protect the Constitution and the American people.

This Thanksgiving be sure to thank God for the blessings, rights, privileges and liberty we still enjoy as Americans. And say a special prayer for our military which secures these unique benefits.

God bless America.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

A Bright Future

Recently I have been called upon for pastoral duties associated with friends and church members who have been loosed from their earthly bonds and are now celebrating in the joy, comfort and presence of Jesus.

When you know Jesus as your Lord and Savior there is indeed a bright future which awaits you. Two dear friends from church in the past few weeks have left us, both having reached 80 plus years. Maybe because I find myself in the shadow of 70 I’m realizing that the conversations I have with friends invariably get around to lengthy discussions about our respective health conditions. Truth be told, I feel great and am as active as ever – just not as quick as I once was.

But the conversation seems to always work its way around to health problems. Now, I’m okay with that, really. It’s just that I don’t want that to be the only topic covered. I vainly attempt to discuss sports in an effort to steer the subject away from death and dying. “Are the 49ers going to get rid of Kaepernick?” or “How about Sports Illustrated considering PGA golfer Jordan Speith as Sportsman of the Year?” or “Yeah, baby! The Patriots are 9 and 0!” or “The Warriors’ Steph Curry is on fire!”

Perhaps as we get older these illnesses and physical setbacks are a constant reminder of our looming mortality. Sooner or later we will shed this body of clay and be laid to rest in one manner or another – be it a coffin in the ground, or a mausoleum, or ashes scattered somewhere over the flora and fauna. It is not possible to escape such a final act in life’s perpetually progressing drama marching steadily toward the moment when the heart stops and the last breath is expelled from this tired, worn-out body.

One of my grandmothers lived to be 94. My mother was three months shy of 99 when she passed away last year. Neither of these ladies considered themselves to be old, nor did they enjoy being around “old people.” We all laughed at this, but as I think back on it I’m inclined to believe they were more interested in life and the things that were going on around them than they were sitting over a cup of tea chatting about theit aches, pains and operations which they had experienced.

Which all brings me to this question: Why do we seem to be obsessed with death and dying? I know that after having eight stents put in the arteries of my heart seven years ago, and being diagnosed with prostate cancer more than four years ago, I’m much more mindful of, and grateful for, each day.

The Bible says that God has placed eternity in the heart of every single person. Simply put, part of our make-up as people, our programming, if you will, gears us toward reflecting on our own existence and the significance of it in the light of eternity. Where do I fit in? Is there really more to life than the 70 or 80 years ascribed to us as mentioned by King David?

So if the concept of eternity has been embedded in my DNA by God himself, it would only make sense that I should want to find out where this all leads. Am I, in fact, an eternal being? Will I live forever? If so, where? And so, the questions arise.

At this point it is important to remember that Adam and Eve, our first earthly parents, were perfect and fully prepared to live on this earth in its pristine condition. But then came the choice to reject this perfect eternity by desiring to sin against God. Thus we were launched into a careening path of debauchery, destruction and death. All of this separated us from God. But he had an antidote for the sin problem. The name of this antidote is JESUS. He’s the one who rescues us from sin by having paid the price for our sin. When we accept him as our Savior, we are promised a new relationship with God through Jesus which leads us ultimately to Heaven where God awaits.

While sharing recently at a friend’s funeral service, I made it very clear that because Jesus had died and then raised himself from the dead, I was paying attention to whatever he had to say. You see, I figure if someone has the power to raise themself from the dead, they have my full, undivided attention! And because I have been walking with Jesus for 43 years my desire is now, and always will be, to be wherever Jesus is.

So, as I say farewell to my departing friends, and when called upon, officiate at their funeral services, I can’t help but be constantly reminded that one day I, too, will be leaving my earthly home for a far better place and a brighter future in Heaven.

I do hope that I will see you there!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Nothing New

The United States Marine Corps celebrated its 240th birthday on Tuesday, November 10th. Each year Marines gather in small, informal groups, or in more formal social affairs to raise a glass in honor of their beloved Corps. Sunday afternoon, Isaura and I were privileged to join the members of the local Marine Corps League at Vito’s Ristorante in Modesto for a commemorative luncheon. Each time I attend such a gathering I am reminded of why I firmly believe in the old phrase, “Once a Marine, always a Marine.”

