Marines.Together We Served

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Santa as a Kid

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
25 December 2017
The Ripon Bulletin

Santa as a Kid

I trust you all had a blessed and Merry Christmas! Our family got together several times during the month of December, each time having lots of fun and laughter.

On Saturday afternoon we were sitting around the living room chatting merrily away when our ten-year-old granddaughter Alyssa, asked if she could read some of the short stories she has been writing. Apparently, her fourth-grade teacher at Colony Oak Elementary has been working with the kids on their writing skills. Not just composition, but the formation of thought, development of ideas, along with sentence structure and expanded vocabulary.

Intrigued, we six adults in the room encouraged her by all means to read her stories. The favorite story is one entitled, Santa as a Kid. We all laughed at this twist on the Christmas character so readily recognized. I asked Alyssa if I might share it with my friends who read my weekly Roots in Ripon column. She happily agreed. I made only a few punctuation changes. Otherwise, this is exactly how Alyssa wrote her story.

Santa as a Kid

Everyone has to be a kid once in their life. This is about Santa as a kid. You probably don’t think much about it because in all the stories he is a jolly old guy. He is actually Santa the 15th, so when he was little he liked to play games.

Video games were just coming out and Santa the 15th wanted to play some of the games that came out. So, Mrs. Claus took him to a store and bought some games. She told him he had to promise to not be on it all the time. When they got back home they put it together and Santa 15th started to play on it right away. Time passed so quickly it felt like morning a couple minutes ago. Now it is nighttime. Mrs. Claus called upstairs to Santa 15th for dinner. He said he would be a few minutes, but he took two hours! So, Mrs. Claus came storming up the stairs and burst into his room. “That is enough playing games for today!” she yelled. 

So, he went downstairs slowly and ate his dinner slowly, and went back upstairs to brush his teeth and go to bed. Mrs. Claus told him to go straight to bed, and he said he would. A few hours later when everyone went to bed, Santa 15th got up and started to play video games until morning and Mrs. Claus had a fit. She threatened Santa 15th to take away his video games, and she did as she said she would.

A few years later he was a teen and moved out, then got video games and sat on his couch all day eating cookies, pizza, and milk while playing video games. And that is how there became a fat Santa. Santa 15th has a kid now – and he plays video games! 

The End

The gist of the story is a swipe at the never-ending challenge parents (and grandparents) face daily these days with children who are consumed with playing games on their cell phones, iPads and iPods.

We’ve all seen it. A group of kids sitting around, each engrossed in their own electronic device, oblivious of their friends sitting right next to them. Teachers have difficulty with kids texting their classmates during school hours. And according to statistics, too many car accidents are being attributed to teens and adults tapping away on their cell phones while rolling down the highway at 65 mph or greater. I’ve seen a man and woman seated in a nice restaurant, each pecking away, connecting with someone unseen, while ignoring the one right in front of them.

I was both amused and proud of Alyssa for tackling a current social dilemma, while at the same time giving it a humorous story line.

Funny! I always wondered how Santa got so fat!

Monday, December 18, 2017

The Best of Times

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
18 December 2017
The Ripon Bulletin

The Best of Times

Amidst all of life’s many twists and turns, the question is often in the forefront of my mind, “Is this a good time to be alive?”

As one who enjoys history, I find myself reflecting on earlier times, wondering if I might have enjoyed living in a different time, or a different era of history. Of course, I’ll never know, but I’ve heard people say with a certain whimsical lament, “I was born a century too late.”

So, while spending this past weekend in Monterey/Carmel celebrating my wife’s 65th birthday, I saw a variation on Charles Dickins’ quote from his novel, A Tale of Two Cities. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

Surely Dickens must have wrestled with the same idea that there were better times to have lived, and there were certainly worst times to have lived. Sometimes, depending on your own perspective of events, you can see truth in both the opposing views: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

Frequently I will hear Christians verbally wish for the return of Jesus right now because things seem to be so bad in the world today. I will often ask this person if they think the world’s condition has deteriorated to the point that it has never been this bad in the past. I’ve never had anyone say yes to this. A short review of the Bible and the awful situations that the Jews, and later the Christians, found themselves in can be quite enlightening. Even secular history has pointed out the horrors visited upon those of faith who have been targeted for persecution and annihilation.

You see, what may be the best time in the world to be alive for you, may, conversely be the worst time for someone else, whether a neighbor next door, or an unknown inhabitant of a land on the far side of the world.

One of the true ironies visited upon this world is the spectacular event that occurred two thousand years ago with the birth of Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God, the Savior. He came as promised, for so the ancient prophets recorded in the Old Testament, hundreds, yea, thousands of years before. This event took place in the little burg of Bethlehem, located a scant five miles from Jerusalem.

The irony I refer to is the spectacular joy expressed by a choir of angels announcing the birth of Jesus, while at the same time King Herod, the King of the Jews, was doing everything in his power to find this baby and have him killed. When a king or ruler feels threatened, they will naturally revert to violence in order to prop themselves up and to maintain control of their power.

As a Christian, I am aware of the paradox within my faith. On the one hand, I rejoice and celebrate in the birth of Jesus in all of his innocence. On the other hand, I also celebrate in the death of Jesus at Easter, despite the fact that he was gruesomely abused by his executioners and hung on a cross, a means of execution reserved for the worst of criminals. And what had he done to warrant this hideous treatment? He willingly came to demonstrate God’s love for this fallen race of man.

The absurdity of life challenges us to decide for ourselves: Is this the best of times? Or is it the worst of times?

Because of Jesus and his sacrificial death for me, life is always the best of times, despite the worst of times that come as a result of simply living.

Disappointment, heartache, rejection, death, all are part of life’s experience. But because of the birth of Jesus on that first Christmas day two thousand years ago, and his later death and resurrection, I have his promise that he will take me home one day to glory to be with him forever.

Perhaps heaven’s portal will boldly state, “Within these golden gates you can only experience the very best of times for all eternity.”

Merry Christmas! Hallelujah! Jesus has come!

Monday, December 11, 2017

He Won't Fight!

