Marines.Together We Served

Monday, January 30, 2017

Agreeing to Disagree

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
30 January 2017

Agreeing to Disagree

                When I was a kid, my parents had very close friends that they played bridge with either in our home or theirs a couple of times a month. Pop and Ted played golf regularly as well. I learned a great lesson in life from watching these four friends interact with each other. I am in their debt.

          The lesson I learned is that folks who are the best of friends can vehemently disagree and not have it adversely affect their friendship. My step father (Pop) was a classic New England Democrat. Don’t confuse the Democrats of today with the Democrats from the 1950s. In fact, today’s Democrats have shifted so far to the left that they have embraced socialism over a democratic republic. Pop was a strong patriot who at age 31 enlisted in the Marine Corps during WWII. When it came to social issues, Pop tended to lean more to the left. My mother was the same even though she was born and raised in Texas. Their friends were also Democrats but much more liberal in their views across the board. When it came to child discipline, they were miles apart. My folks practiced “old school” discipline, whereas their friends had bought into Dr. Benjamin Spock’s philosophy.

          I remember hearing them have heated discussions about this policy, or that Supreme Court decision quite frequently. Yet at the end of the evening, they remained the best of friends. This made a big impact on me. The more I thought about it, the more it made sense to me that you could have differences of opinion and remain friends.

          As I moved from childhood to being an adult my world views were growing apart from my parents. We returned from three years in Europe in 1963, just a few months from the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. That singular tragedy affected me and my generation that simply has no comparison, even 9/11. I was drawn more toward conservative thinking by life events; not any one person. Pop, mom and I would periodically have heated debates        over a myriad of things. Even though we rarely came to an agreement, whenever the conversation ended, or mom had dinner ready, it was over. We loved each other and nothing was going to get in the way of that. When Pop passed away in 1992, Ted’s son, Steve, flew from his home in Connecticut to attend the funeral in Fresno, California. In turn, when Ted passed away many years later, sister Joy and I traveled to New Jersey to pay our respects. A few years ago my mother passed away. Steve again made the journey west to attend the funeral. We were all friends and we loved each other.

          Today is a far cry from what I experienced growing up. The pervading attitude seems to be, “If you don’t agree with me, then you’re my enemy!” How did we descend into this type of thinking?

          Watching the news on TV this past week has been somewhat unnerving. Groups who are opposed to the Trump Administration are marching in protest carrying signs and placards spewing the vilest and most vulgar of words. The speakers commandeering the microphone were impossibly mendacious, revealing a hatred for anyone who did not agree with them that bordered on mental derangement. Then there was the school teacher who, in front of her students, took a water gun and squirted it at an image of President Trump flashed on the chalk board, screaming “Die! Die!”

          And what of the mentally retarded young man accosted by some black thugs who terrorized him simply for being a Trump supporter, all the while recording the event and posting it on the Internet. These are not isolated incidents. A cursory glance at the news is quite telling with terrible stories of hatred and violence.

          We need to be very careful of such activity. In 1930s Germany, the problems and failures of the nation, following a humiliating defeat in WWI and a plummeting economy, were laid on the backs of specific people groups. Jews were an early target, with gypsies, mongoloids, and any other easy target added to the list. People who once had been neighbors, now were enemies, all occurring virtually overnight. You don’t think it could happen here in America? Think again! When people become fearful, a target, an enemy, is easy to create and blame. The history of the world is replete with such heinous activity when people are frightened.

          Are Americans fearful today? You bet they are! One of the easiest ways to determine this is the sale of firearms. Personal safety, and the safety of one’s family, has caused countless citizens of all races and backgrounds to apply for a CCW (Carry Concealed Weapon) license. There is an ever-growing mistrust of our neighbor. And residents know the police cannot always respond quickly enough to prevent criminal activity. Cities and counties across America are terribly backlogged in processing the voluminous surge in requests for CCWs.

          The arguments and debates of yesteryear seem as nothing compared to what we are facing in the world today. Can we as Americans trust each other again even if we don’t agree on everything? I sure hope so.

          I’m reminded that Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” But did he mean for us to love only those who agreed with us? No, this is not what he meant. What does “love your neighbor” mean? The challenge to each of us is, “Am I willing to live God’s way?” Well, are you?

Monday, January 23, 2017

The Mattis Model of Leadership

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
23 January 2017

The Mattis Model of Leadership

          The first person to be approved in President Trump’s administration is the cabinet position of Secretary of Defense. To better understand the value and function of the Department of Defense, we need to go back to the years immediately following World War II. Up to that time, presidents were advised about the matters of war by the Secretary of War who had oversight of the War Department. It was done this way for 200 years, and it pertained to use of the Army. The Navy, the Coast Guard and the Marine Corps were not included. The Air Force was not yet established.