Make no mistake! I loved my years as a Navy officer serving as a chaplain. I would not trade those twenty-five years of ministry to the men and women of the sea services for anything. But having been a Marine is something that is in your blood. It never leaves you. Whether it was the arduous training, or standing fire watch, or the boredom of guard duty at some remote location, or the terrors of combat, all go toward the making of a Marine.

One of the areas the Marine Corps excels in is their own history. This history of the storied icons and leaders of the Corps throughout its history is part of what we celebrate each November 10th. We honor those who have gone before us from private to general – all are Marines. And every one of us jealously covets the title, Marine. Once earned, it can never be taken away.

So, I was watching FOX News the other night as they were discussing Brian Kilmeade’s latest book, written in collaboration with Don Yaeger, “Thomas Jefferson and the Barbary Pirates.” I was intrigued because every Marine knows about the Barbary Pirates, and particularly, Lt. Presley O’Bannon.

Here’s the historical setting: Muslim pirates of the Barbary Coast attack ships at sea. Their purpose in doing this is to steal the goods on board. They also kill the sailors of the captured vessel, or press them into forced labor on Muslim ships, and in the process requiring them to become Muslims, if they want to live, or simply sell them as slaves.

These pirates operated in the Mediterranean Sea, harassing merchant ships, and even naval ships of the European countries as far away as England that dared sail the sea lanes of the Mediterranean. It was also common practice for these Muslim pirates to raid towns and villages along the shores of the Mediterranean, raping and pillaging, making off with men who would be sold into slavery, and women who would be forced to marry Muslim men or be sold into slavery, and children who would be placed in Muslim families or be sold into slavery.

When did these Barbary Pirates roam the waters of the Mediterranean? The latter part of the 18th Century and early 19th Century. The Barbary Coast was made up of the North African states of Tunis, Morocco, Algiers, and Tripoli (Libya).  Often these raids on foreign shipping would bring about demands for ransom of the ship and its crew. Then the Muslim rulers of the Barbary Coast would demand tribute from weaker nations to be paid to them by any country using the Mediterranean waters. This racket went on far too long. Most countries paid the tribute since they were not interested in expending men and ships in fighting a war against these Muslim pirates.

If this has a familiar ring to it, then you’ve obviously been paying attention to what is going on in our world. You see, nothing is new. The same tactics are still being used today with certain modifications. The pirates have relocated to the East African shore of Somalia. The rampage of Europe where raping and pillaging is taking place is occurring within the borders of all European nations, many of which are in dire straits of losing their identity to the overwhelming flood of Muslims forcing their way into these Western countries.

While America was still under the rule of England, our ships were protected by the tribute the English Crown paid these Muslim pirate states. However, once we declared our independence from the British monarchy, any merchant ships flying the American flag were fair game. Presidents Washington and Adams reluctantly followed the practice of paying tribute simply because we did not have a Navy capable of protecting our merchant ships so far removed from our shores.

Thomas Jefferson, our third president, also continued the practice of paying off these Muslim bullies. However, the damage being done to our ships and crews continued. Jefferson decided enough was enough, and the United States pushed back. The American flag was desecrated by the Muslims in Tripoli. This prompted President Jefferson to take decisive military action. He appealed to European nations to assist him, but none would join forces with the United States.

A navy ship with a contingent of Marines aboard sailed to Tripoli in 1805 laying siege to the port city where the Marines forced the potentate of Tripoli to see the error of his ways. The Marines were led by Lieutenant Presley O’Bannon. For his personal bravery and the bravery of his Marines, O’Bannon was presented with the Mameluke sword, which is yet worn by Marine officers to this day.

So, the United States earned the respect of these North African Muslim states. The question for us today is: Will we have the courage to once again confront these murderous thugs who care nothing for our values and freedoms? Or will we acquiesce by surrendering some of those freedoms if only the bad guys would leave us alone.

These bad guys had no intention of leaving us alone more than two centuries ago, and they have no intention of leaving us alone today.

What will the United States do, I wonder?

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Golf Gods

This week’s article is not a theological treatise on the universally accursed game of what the Scots call golf. But it could be!