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
11 December 2017
The Ripon Bulletin

He Won’t Fight!

Recently, I wrote an article about General Robert E. Lee, commanding officer of the Confederate Army during our American Civil War. Lee very nearly pulled off the upset of American history by outmaneuvering the apparently hapless Union generals called upon by President Abraham Lincoln to carry the fight to the outnumbered Southern forces. By most historical accounts, the Civil War should have been over in a matter of months, not the four long years and 700 thousand deaths it extolled from a war-weary nation.

My sister Joy, came over for Thanksgiving last month, bringing me a couple of magazines she ran across that she knew I would treasure. As a Civil War buff, I have accumulated over the years a small library of books, magazines and other items pertaining to this horrific war. The two magazines Joy acquired for me are both copies of The Civil War Times: one dated August 1968, and the other August 1962. A section in the 1962 edition focused on the centennial edition of the Battle of Antietam. The summer months of 1862 are considered the high summer of the Confederacy. Never again would the cause of the South and her fight for independence come as close to success as it did under the leadership of Lee, Stonewall Jackson, Jeb Stuart, and other notable Southern generals.

Historians argue over the ineptness of Union (or Northern) military leaders. In my research, I have found two primary reasons for the Union army failing repeatedly to secure major victories in the early stages of the war. First, the Northern forces were not defending their homeland against an aggressor the same way the Southern forces were. This is one of the reasons the war was referred to by southerners as the “War of Northern Aggression.”

Second, the Union general selected to head the Army of the Potomac (later to be called the Union army) was not willing to fight. General George B. McClellan, like his counterpart of the Confederate army, General Robert E. Lee, was second in his class at West Point. And like Lee, McClellan was a military engineer. He never commanded troops in the field against an enemy until the Civil War. And this was his undoing.

McClellan, referred to as “Little Mac”, attended West Point from 1842-46. Shortly after graduation he was assigned to fight in the Mexican-American War. It was during this time that he contracted what he called his, “Mexican disease,” better known to us today as, “Montezuma’s Revenge.”

McClellan was viewed as an up-and-comer as a military officer, serving successfully in every command during his eleven years of service. During his time in the army, he used his fluency in French to publish a manual on bayonet tactics that he had translated from the original French. He also wrote a manual on cavalry tactics based upon Russian cavalry regulations. The Army also adopted McClellan’s design for a cavalry saddle, known as the McClellan Saddle. It became standard issue for as long as the Army had a cavalry, and is still used today in ceremonial events.

Little Mac resigned his commission from the Army in 1857. He was married to Mary Ellen Marcy in New York City in 1860. During this time, he was the chief engineer and vice president of the Illinois Central Railroad, and then president of the Ohio and Mississippi Railroad.

Civilian life simply did not suit him. He continued to study battlefield tactics which bolstered his adeptness at training and preparing soldiers for combat when he rejoined the Army. Prior to the outbreak of the Civil War, McClellan decided to try his hand at politics. He supported the Democrat Party’s presidential candidate, Stephen A. Douglas in the 1860 election. Later, he would run for president as a Democrat in 1864, in hopes of defeating President Lincoln. He re-entered the Army in the spring of 1861.

One of McClellan’s shortcomings was his impatience and impertinence toward those who were his superiors. He was referred to in the press as a “Young Napoleon.” He valued only career military men, showing utter disdain for volunteers. He often refused to obey political and military leaders, a tactic that would put him at odds with President Lincoln early in the war. He snubbed and insulted Lincoln, referring to him as “nothing more than a well-meaning baboon.”

Oddly enough, McClellan did not come from the abolitionist point of view, as did many of his fellow officers in the Union Army. He believed the South should be allowed to practice slavery if that was their choice. He was vehemently opposed to federal interference in slavery. But he was just as opposed to states seceding from the Union.

But his unwillingness to commit troops in the field, always believing that Lee had superior numbers, caused him to be viewed as an inept battlefield commander. Sadly, he spent the remainder of his life attempting to rewrite his legacy. He died in 1885.

Lincoln’s frustration with McClellan could be summed up in this phrase: “He won’t fight!” General Ulysses S. Grant referred to Little Mac as “one of the great enigmas of the war.”

General George B. McClellan simply did not have the heart of a warrior. And that cost the lives of countless men, both for the North and the South.

Monday, December 04, 2017

All About Christmas

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
4 December 2017
The Ripon Bulletin

All About Christmas

Yes, it’s the Advent Season where all things Christmas are on full display. Decorations have been set up in stores for quite a few weeks. Plus, the advertising has focused on what you can get for that special someone. Not to mention office parties and large gatherings to celebrate Christmas and so on.

This past weekend I was the guest speaker/preacher for a church in San Jose. It just so happens that this church is where Isaura and I were married forty-one-and-a-half years ago. It is also where I began my pastoral ministry as youth minister back in 1980 shortly after completing my master’s degree at seminary.

          It has been 36 years since I was last there, so returning was exciting, to say the least. Who was still there that we would know? Who had either moved on, or passed on, was another question Isaura and I wondered about. In fact, as we were driving down to San Jose later on Saturday, I commented aloud about two teenagers I had had the privilege of leading to faith in Christ in 1981. I remembered Pam’s name because she was a senior at Willow Glen High School across the street from the church. But, for the life of me, I could not remember the boy’s name.

One of the high school teachers contacted me asking if I would speak to her Sociology class, explaining the Christian view of Family & Marriage. Pam was in the first class I spoke to. Her boyfriend was attending another school.

          After the class, Pam approached me with questions about the Christian faith. I made an appointment to meet with her in my office. She asked if she could bring her boyfriend. “You bet!” I said. As we sat and talked, it was clear to me that Pam was ready to ask Jesus into her heart. I looked at the boyfriend and asked if he wanted to accept Christ as his Savior, too. He said yes.