          During WWII, the War Department was divided into three groups: the Army Ground Forces; the Army Air Forces; and the Services of Supply (later renamed the Army Service Forces). After the War, the Department of Defense was created to include all the branches of service, creating the Department of the Navy, the Department of the Air Force, causing the War Department to be abandoned and reinvented as the Department of the Army. As for the Marine Corps and Coast Guard, they are generally placed under the Department of the Navy structurally, though the Coast Guard is bounced around at times.

          Retired Marine Corps General Jim Mattis is the new Secretary of Defense. General Mattis has a moniker that, no doubt, is causing some folks to squirm. The General is better known to his Marines as, “Mad Dog” Mattis. Mattis was retired early by President Obama three years ago. President Trump has chosen him to be on his cabinet, requiring an exemption from the seven-year minimum authorized by Congress once released from the military.

          There are Americans who are troubled that a man like Mattis is in charge of our nation’s defense simply because he is career military, is a Marine (Gasp!), and is called Mad Dog. Personally, I like him for all three of those reasons. He’s a leader, and he takes care of his Marines.

          In 2002, I was called up from the Reserve to serve in the Iraq War. I was the Deputy Command Chaplain for the I MEF (I Marine Expeditionary Force) at Camp Pendleton. Part of the I MEF is the 1st Marine Division, which Mattis commanded at the start of the Iraq War. Though I never met the General, there were plenty of stories about him making the rounds.

          Allow me to share two stories that exemplify Jim “Mad Dog” Mattis, our new Defense Secretary.

          The first story was told by General Charles Krulak (Ret), former Commandant of the Marine Corps.

          “Let me tell you a Jim Mattis story,” General Krulak said. When he was Commandant of the Marine Corps, every year, starting about a week before Christmas, he and his wife would bake hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of Christmas cookies. They would package them in small bundles.

Then on Christmas day, he would load his vehicle. At about 4 a.m., General Krulak would drive himself to every Marine guard post in the Washington-Annapolis-Baltimore area and deliver a small package of Christmas cookies to whatever Marines were pulling guard duty that day. He said that one year, he had gone down to Quantico as one of his stops to deliver Christmas cookies to the Marines on guard duty. He went to the command center and gave a package to the lance corporal who was on duty.

He asked, “Who’s the officer of the day?” The lance corporal said, “Sir, it’s Brigadier General Mattis.” And General Krulak said, “No, no, no. I know who General Mattis is. I mean, who’s the officer of the day today, Christmas day?” The lance corporal, feeling a little anxious, said, “Sir, it is Brigadier General Mattis.”

General Krulak said that, about that time, he spotted in the back room a cot, or a daybed. He said, “No, Lance Corporal. Who slept in that bed last night?” The lance corporal said, “Sir, it was Brigadier General Mattis.”

About that time, General Krulak said that General Mattis came in, in a duty uniform with a sword, and General Krulak said, “Jim, what are you doing here on Christmas day? Why do you have duty?” General Mattis told him that the young officer who was scheduled to have duty on Christmas day had a family, and General Mattis decided it was better for the young officer to spend Christmas Day with his family, and so he chose to have duty on Christmas Day.

General Krulak said, “That’s the kind of officer that Jim Mattis is.”

          The second story is a letter General Mattis just wrote to the men and women in the Defense Department.

          “It’s good to be back and I’m grateful to serve alongside you as Secretary of Defense.

Together with the Intelligence Community we are the sentinels and guardians of our nation. We need only look to you, the uniformed and civilian members of the Department and your families, to see the fundamental unity of our country. You represent an America committed to the common good; an America that is never complacent about defending its freedoms; and an America that remains a steady beacon of hope for all mankind.

Every action we take will be designed to ensure our military is ready to fight today and in the future. Recognizing that no nation is secure without friends, we will work with the State Department to strengthen our alliances. Further, we are devoted to gaining full value from every taxpayer dollar spent on defense, thereby earning the trust of Congress and the American people.

I am confident you will do your part. I pledge to you I’ll do my best as your Secretary.


          Folks, rest assured, the Department of Defense is in the hands of a man who is strong, capable and committed.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Day of Celebration

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
16 January 2017

Day of Celebration

          Regardless of where you fall out in the political machinations of our nation’s exercise of Constitutional privileges, January 20th every four years is a time to celebrate!