The ancient story goes something like this: Back about 600 years ago some boys tending sheep in the fields of Scotland decided to entertain themselves by creating a game that would help pass the time as they tended to their duties caring for the sheep. So they grabbed what was at hand and came up with an obscure game relegated to the British Isles for most of 500 years - golf. The tools for this game were a cudgel and a round stone. I can’t be sure, but I’d be willing to bet that the pilgrims who first settled in America weren’t just escaping a British monarchy that stifled their desire to worship God in their own way. No, I’m thinking certain Scottish, English, and Irish wives were prodding and encouraging their husbands to sign on to the next sailing ship to America to escape the insipid game of golf that had obviously befuddled their minds.  

I can see it now – the husband has been in the fields all day planting the barley, harvesting the wheat, and tending to the flocks. But in truth, the poor devil has been sneaking off to play the infernal game of golf! As luck would have it, a neighbor lady, known for a loose tongue, sees the man making his way to a field set aside for playing “The Game.” This neighborhood gossip feels it is her duty to inform her neighbor of her husband’s meanderings on a golf course, signifying a neglect of his responsibilities to his family. Thus another ticket is purchased for a slow boat to America.

So it was off to the New World for many a poor soul who had been stung by the golf bug. Ha! But in the New World there was no golf! It took about 250 years from the time the pilgrims landed in Virginia in 1607 before golf arrived on the shores of New England in the middle of the 1800s. I have played several of the oldest courses in the United States. A couple of them resemble the sheep fields they once were.

The English champion, Harry Vardon, traveled to the United States in the early 1900s to play some exhibition rounds to show these unwashed, uncouth Americans the gentleman’s sport of golf. Two American boys were fully taken with the game, watching Vardon and his partner, Ted Ray, perform for the mesmerized Americans. Francis Ouimet became proficient enough in golf that he challenged the Englishman to a match – and won! Well, Katy bar the door! That’s all it took to have golf become an emerging national sport in the United States.

The other boy who was enamored with golf was Bobby Jones. More than any other golfer of note, Jones stamped a pedigree on golf that lasts to this day. Bobby Jones was your quintessential Southern Gentleman, hailing from Georgia. Because golf cost money, and the American middle class had not emerged as yet, golf was a sport enjoyed by the wealthy and highbrow in society. And it remained so for most of the first half of the 20th Century. It continues to be considered a gentleman’s sport. And because of the efforts of the famous female athlete and Olympic champion, Babe Didrikson, women were brought into the game of golf as well.

Following the victories over Japan and Germany in World War Two, an economic boon followed in the United States transforming many in the working class to a new status – the American Middle Class. Things changed: 5-day work weeks; 8-hour days; two-week vacations; decent pay with raises and bonuses; and the ability to buy a car. This also introduced leisure time for everyone. Golf took off as a sport in this environment. Add to that the advent of television and golf was here to stay.

 This brief history of golf is intended to point out the callousness of the golf gods who torment players of the game incessantly – mercilessly. These denizens of whatever passes for the spirit world’s Nirvana, Heaven, Paradise, Kingdom Come, Happy Hunting Ground, Glory or whatever, they have no heart!

If you are a golfer, or you’re married to a golfer, you understand fully what I am saying. For those of you who are clueless, let me simply say, “Mama, don’t let your babies grow up to be golfers!”

The list of things that golf does to a person is literally endless. The amount of money a golfer will spend on equipment, golf togs, and all manner of do-dads and gizmos is embarrassing. And we are so easily convinced that the newest golf ball will fly farther and straighter; that the newest set of clubs will allow us to hit the ball with power and authority; and that the latest style of golf shoe will give us an edge when addressing the ball.

Woe is me! For just when I believe I’m getting the hang of this diabolical game, and my scores are causing me to thump my chest in pride, the golf gods sprinkle “stupid dust” on me and I forget how to play. Oh, I try, but I look pathetic, thrashing away with my clubs trying to hit this nefarious ball, only to hear the golf gods chortling from their denizen of golfdom. They are heartless. I am doomed!

How bad is it? The first chance I have this week will find me on the golf course. Do you hear it? They’re laughing at me!

I need help.