          Back to the present. The church was having a catered dinner as part of their Missions Auction, and I was to be the guest speaker. I shared a couple of the Christmases that stood out in my life. I spoke of how I had come to know Christ as my Savior as a twenty-four-year-old sergeant in the Marine Corps in Vietnam on September 8, 1972. I returned home to my parents a week before Christmas. My sister Joy, was there, along with our grandmother, Bambi, and my brother John, who had flown out from his home in Louisiana. My first night home we all sat up talking and catching up until the wee hours of the morning. I was the last to finally call it a night. I was just so hyped up about being home with my family! Instead of going to my room to sleep in my bed, I grabbed several blankets and a pillow and plopped them down in front of the Christmas tree in the living room with a fire in the fireplace. I stretched out with my hands behind my head and just soaked in the reality that I was home. And best of all, I finally could celebrate Christmas for its true meaning: God loves us so much that he sent his Son, Jesus, to die for us so we could have eternal life in Him. Wow!

          The other memorable Christmas I shared was one where I was not home. In the mid-1980s I was assigned as the command chaplain to the USS White Plains (AFS4). As a supply ship we were always at sea. In 1987, we were in the Indian Ocean heading for the island of Diego Garcia which is about 1200 miles south of India. We have a small naval base there, so we pulled in on December 23. That evening, the USO put on a show in one of the warehouses on the pier. This was one of Bob Hope’s last tours with the USO. Lee Greenwood of “God Bless the USA!” fame, was also part of the entertainment. What a treat!

          Since we still communicated the old-fashioned way back then, I had written a letter to Isaura back in Guam that I would call her on Christmas Eve from Diego Garcia, or D-Gar as we called it. There was a small building with a bank of telephones for sailors to call home. It wasn’t cheap! For fifteen minutes it cost me $50.00! But it was certainly worth it!

          I paid the money, then placed the call. The way this works is, there is a meter on the phone that begins at fifteen minutes and ticks backwards until your time is up. When the phone rang, Laura, our oldest, who was nine, grabbed the phone. She said, “Hello?” I replied, “Hi Baby!” She screamed, “Daddy!” My emotions kicked in at that point, effectively shutting off my ability to speak. Then I hear Isaura on the phone say, “Hi Honey!” I wanted desperately to say something, but my throat was not cooperating. All the while I’m watching this stupid meter count down the amount of time I have left. I managed to squeak out, “Give me a minute.” I gathered myself enough to have a wonderful conversation with her and also to speak to our youngest, Jenny, who was then 6. I missed them all so much!

          So, back to my speaking engagement last weekend. I was to preach Sunday morning, so Isaura and I arrived early and sat in the sanctuary listening to the worship team practice. They took a break just before the service was to begin, at which point one of the men from the worship team walked over to introduce himself. He appeared to be middle-aged. I stood to shake hands, only to hear him say, “I’m Richard. I don’t know if you remember me or not.” I told him that I did not. He said, “I was dating Pam back then.” Well blow me over! This 17-year-old I had led to Christ in my office is now a 53-year-old husband and father, playing guitar with the church worship team!

          This Christmas Season has begun wonderfully for me! I trust it will be equally exciting for you, as well!

Sunday, November 26, 2017

The King of Spades

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
27 November 2017
The Ripon Bulletin

The King of Spades

It has been said that “if we do not learn from history then we are doomed to repeat it.

It is my contention that this truism is uncomfortably accurate. In recent months we have seen the rise of those seeking to ruin monuments of persons or ideologies they find objectionable and offensive.

One such person is General Robert E. Lee, commander of all Confederate Forces during the Civil War of 1861-65. His statues have been damaged or torn down because he was the military leader of southern forces during the “War of Northern Aggression”, which is just one of the many names attributed to the Civil War. But what do we know of this man who nearly lead the Confederacy to victory over Union forces, often many times larger than Lee’s?

Robert Edward Lee was the son of Revolutionary War officer and hero, Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee III. Robert graduated in 1829, second of his class at the Military Academy (West Point) behind Charles Mason, who resigned from the Army a year later. Graduates of the academy were selected for assignments in the Army based upon their academic standing. Those who scored lowest were sent to the infantry. The brightest were chosen to be military engineers. Lee served in the U.S. Army for 29 years, mostly reengineering military installations around the country. He even served a time as the commandant of West Point (1852-59). One of the nicknames attributed to Lee by his academy classmates was, “The Marble Model” because he so typified the soldier they all aspired to be.

During the Mexican-American War (1846-48), the commander of American forces, General Winfield Scott, described Lee in this manner, “He is the best officer in the Army.

There are often numerous ironies during war that can only truly be appreciated after time and temper has passed.

The First Irony: In 1859 Lee was visiting Washington, DC when the radical abolitionist, John Brown and his ragtag band of followers seized control of the federal armory at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia. The War Department asked Lee, a colonel at this point in his career, to take a detachment of U.S. Marines and recapture the armory. The recapture was successful. The trial and execution by hanging of John Brown, occurred December 2, 1859. Brown wrote the night before his execution these sobering words, “I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood. I had, as I now think, vainly flattered myself that without very much bloodshed it might be done.”

The Second Irony: In April 1861 Lee turned down the offer to command the Union Army. The person who had the authority to offer such a command was none other than General Winfield Scott! Lee told his old mentor, “I am a Virginian first.” Allegiance to one’s state often superseded national loyalty. Lee did not support secession and firmly believed that his home state of Virginia would choose to stay with the Union. When this did not happen, he felt his loyalty was to Virginia, though it grieved him greatly. It also brought about the split in Virginia, creating the new state of West Virginia because the sentiments of the majority of the folks living in that part of Virginia were for the Union.

The Third Irony: Colonel Lee resigned his commission from the U.S. Army two days after he was offered command of the Union Army and three days after Virginia seceded from the Union. He spoke with General Scott on April 18, 1861, explaining his decision. He said he would have resigned his commission already “but for the struggle it has cost me to separate myself from a service to which I have devoted the best years of my life and all the ability I possess.” His final comment to Scott was, “Save in the defense of my native State (Virginia), I never desire again to draw my sword.”

The Fourth Irony: After the war was over Robert E. Lee opposed the construction of public memorials to Confederate rebellion on the grounds that they would prevent the healing of wounds inflicted during the war.