          There is a plethora of reasons why a voter may not like a particular candidate. Or in the case of the most recent presidential election, the voter may not have liked either of the major party candidates all that much. But the election is over. The clear winner is Donald J. Trump, and he will be inaugurated this Friday as our 45th President. This is as it should be. If Hillary R. Clinton had won, I would say the same thing. At this point, whether my candidate won or lost becomes moot.

          It is ridiculous for liberals and Democrats to refuse to attend this peaceful, time-honored transition of power. Such petulance belittles the blood-bought right of every American voter. Our rights as outlined in the Constitution are provided by both God and man. I think of all the young men and women who have given their lives in service to our country, sacrificing the last full measure of devotion in some far-off village you and I are likely incapable of pronouncing. It has been my solemn honor and privilege to have laid a number of these patriots to rest. These are the eighteen, nineteen, and twenty-year-old’s who would have loved to have returned home to their families and continued to participate in the cherished freedoms we celebrate as Americans. But such was not the case for them. It falls upon us to carry the torch of freedom by exercising our blessed rights. By so doing we honor the memory of these brave warriors.

          Let me further say that if I were the one directing the Inauguration Day events, Hollywood’s elite would be waiting a very long time for an invitation to perform. There are a few who are honorable, but most of the rest can sit around their multi-million dollar mansions in Beverly Hills sipping lattes, and having their personal chefs prepare them their favorite comfort foods. In the meantime, the rest of America will celebrate this special day, and then get back to work!

          Instead, if I were directing the Inauguration Day events, I would search far and wide across the fruited plain for the latent talent that resides in every town and berg in these 50 states. I would invite folks who have a special talent, but more importantly, I would invite those who love America.

I was delighted to see that one of the first people invited to perform was Jackie Evancho. This 16-year-old classical vocalist performed on America’s Got Talent (AGT) when she was 11 and absolutely blew everyone away. She finished in 2nd place, but her career took off. She has recorded several albums and is in constant demand. When the Trump Team asked her to perform, she agreed right away. This immediately put her in the cross-hairs of the liberals who hate Trump. They ridiculed Jackie because she didn’t come in 1st place on AGT. They said Trump was using wanna-be performers. I had to laugh. If you’ve ever heard her sing you know what I’m talking about. Her voice and talent are heavenly. Plus, after she was denigrated by the media, her record/CD sales went through the roof! I love Americans!

          The primary reason we as Americans should be celebrating the inauguration is it marks us as a people who recognize and respect the Rule of Law and that we play by the rules. I believe the Founding Fathers had this in mind when they crafted our Declaration of Independence, The Bill of Rights, and the Constitution. I yet marvel at the prescience of these patriots who dreamed of a land where power was in the hands of the people. Nowhere else did such a country or nation exist at that time, and that enjoyed such an abundance of freedom. It was just such freedoms that caused the Founders to wonder if the United States would survive. When a lady approached Benjamin Franklin after the Constitutional Convention had agreed on the Constitution, she asked him, “What sort of government are we to have, Mr. Franklin?” His reply: “A republic, madam, if you can keep it.”

          Throughout human history peaceful transitions of power is virtually unheard of. Kings, monarchs, despots, potentates, emperors, sovereigns, dictators and the like used the power of their position to rule and keep order. Nothing like the United States with its power vested in the people, has ever occurred before. Those who ruled in other nations typically viewed the people they governed as “unwashed rabble.” Many of the Founding Fathers were men of strong Christian faith. Others at least respected the those of Christian character. This is why the precious documents of our nation focus on a strong belief in God, and particularly the God of the Bible. A study of the Constitution will quickly reveal that such a document of law only works with a people who acknowledge the Divine.

          It falls upon us, then, to do everything in our power to preserve our freedoms and our way of life.

          Every military person, and every elected official takes an oath swearing (or promising) to protect and defend the Constitution against anyone who would attempt to destroy it.

          My prayer is that God will continue to raise up patriots who will serve Him and us.

          Fly your American flag proudly! And may God bless America!

Monday, January 09, 2017

It's My Stuff

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
9 January 2017

It’s My Stuff

          Sitting in my man cave, aka the loft, I grow increasingly more concerned about my stuff. You ask, “What stuff are you talking about?” Well, in answer to that staged question: Everything!

          At age 68 many of you will say something like, “You’re still a baby!” Compared to some of you, that is true. But, the reality of the situation is I have far more years of life behind me at this point than I do in front of me. This always gets me thinking: What about all my stuff?

          “Stuff” is a euphemism for all those things that are mine which I have acquired during my lifetime. Very little of it has any value in dollars and cents. In fact, most of it is sentimental at best, and easily disposed of. And, to be perfectly honest, I’m an inveterate saver. It is hard for me to get rid of anything. Even old tennis shoes.