The Final Irony: Following the close of the Civil War in 1865, Lee accepted the offer to be president of Washington College (now Washington and Lee University) serving in that capacity until his death in 1870. Lee did not suffer the indignities of arrest and imprisonment so often suffered by enemy combatants. However, his family home, the Custis-Lee Mansion, had been seized by Union forces during the war and was eventually turned into Arlington National Cemetery.

And the reason for the article’s title, “The King of Spades”? Well, when Lee assumed command of the Confederate Army, he put his military engineering into practice, requiring his men to take their shovels (spades) for digging earthworks, fortifications, and entrenchments in preparation for battle. The Daily Herald, Feb 16, 2014 states that, “General Ulysses S. Grant learned the hard way that if he gave Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia just six uninterrupted hours head start that they would have field fortifications built that were suicide for Union troops to attack. Grant attacked them anyway, and the butcher’s bill was catastrophic for the Yankees.”

I wonder how many of these recent “monument destroyers” know any of this about Robert Edward Lee?

Sunday, November 19, 2017

An Acid Test

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
20 November 2017
The Ripon Bulletin

An Acid Test

A few months ago, my wife Isaura and I decided to go through with having our DNA tested. It’s not like we didn’t have a pretty good idea what the results would be. After all, she was born on the island of San Miguel in the Azores, Portugal. As for me, the names in my background were all very British sounding.

Several years ago, our oldest daughter, Laura, signed up with to begin researching our family’s heritage. We knew very little about the Roots family, primarily because we couldn’t get past my Grandfather. Little was known of him since he had left my dad and grandmother when my dad was only five. He was never heard from again within our family. Back in the ‘90’s I eventually traced several documents to him through the Internet. I found a copy of his draft card dated 1917, stating he was married and living in Houston, Texas. Since he was born in 1883, he would have been 34 years old, therefore, too old for military service. Another document was when he signed up for Social Security in 1935. And the final document I discovered was his death certificate dated 1964. Other than that, we knew nothing about the Roots family.

My mother did not have any family information, nor had she ever heard anything from my Grandmother Roots about the Roots family line.

My wife was born Isaura Maria Rodrigues Matos Cabral. Since her family was from an island in the Atlantic nine hundred miles from the Iberian Peninsula, we assumed her DNA test would have her at 80% or higher full-blown Portuguese (The Iberian Peninsula consists of Spain, Portugal, Gibraltar and Andorra).

So, just what is DNA? I wasn’t real sure, so I began to check into it. First off, DNA stands for Deoxyribonucleic Acid. “It is a molecule that carries the genetic instructions used in the growth, development, functioning and reproduction of all known living organisms.” In a word, it is the hereditary material found in all humans.

There are quite a few organizations that are doing DNA testing for a nominal fee these days. We decided to go with I ordered the packets for my wife and me over the Internet. In about ten days they arrived. The instructions were simple enough. Spit into a special tube until it reached a certain level (maybe a half ounce), then screw a specially provided top onto the tube. In this top was a chemical solution which would, under the pressure of closing the tube, break open and mix with the spittle. This would preserve the spit for a specified time. A number was assigned to each tube. Other than that, our names were not included. The numbers would be married up again after the testing was completed and mailed back to us.

About four weeks later the results came in. We went to the Ancestry web site and had a full display of our test results.

Like I said earlier, I was pretty sure the Roots clan was English with a bit of Scottish mixed in. Beyond that, it was anyone’s guess.

I must tell you that the results were spot on! From my DNA they pegged me as 49% Great Britain, 24% Ireland/Scotland/Wales, 13% Scandinavian, 5% Europe West, 5% Iberian Peninsula, and 4% Europe South.

The part that intrigued me the most in all of this was how they tracked the migration of others who shared my DNA across the USA. They have my family arriving from Europe landing in Virginia and eventually moving across Tennessee and further south, finally settling in Texas. And sure enough! My father was born in Marshall, Texas in 1909. My mother (née Lake) was born in Lone Oak, Texas in 1915. From separate research, we discovered one of the Roots clan had a farm in central Virginia back in the late 1600s up through the early 1800s.

This has fit in with all the research Laura and I have done on the Roots family going back to 1693 in America. Prior to that it was England. There’s still much to learn.

As for Isaura, that’s another story! As it turns out, she is 42% Iberian Peninsula, 26% Greek/Italian, 13% Europe West, 9% Great Britain, 5% North African (Egypt), 1% Europe East, 1% Scandinavian, 1% Ireland, 1% Jewish/European, 1% West African/Benin/Togo.
In all, it was a fascinating discovery and will be something our grandchildren and their offspring can enjoy for years to come.

The kicker in all of this came from my granddaughter, Alyssa, who turns ten this week. When she heard us talking about the DNA results some weeks ago, she said, “But Granddaddy, it doesn’t say anything about you being born in Milford, Connecticut! 

Sunday, November 12, 2017

What a Week!

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
13 November 2017
The Ripon Bulletin

What a Week!

The past week and a half have been quite hectic, to say the least. It seems to always work out this way every year in early November.

First on the docket was the Inaugural Patriot’s Ball, which was hosted by the Disabled American Veterans Charities of San Joaquin County. For the past number of years, I have been a board member for this organization that exists to help veterans who find themselves in need. Ours is a local organization established in 1972.

The Patriot’s Ball was held on Friday evening of November 3, at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, and was a delightful evening. I wore my Navy “mess dress” accompanied by my wife in an evening gown who always looks stunning. I was asked to offer the Invocation for our Ball, and also a special prayer for a Gold Star family.

Next up was the Annual Show of the Golden Valley Chorus, Saturday evening, November 4, at the Turlock Community Theater. This is a chorus I joined at its inception in 1997. The theme of our show this year was “A Tribute to the USO.” We had a great audience and the guest quartet we had was fantastic! “Newfangled Four” formed just a few years ago, and were soon crowned the Barbershop Harmony Society’s (BHS) “International Collegiate Quartet Champions in 2013”. These four young barbershop singers are sensational! They brought the house down. Our hobby is in good hands with these young guys! Check them out on You Tube.