          As I reflect on my stuff, I envision the day when I leave this world behind and step into heaven, only to be confronted by a sober-faced Saint Peter, wagging his head from side-to-side, tsk-tsking me in that classic parental look of disapproval. “Look what you’ve done!” he says to me. “You have left all your stuff for your wife and kids to dispose of. What do you think they will do with it? Is this how you want them to remember you?” I stand there duly chastised without a word offered in my defense. I’ve known for a number of years that I should have taken care of all of my stuff by disposing of it in an orderly manner. But, as yet, I haven’t.

          Think about it! I may not want to part with my stuff just yet, but I do have it on very good authority that I will not make it out of this life alive! This means that if I don’t divest myself of my accumulated stuff, someone will have to do it.

          For instance, my clothes closet. Mine is small by comparison to my wife, but even at that, I have way more clothing draped on hangers than I could ever need in my remaining time on earth. I must have 25-30 golf shirts hanging up. And nearly that many dress shirts mixed with other types of shirts that are not golf shirts. Then there are the slacks neatly hanging awaiting my use of them. But since I am retired, my normal attire each day is either a golf shirt and shorts, or blue jeans and a T-shirt. I still have several suits waiting for Sunday church, but otherwise, they just hang. And neck ties. Lots of neck ties.

          Then there’s the clothing that is special. What I mean by special is clothing that falls into the category of military uniforms. I enlisted in the Marine Corps 48 years ago. I still have those uniforms – even my camouflaged uniform from Vietnam! Later as a naval officer, I accumulated yet more uniforms, retiring in 2008 with 34 years of service. Once or twice a year I may wear one of my uniforms for a military event. I even have a flack jacket, “deuce gear”, helmet, and back pack, plus other paraphernalia that is no longer used because it has all been replaced in the military supply system.

          I also have costumes and dress outfits hanging in the guest closet that are part of my involvement in singing in two barbershop choruses. The white tuxedo jacket looks great on stage under the klieg lights, but where else would you wear it? Or a costume depicting a peon or esne from the Middle Ages. It fits the part when everyone else in the chorus is dressed in period costuming, but otherwise, it looks stupid. Well, maybe I’d fit in in certain parts of San Francisco!

          I have so much other stuff! For instance, my collection of books. As a minister, I have a wide variety of religious themed works that can all be found on the Internet now. Even I use my iPad Bible app in church! That’s nearly enough for me to be declared an apostate! I have a vast number of books on the American Civil War. I love my books! But I don’t need them so much anymore, even though I still try to convince myself otherwise.

          Then there’s my lifelong collection of coffee mugs acquired from traveling around the world. Who wants this? And my pile of military “challenge” coins. These are really cool, but may mean absolutely nothing to anyone else. A number of these coins were given to me by high ranking officers (generals and admirals) and various government officials whom I have served with or met, along with challenge coins others have graciously given to me from all ranks throughout my time in the military. Each has a story that resonates with a time and place in my life. Oh, and T-shirts. Man, do I have T-shirts!

          Ah! How could I forget the stuff on my “I love me” wall! Certificates, awards, plaques, academic accomplishments, special photos, a shadow box, etc. Those of us in the military jokingly refer to these personal items as the “I love me” wall. Perhaps a few of these things will be saved by family members. Perhaps.

          But the pièce de résistance would have to be my exercise equipment. I have hundreds of pounds of barbells, dumbbells and other devices for bodily torture sitting in my personal gym, otherwise known as the garage. There’s the punching bag, the jogging machine, the Roman Chair, the bench press and leg-lift equipment. I figure all this will probably disappear in a garage sale.

          In reflection, it’s all just stuff. But it’s my stuff. At least for now.

          But I really should begin getting rid of a lot of this stuff. After all, I want my wife, children and grandchildren to have fond memories of me when I’m gone. For them to have to help truck a bunch of stuff out of the house may tarnish my image a bit.

          Being a life-long procrastinator, I’ll start on getting rid of my stuff next week!

Monday, January 02, 2017

Victories and Defeats

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
2 January 2017

Victories and Defeats

Looking back on the year 2016, several events jump out at me in the way of victories and defeats, or wins and losses, however you prefer to label these things. Like so many of you, I love to root for the underdog. We do that as Americans.