Then on Tuesday, November 7 I was asked by Supervisor Chuck Winn to attend the meeting of the San Joaquin County Supervisors in Stockton where they annually honor veterans. The chambers were filled with veterans from throughout the county. This time I was asked to offer the Benediction for this special tribute to veterans.

Last year my granddaughter Alyssa was in third grade. Her teacher, Mrs. Thomason, asked me then if I would come and speak to the class about the meaning and purpose of Veterans Day. This year, she invited me back to speak to her third-grade class. Since she is friends with Alyssa’s fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Stevens, I was asked to speak to this class as well. Another teacher, Miss Rigg, heard of this, and also asked me to speak about Veterans Day to her third graders. That was on successive days, November 8 & 9.

On Friday, November 10, I spent the day celebrating the 242nd Birthday of the United States Marine Corps (November 10, 1775, Tun Tavern, Philadelphia). I was decked out in my mess dress uniform again for this next occasion, which was the annual Marine Corps Birthday Luncheon at the Sutter Club in Sacramento, located a couple of blocks from the state capitol. I ran into a good friend, Dave Fisher, at the luncheon. We served together after I returned from Vietnam.

Once back in Ripon that afternoon, I met up with my friend, Rick Van Unen, a former Marine (Recon, Vietnam), and a friend of his who was a retired Marine colonel. We sat and visited for about an hour, sharing Marine stories, most of which were true. Rick always hosts a Marine Corps Birthday gathering at his home on November 10th. However, I was committed to attending the Marine Corps Birthday Ball, hosted by the Stockton Marine Corps Club at the Hilton in Stockton.

Isaura and I once again, put on our evening formal wear, joined by our friends, Elwood & Patricia Cooper, and it was off to the Ball. Elwood served in the Army’s 101st Airborne in the late 1950s. I have told Elwood in the past that every person who has served in another military outfit other than the Marine Corps, needs to attend a Marine Corps Birthday Ball. The pomp and ceremony is like nothing else. It is an evening not to be forgotten. And again, I was privileged to be asked to offer the Invocation. And the ladies love to dress up!

On Saturday, November 11, the Ripon American Legion Post 190, in conjunction with the Ripon Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1051, hosted a Veterans Day event at the Ripon Veterans Wall. They asked me to speak about the POW/MIA issue that still haunts us to this day. Did you know that from World War Two to today there are more than 83,000 men and women still listed as POW/MIA (Prisoner of War, Missing in Action) unaccounted for? Even with the advances in detection through DNA only about seventy of our missing are identified each year.

At this event, a small table and an empty chair was set up with a number of articles on display. This has become a sacred event in many military social events, reminding all present that our POW/MIAs are not with us. I asked if this was going to be explained to the crowd that attends this annual event in Ripon. They asked me if I would be willing to do it. So, I worked with my nine-year-old granddaughter Alyssa, and had her ask me questions about this empty chair and all the articles associated with it: white table cloth, lighted candle, Bible, inverted wine glass, red ribbon, red rose in a vase, American flag, salt sprinkled on the plate, and a slice of lemon. My daughter, Laura, recorded it on her phone. You can see it on my FaceBook page, .

Finally, that evening, the Golden Valley Chorus (GVC) sang at the “Better Together” annual event at the Mormon Church in Modesto. Musical groups from churches and schools each perform a couple of numbers. People “pay” for the performance by bringing non-perishable food which will be distributed to those organizations in our area who feed the hungry. The GVC finished by singing the Armed Forces Medley. Since this was Veterans Day, we asked anyone who had ever served in the military to stand when they heard their service song. We do this every year, and it’s always a crowd favorite.

What a run of events! I think I’ll sleep for a week!

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Aspirations of Progeny

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
6 November 2017

Aspirations of Progeny

In the 1950s, the beloved Arthur Gordon “Art” Linkletter had a TV show that was always entertaining. Perhaps the best-known segment of this weekly show was, Kids Say the Darndest Things! Well, I’ve got a couple of my own!

A couple of years ago I bought a new cell phone. It was the iPhone 6Plus. On my previous phone I had two or three different apps I had downloaded that acted as flashlights. With my new phone I went looking for my flashlight apps to no avail. So, I was standing in the kitchen fumbling with the phone, wondering where these apps were when then seven-year-old granddaughter Alyssa says, “I’ll show you, Granddaddy.” I sheepishly handed over my phone while having this sinking feeling that I was about to be shown up by a second grader. My premonitions were correct! With one deft swipe of her little finger she made another screen appear on my phone. She quickly tapped the glass surface and Voila! A very bright light came on. She handed the phone back and resumed working on her homework.

At this point I should have left well enough alone. But, Nooooo, I had to step right in it. I said, “You were moving too fast for me. Show me what you did.” She gave me a patient, parental look, reached for my phone and said, “Granddaddy, the new iPhone 6 comes with a flashlight app built in.” “Oh,” I said. “I didn’t know that.” It didn’t even occur to me that a flashlight device was built in. I just stood there with what I can only assume was a foolish look on my face. Alyssa simply returned to her homework.

Just a few weeks ago friends from Texas came to visit. Of course we got around to talking about our grandkids and showing our latest pictures of this newly emerging generation. The way Frank explained this story about one of his grandkids, the college being attended by this grandkid was very expensive. On a recent visit with this progeny they asked what they were planning to do once they graduated from college. Without a moment’s hesitation, the child said, “I want to be a professional dog walker.” Our friends were stunned, to say the least. Several hundred thousand dollars for the best education money can buy to become . . . a professional dog walker! I looked it up – “An average dog walker salary in New York City is $45,000.” I may come out of retirement.

Brooklyne is our other granddaughter, nine-years-old, who lives about a half-hour from us, so Isaura and I are fairly active in her life and grandson Colson’s on a weekly basis. Isaura was down taking care of Brook and Colson a few Fridays ago when Brook announced to Meema (Isaura) that she knew what she wanted to be when she grew up. My wife, of course, encouraged her to share this revelation. The conversation had been about Brook’s natural artistic abilities which prompted my wife to suggest she might pursue that as a career path. Brooklyne quickly nixed that idea. “No, I don’t want to do that. I want to be a lawyer!” Somewhat surprised at this pronouncement, Isaura then asked, “Why do you want to be a lawyer, Brook?” Brooklyne smiled and said, “Because lawyers get to argue. And I’m really good at arguing!” We all had a good laugh at that! I believe Brook could convince me the moon is made of cheese!

My last foray into children and their career choices brings us back to Alyssa, now nine-years-old, but turns ten later this month. A couple of weeks ago, our daughter Laura, asked her daughter Alyssa, what she wanted to be when she grows up. Well, we all know how much she loves animals, having expressed interest in becoming a veterinarian before. So, she pops off with this comment, “I want to be a vet, or a professional horseback rider . . . NO!” Leaving her parents in suspense, she then says, “I want to be a professional bed tester!” Our son-in-law Ken, says, “A what?” Alyssa responds, “You know, Daddy! A professional bed tester where you take naps on beds and get paid for it to see how comfy they are.”

Okay, so I checked on how much a professional bed tester makes. The motel chain, Travelodge, has a professional bed tester who makes $53,000 a year! I’m seriously thinking about coming out of retirement now!

I can’t wait to hear what Colson wants to be. Right now, he’s only five and isn’t thinking about careers just yet. At least I don’t think he is.

When I was their age I wanted to be a fireman riding a big red fire truck with a Dalmatian riding in the seat. Or a professional baseball player (Yea for the Houston Astros – 2017 World Series Champs!). That was about the extent of it for me.

But I do think I might be cut out for this bed tester job. I’m sure there’s a phone number I can call. Where is that number? It’s right here somewhere . . .

Sunday, October 29, 2017

My, How Time Flies

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
30 October 2017

My, How Time Flies

Yup! It was forty-eight years ago on October 27th that I arrived at Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD), San Diego. Thus began one of the more interesting, if not challenging experiences of my life.

I was twenty-one, wondering what the next four years of my enlistment in the Marine Corps might entail. There were the rumblings that President Nixon was going to get us out of Vietnam. But in the latter-half of 1969 the war was still in full swing. I wondered if I would ever see this Far-Eastern nation that was the cause of so much discord, not only in our own country, but around the world.

As it turned out, by the time I finished my training in my MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) and off to my first operational command at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS), El Toro in Southern California, it looked like an overseas tour was never going to happen. Or at least not to Vietnam.

Did I really want to go to Vietnam? Of course! You don’t enlist in the toughest military branch of the service to stay home! Someone might say, “But it’s dangerous!” Yes, it is. But I would ask in return, “Is the United States of America worth defending?” Absolutely! Unequivocally, Yes!

While stationed with an F4 squadron at El Toro in 1971, I played football with the squadron team. The last practice we had before the final game I sustained a broken rib. Since my MOS was an Aviation Electrician, I was climbing into and onto planes all the time. With a broken rib, the doctor taped up my chest making it difficult to move. He also prescribed Darvon for the discomfort of pain. This troubled me because it made me light-headed. So, I was assigned to mess duty for a month while the rib healed.

 Well, mess duty usually is wet, sloppy work, often slinging a mop and carrying lots of cases of food from freezers to the kitchen and so on. This didn’t seem like a good idea for trying to give a broken rib a chance to heal. I mentioned this to the senior enlisted guy who then assigned me to work in his office taking care of his daily reports and other administrative matters. I only had a couple of more days to go before I was to return to my squadron when one of the Marines from my squadron walked in and dropped a set of orders on my desk, and said, “Good Luck! You’re going to WestPac.” At that time, WestPac (which stands for Western Pacific) was a euphemism for “You’re going to Vietnam!”

My orders had me reporting to my new command at the end of December, with my flight departing Travis AFB on December 23. But, it still didn’t look like I would get to Vietnam because the squadron I was to report to, VMCJ1, was just pulling up stakes from Da Nang, returning to their home in Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan.

I quickly settled in with my new command and was looking forward to a year in Japan. I even signed up to take a class in conversational Japanese. There was also a University of Maryland course I began in business management. But the really fun part was a military parachute club on the base which I joined with the excitement of making my first jump (yes, from a perfectly good airplane!).

As things turned out, a couple of months later, our squadron was called upon to participate in a new offensive against North Vietnam. It’s known as the Easter Offensive. Off to Vietnam we went. I never did get very far with the Japanese class. However, I did finish the course in business management (barely). And my first jump was slated for the weekend my squadron left for Vietnam. As it has turned out, I never did make a jump.

As I write this, I noticed a picture of my brother John and me, taken at Marine Corps Base (MCB) Camp Pendleton in Southern California back in 1970. I was wearing my sateens (green and highly starched) and John was in his green flight suit. As a Marine helicopter pilot, then in the reserves, he was doing his summer drill with his command at Pendleton that summer. I was stationed there awaiting orders to my MOS school, so we were able to spend some time together. I was a lowly PFC (Private First Class) while John was a captain.

Little did either of us know then that we would both spend several decades serving our country through the military. After his five years of active duty, including a tour in Vietnam flying CH46 helicopters (Feb 67 – Mar 68), he stayed in the Marine Corps Reserve, retiring as a colonel with thirty-three years. On the other hand, I served four years active as an enlisted Marine and five years in the reserve. Later I would reenter the service as a Navy chaplain, retiring as a Navy captain with a combined service of thirty-four years.

I’m now 69 and John is 73, leaving me with the realization that the old saying is true: time really does fly!

Monday, October 23, 2017

All About Respect

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
23 October 2017

All About Respect

I guess I might as well enter the fray. After all, there seems to be an obsession over the NFL (and more recently the NBA) finding it necessary to “take a knee” during the playing of the National Anthem at stadiums and arenas around the nation.

So, let me set the stage so you won’t be wondering where I’m going with this article.