To begin with, a classic Super Bowl took place between the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos last February. You have Cam Newton, the young potential superstar quarterback for the Panthers going up against the aging Peyton Manning, the quarterback for the Broncos who is retiring at age 39 whether they win or not. Clearly a Football Hall of Fame candidate, Peyton is considered to be one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. His father, Archie Manning, was also a pro quarterback, but never won a Super Bowl. Peyton’s younger brother, Eli Manning, is a two-time Super Bowl champion quarterback with the New York Giants. Until the 2016 Super Bowl, older brother Peyton had only one Super Bowl victory. No one really expected the Broncos to make it to Super Bowl L (50) with a somewhat battered quarterback who was finishing his 18-year pro career, hoping for one last victory. The oddsmakers all had the upstart Cam Newton and the Panthers rolling over the Broncos with what everyone believed would be the first of many Super Bowl victories for Cam. One problem in all of this: Someone forgot to tell the Broncos! Instead, the Broncos came out and outplayed the Panthers, sacking and chasing a hapless Cam Newton repeatedly, finishing with a score of 24-10. What a great way to end a career!

Second on my list, which is chronological, would be the Golden State Warriors of the NBA (National Basketball Association). As reigning champs from 2015, the Warriors went on a tear in 2016, setting a new record for the most wins in a regular season. They won 73 of their 82 games. On top of that, superstar and 2-time MVP Steph Curry, set a ridiculous record for the most 3-point shots made in the season, finishing with 402! In the finals, they were up against Lebron James and the Cavaliers for the national championship. The Warriors went up 3 games to 1 in the best of seven. But the Warriors simply ran out of gas, losing their final three games, which gave the Cavaliers the championship. But the Warriors are at it again. Their record of wins and loses is the same as it was this time last year. Can they win the championship this year? Many are doubting they can do it. Just don’t tell the Warriors!

My third selection comes in the arena of Olympic swimming. This past summer we witnessed yet again, another awesome display of swimming prowess by none other than the force of nature known as Michael Phelps. After the Summer Games four years ago in London, Phelps declared he was done swimming in Olympic competition. But with the Rio Olympics in 2016, he just couldn’t pass up the challenge. And at 31, with his fourth Olympics in his cross-hairs, he believed he still had more medals to win. Many had already written him off, saying his best days were behind him. After all, competitive swimming was for those in their teens and early 20s. Someone forgot to tell Michael. Six more medals, as it turns out, with five gold and one silver. He is the most decorated athlete in Olympic history with a total of 28. Of that number, 23 are gold. We were privileged to witness athletic greatness. You may never see the like again.

Then there are the perennial losers, baseball’s Chicago Cubs. The Cubs last won the World Series in 1907, and again in 1908. The drought lasted 108 years. Baseball teams play 162 games in a season. To win anything close to 100 games is considered a phenomenal achievement. The Cubs racked up 103 wins in 2016. But could they win the World Series? Or would they choke, or have something weird happen so that they would lose again? The “Cub Faithful” held their collective breath. No one thought they would actually win. But no one told the Cubs. They then entered the playoffs, defeating all comers. All-around utility player, Ben Zobrist, was picked up by the Cubs at the end of the 2015 season. Zobrist had previously been with the Kansas City Royals when they won the World Series in 2015. He was also chosen as the World Series MVP that year. His contract was up, so the Cubs nabbed him. The 2016 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians was a barn-burner, and the greatest World Series I’ve ever witnessed. It went all the way to the seventh game, but the kicker was the Cubs, down 3 games to 2, had to win the final two games in Cleveland to win the Series. Adding to the tension and the drama, the Cubs got a bunch of runs early, making it appear like a runaway win. The Indians weren’t willing to go away quietly, tying the score in the ninth inning, sending the game into “extra innings”. In the top of the 10th inning Zobrist drove in the go-ahead run. They added one more run for insurance, which was fortuitous since the Indians scored a run in the bottom of the 10th inning, falling one run short of tying the game again. The Cubs are World Series Champs after 108 years! And the MVP? Again, Ben Zobrist. Two years in a row, with two different teams. Incredible!

My final selection for victories and defeats goes to President-elect Donald Trump. This brash, arrogant, self-aggrandized billionaire had no chance of becoming the Republican nominee for President of the United States, let alone actually winning the race to the White House. Out of 17 Republicans vying for their party’s endorsement, the most unlikely of the wannabes was Trump. Despite his ill-advised and rude remarks aimed at anyone who opposed him, he survived to become the nominee. Of course, he was never going to win the presidency, because Hillary already had that locked up, right? That’s what everybody said! Somebody forgot to tell Trump. His victory over Hillary Clinton was stunning, to say the least. His final Electoral College vote count was 304, easily eclipsing the 270 needed to win. And he will be our 45th President in three weeks!

So, what are the impossible/improbable odds you’re facing this year? Too hard, is it? No chance, they say? I’ll bet someone forgot to tell you!