To the NFL, NBA and any other alphabet soup teams that make up our national, professional games provided for Americans to enjoy throughout the year: No, you do not have the right to carry on with such a disrespectful protest. There are several reasons for this. First, you are an employee. You work for the NFL. You want to protest? Fine. Do it on your own time! And how dare you humiliate us by taking a knee during the presentation of our National Anthem while playing a game in London’s Wembley Stadium, and yet you stood respectfully during the playing of “God Save the Queen”? It shows how little you know of our history. It was this very same England that we fought two wars against for our freedom (Revolutionary War and the War of 1812)!

The policy is clear. “The NFL rulebook makes no mention of the National Anthem. But the game operations manual does. Here's what the game operations manual says regarding the National Anthem, according to an NFL spokesperson:

“The National Anthem must be played prior to every NFL game, and all players must be on the sideline for the National Anthem. During the National Anthem, players on the field and bench area should stand at attention, face the flag, hold helmets in their left hand, and refrain from talking. The home team should ensure that the American flag is in good condition. It should be pointed out to players and coaches that we continue to be judged by the public in this area of respect for the flag and our country. Failure to be on the field by the start of the National Anthem may result in discipline, such as fines, suspensions, and/or the forfeiture of draft choice(s) for violations of the above, including first offenses.”

There are those who will equivocate about the wording throughout this instruction, but the important part is embedded in the body of the above text. “It should be pointed out to players and coaches that we continue to be judged by the public in this area of respect for the flag and our country.” How true, how true!

Secondly, it is true that some team owner signs your check. But never forget that “we the people” subsidize a portion of stadium costs through our taxes. Plus, we buy over-priced tickets, and pay exorbitant amounts for hot dogs, beer and soda from concession stands. We purchase all manner of memorabilia in support of our favorite team and players. We watch you, dare I say, religiously, on television every week, recording the games as well. We love our teams and those players who make us proud. But, guess what happens to your paycheck if “we the people” decide we’ve had enough of your foolishness? We stop paying for those tickets to the game. Therefore, concession stands lose business. Merchandise sits on shelves and racks. Beer halls, pubs and other drinking establishments in the vicinity of ball parks lose patrons and the rowdy business they bring, especially when the home team wins. But the bottom line is this: When advertisers begin to lose revenue after paying a gazillion dollars to have access to we the people each week, guess what? Your paychecks really take a hit.

But, thirdly, when you show disrespect and disdain for the American flag and the playing of our National Anthem, you have crossed the line. And I really don’t care what your beef is. When you kneel, or link arms, or raise your fists in the air, or whatever other foolishness you display, you are spitting on the graves of those who have fought and died for the freedoms you enjoy every single day.

“Oh, but we’re not disrespecting our military!” you say. Yes, you are. Do you think for one minute that we would still be the “land of the free, and the home of the brave” if it were not for our vigilant volunteer military that is willing and able to shoulder the responsibility of keeping our nation free? Are you so mindless as to assume our nation would continue on as is if national defense was not important? It’s bad enough that we have a stupidly implemented open borders policy, jeopardizing our national safety and well-being.

I served as an enlisted Marine in Vietnam. I saw the body bags of our fallen lined up in rows awaiting transport back to the United States where the military was routinely criticized and denigrated. Later when I served as a Navy chaplain during Operation Iraqi Freedom, it was my solemn duty to receive the remains, and often to conduct the funerals for way too many of my fallen comrades.

That coaches, managers and owners don’t have the backbone to demand respect from their players is a mark of poor leadership, and a sad day for the sports world.

This much is certain: I don’t need professional athletes entertaining me. Friday night high school games are far more fun and entertaining anyway. What I do need is a strong and well-trained military fearlessly keeping the wolf from the door so I can sleep peacefully at night!

Since the NFL and NBA have decided to disrespect our nation, I have judged you and found you wanting. Thus, I have decided to take my remote and turn you off.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Are Guns the Problem?

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
16 October 2017

Are Guns the Problem?

To follow up on last week’s article, “A Look at the 2nd Amendment”, I posit the question for serious consideration: Are guns the problem?

The knee-jerk reaction that has been inculcated into the American psyche for the last several decades is that guns in and of themselves are evil. If this can be proven, then I will be the first to shout for the strictest gun control imaginable.

As I have taught my daughters, and subsequently my grandchildren, guns are only as dangerous as the person who handles them.

In previous articles in the past, I mentioned that my father was a member and instructor with the National Rifle Association (NRA). He had numerous guns and enjoyed handling them as well as instructing and engaging in recreational shooting. My brother, sister and I knew about guns from the time we were very small. We were taught to respect all weapons. When I was barely five, I remember the story in our neighborhood of two brothers who were playing around with a BB Gun. Tragically, the one brother shot the other in the eye, causing the eye to be permanently damaged.

Such horsing around will always put someone at risk, but when proper instruction and respect for weapons, particularly guns is made available to children early on, there is far less of a chance of such accidents occurring. Many of you, like me, remember when guys would drive their pickup trucks to high school with a gun sitting prominently on a rack placed squarely in the rear window. No one messed with it because you simply did not do such a thing. I attended five high schools from 1962-66, from Dallas, Texas, to Oslo, Norway, to New Milford, Connecticut, to Wellesley, Massachusetts, to (finally) Pacific Palisades, California. In all that time and in all those places, I never once heard of someone abusing or indiscriminately handling a gun on campus or anywhere else.

Do we need more gun control laws? How many are there anyway? Well, there are many gun control laws on the books at the federal, state and local levels. I’m not sure anyone really knows just how many there are. I have researched this question with little to show. It is safe to say there are hundreds of such laws all across the nation at every level – quite possibly in the thousands. The danger with more and more gun laws begs the question, “Where does it stop?”

When the Founding Fathers of our nation included the 2nd Amendment, it was not an afterthought. It was primary to the rights of all Americans to be able to defend themselves against a government that had overstepped its bounds. In Europe at that time in history, the masses of people were considered to be too dense to take on the responsibility of self-protection. A cursory review of European history will clearly reveal that monarchs and despotic leaders routinely trampled on the God-given rights of the people. James Madison and others understood this and did everything in their power to ensure that this new nation, the United States of America, would not make the same mistakes many of our Founders had experienced in Europe prior to immigrating to America.

Governor Matt Bevin of Kentucky wrote in a Tweet following the horrific Las Vegas massacre, “To all those political opportunists who are seizing on the tragedy in Las Vegas to call for more gun regs . . . You can’t regulate evil . . .”

The Governor is absolutely correct. The human race is in a fallen condition. We obviously cannot fix ourselves or we would have done so by now. As a follower of Jesus, I believe in his sacrificial death on the cross to save me (and you) from a life that, left unchecked, is fully capable of committing the worst deeds imaginable.

The current death toll from January 1, 2017 to October 16, 2017 states that there were 9,067 people “murdered by gun” thus far. That’s a lot of people, equivalent to half the population of Ripon, my home town. But how does this number compare to other deaths? Well, so far this year 26,673 people were killed by drunk driving. Another 33,746 were killed by suicide. How about the flu/pneumonia? 43,572. Here’s a kicker: Hospital Associated Infection has left 78,107 dead. This next one will make you squirm. Medical errors: 198,387. And that’s only sixth on the overall list. Number five is Obesity with 242,211. Number four is Tobacco with 276,137. Number three is Cancer with 466,829. Number two is Heart Disease with 484,700. And the number one cause of death in America for the past 44 years is Abortion with 861,561. What? No outrage?

With a population of 319 million people in America as of 2016, and 9,067 deaths by gun (which includes roughly 2/3rds in self-defense, equivalent to 6,000 deaths), then deaths by gun equates to 0.00002842 percent of the population, or 25 deaths a day in the U.S.A.

Make no mistake! Each death by gun is a tragic loss. But to listen to the gun control crowd you would think people were dropping like flies every day. That is often the perception of foreigners about America. And that’s a shame.

Duly trained and licensed gun owners are a deterrent to crime. In fact, they are a force multiplier for law enforcement. Bad guys do not want to have someone shooting back when they are committing their crimes.

A well-armed society is a safe society. Our Founding Father’s knew this. That’s why they wrote the 2nd Amendment. And it is the 1st Amendment: freedom of religion, speech, assembly and the press, that is protected by the 2nd.  

Man, I love this country!

Monday, October 09, 2017

A Look at the 2nd Amendment

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
9 October 2017

A Look at the 2nd Amendment

Once again, our nation has been rocked and shocked by the utterly senseless killing of concert attendees at a live country and western shindig last weekend. Such villainy should cause every American to pause and ask how it is that our nation has arrived at a point where wanton killing is reluctantly embraced as the norm.

A brief, succinct answer would be centered around the devaluing of life – human life in particular. Make no mistake! We have become numb to the gruesome reality of a million babies aborted in the United States every year. You can bet we have lost the key ingredient in valuing human life. That key ingredient is that God is the Creator of all life.

If we fall into the trap of excluding God from our appreciation of life, then we will, by default, have a view of life that is less than the view that God holds. Thus, we proceed on the slippery slope of man’s degenerating opinion of life, and our inability to see some life as worthy, and other life as unworthy, or even unnecessary or inconvenient.  

If there is one conclusion that is easily drawn from the most cursory of analyses concerning the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, it is that God is supreme, and all human life is precious. The authors of the Constitution intended it to be clear from the outset, despite the practice of slavery at the time of the formation of the nation.

The 2nd Amendment is a lightning rod issue, causing debate from kitchen tables to the Supreme Court, running the emotional gamut often with a ferocious intensity.

So, why did the Founding Fathers make this 2nd Amendment? Quite simply, to put into the hands of these new American citizens in the 1780s the awesome responsibility of governing themselves by creating a government that was answerable to “We the People”, and not the other way around.

Those British subjects who inhabited the New World known as America, felt the ever-oppressive hand of the entrenched monarchy thousands of miles across the Atlantic, treating these colonists as vassals who were not worthy of plotting the course of their own lives without the heavy-handed dictatorial rule of a king or queen. It was considered an absurdity to allow people to self-govern. Such umbrage! Such cheekiness!

If this new nation was to survive to rule itself, free from the dictates of British oversight and control, then all Americans would need to be able to band together to resist by force, if necessary, the unwelcomed imposition of an overbearing government, whether it came from across the sea, or was home-grown right here in America.

What exactly does the 2nd Amendment say? “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

What is “a well regulated militia”? There are three definitions in the dictionary. 1. It is “an army composed of ordinary citizens rather than professional soldiers.” 2. It is “a military force that is not part of a regular army and is subject to call for service in an emergency.” 3. It is “the whole body of physically fit civilians eligible by law for military service.”

Now, the militia is meant to be used in order to secure that the State (Nation, if you will) is kept free from enemies, both foreign and domestic. A people desiring to be free must be willing to defend that freedom. Why? Because, as history has abundantly proven, there is always someone, or some other nation that wants to take away your freedom.

So, how do we keep this free State free, safe and secure? By giving the people of that State the right to keep and bear arms. Simply put, as a freedom-loving American, I have every right, as provided by the Constitution and through common sense, to keep and bear arms. If there are bad people seeking to enslave me by removing the primary means to fight back against a tyrant or tyrannical government, then I will fight them.

Finally, what does “shall not be infringed” mean? Once again, the dictionary definition of infringe makes it pretty clear. Infringe means “to transgress or exceed the limits of; to violate; to defeat, or invalidate; to encroach on someone or something.”

The 2nd Amendment says nothing about people having the right to own a gun for hunting or sport shooting. It is all about defending yourself and your family in concert with other Americans who may feel they are threatened, or are in reality threatened, by using a weapon to protect life and liberty.

And isn’t it interesting that the 2nd Amendment does not mention guns, but instead mentions “arms”? Guns, in one fashion or another, have been around this old world for 700 years.

Next week I will continue on this topic and how the argument for further gun control is nothing more than smoke and mirrors. The real issue is not the physical presence of guns and the specious arguments calling for stricter laws. The issue is evil in the hearts of some people who want to kill other people by whatever means possible.