Marines.Together We Served

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A Soldier's Reflections

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
29 MAY 2017

A Soldier’s Reflections

          Memorial Day is now passed. As Americans, we celebrate this special day each May acknowledging the sacrifice of patriots who placed their lives in harm’s way so you and I could live in peace and freedom.

          So, all of this attention on the price of freedom and the visit to a special Memorial Day service at a local cemetery got me to thinking. Browsing through my shelves of books on the Civil War, I ran across one particular volume about Charles W. Sherman, a soldier with the 12th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry. The book is the compilation of letters (160 in all) that Private Sherman wrote home to his wife, Virtue, during his two years of military service. Entitled, Letters to Virtue, the book is subtitled, A Civil War Journey of Courage, Faith, and Love.

          Charles Sherman is truly and American story! He was born in England in 1828, immigrating to the United States in 1838 with his family. In 1848, Charles married Virtue James, also an immigrant from England. They had five children. He seems to have been something of a Jack-of-all-trades, working first as a harness maker in Connecticut as recorded in the census of 1850, then as a carpenter in Webster, Massachusetts in the census of 1860.

          The Civil War began in 1861, requiring men to leave their families and their vocations to serve their country in order to preserve the Union. In January of 1862, at age 33, Charles Sherman enlisted in the 12th Connecticut. He must not have had much of an education as his letters reflect poor spelling and grammar usage. However, his ability to express what was important to him comes through with clarity. You see, “Charles enlisted because of his strong belief in the principles of his adopted country as well as his firm opposition to slavery.”

          It is a fascinating journey to catch glimpses of a soldier’s life during the most arduous of wartime challenges. His unit left Connecticut, traveling to Louisiana, then to Virginia, before finally returning to Connecticut at war’s end. He is quick to express his love for his wife and five children in each of his many letters. His graphic descriptions of combat and its horrors are not enjoyable reading, but he is frank and honest in his assessment of their conditions and the combat they are frequently engaged in.

          In his last letter home, dated October 15, 1864, Cedar Creek, Virginia (The Battle of Cedar Creek), he shares a thought that must have been troubling him for quite some time. Describing preparations for battle, he writes, “It is not fear, but a sad feeling when you see the skirmishers deploy into line, and the regiments unfold themselves into a line of battle.” He further describes the cacophony of battle. “When the thunder of the artillery comes upon you, you forget everything else and look out for the shells that come screaming toward you, not that you can dodge anything, but you want to see where they are coming from.”

          He conveys the relief in returning to camp, saying, “A man feels better in going away from danger than in going to it.” I can vouch for that!

          But it was this expressed thought that captured my attention, and his reluctant acceptance of war’s horrific devastation, regardless of who wins and who loses. He wrote, “I do wish this cruel war would come to an end, for this going about to kill one another has an unchristian look to me, when you come to look at it in that light, but it has to be done, I suppose.”

          On October 23, 1864, Sergeant Edward S. Larkum wrote a letter to Charles’ father. “Dear Sir, It devolves on me as a tentmate of your son to line (write) the sad news of his death, which occurred in terrible battle of the 19th of the present month. As a soldier, he was much respected. He was courteous alike to everyone and there was not a man in his regiment who did not respect him. He was killed in the foremost rank, bravely fighting for his country which he thought so much of. . . . Any information that I can give will be gladly attended to, and if I can be of any benefit to you in any other way, willingly will my services be offered and gladly will I pay the last tribute to him who was so brave and so kind.”

          Corporal Charles Sherman joined the ranks of the fallen, but whose shed blood has helped to insure a future for all Americans, whether native born, or naturalized citizen.

          God bless America!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

My President

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
22 MAY 2017

My President

On January 20 of this year, Donald John Trump became the 45th President of the United States. This is not news, I know, but the way some folks are behaving, you’d think it was.

President Trump may not have been your choice for president. He may not be in your political party. Heck, he wasn’t my choice either. As a Conservative, I was definitely voting for a Republican. But of the seventeen candidates who threw their hats in the ring to be the Republican nominee, Mr. Trump was number seventeen for me. As I felt then, and still feel now, he is brash, arrogant, unduly critical of those who do not side with him, and generally boorish in his behavior. And, yes, I voted for him.

But, an election was held last November and Donald J. Trump won. He is now my president. Period.

Listen, I remember only too well watching the returns on TV in the 1992 election. I was stationed in Rota, Spain at that time. On Election Night Isaura and I decided to call it a night since we were many hours ahead of the polls closing in the States. We were hopeful that George H. W. Bush might pull off a victory and serve a second term. We were sorely disappointed to find out the next morning that William Jefferson Clinton was our new Commander in Chief. Same thing occurred with the election of Barack Hussain Obama. Did I throw a hissy fit and publicly declare that the new president was not my president? No! Of course not. To be honest, that thought never crossed my mind. In fact, such a thought to me is absurd.

We are Americans. Which means we are a free people. We enjoy liberties others around the world can’t even fathom. So as imperfect as we are, I still trust the system of government we have. This means in an open and free election I willingly accept the will of the American people in their choice for president, and most importantly, even if I disagree with the outcome.

As I watched the President make an historic speech in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia over the weekend, I got to thinking: “How is it that this man is honored by a foreign government that has been openly opposed to the freedoms and liberties enjoyed by all Americans?” This is, after all, the home of Islam. Saudi Arabia was home to 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11. If you watched the news about this trip at all, you saw how the Saud royal family received the President and his entourage, including a ravishing, eye-popping First Lady, Melania Trump. The royal carpet was literally rolled out to the stairway of Air Force One. King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud personally greeted President Trump as he deplaned, something he never did for President Obama. Later that evening at a royal dinner, the king presented President Trump with the highest civilian award known as the Collar of Abdulaziz al Saud medal.

Later in the evening, President Trump was asked to address the heads of state from some fifty different Islamic countries. Our president was absolutely brilliant! In a gracious and humble manner, he made it clear that neither he nor the American people had any interest in changing the culture and beliefs of the Saudi people. This is one of his opening statements, [America’s] vision is one of peace, security, and prosperity—in this region, and in the world. Our goal is a coalition of nations who share the aim of stamping out extremism and providing our children a hopeful future that does honour to God.” What he did say, and with a wonderful sense of historic and religious sensitivity, was that the Saudis, and all other Islamic nations, must drive out the terrorists in order for there to be peace.

I encourage every reader of my column to take the time to read the transcript of the President’s speech in Saudi Arabia. You can pull it up easily on the Internet. The speech was forceful, yet respectful. I will close with these remarks made by our President in his speech as he addressed the terrorist problem head-on.

“Every time a terrorist murders an innocent person, and falsely invokes the name of God, it should be an insult to every person of faith. Terrorists do not worship God, they worship death.

“If we do not act against this organised terror, then we know what will happen. Terrorism's devastation of life will continue to spread. Peaceful societies will become engulfed by violence. And the futures of many generations will be sadly squandered.

“If we do not stand in uniform condemnation of this killing – then not only will we be judged by our people, not only will we be judged by history, but we will be judged by God.

“This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects, or different civilisations. This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life, and decent people of all religions who seek to protect it. This is a battle between Good and Evil.”

Now THAT’S my President!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Value of a Smile

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
15 MAY 2017

The Value of a Smile

One of the things that makes us authentically human is a smile. A smile says so very much through that one simple act. And every single person needs this reminder every day.

A smile, as defined by Webster’s Dictionary, says the act of smiling is “to make the corners of the mouth turn up in an expression that shows happiness, amusement, pleasure, affection, etc. Also, to bestow approval; and to appear pleasant or agreeable.” Ah! But there is so much more to it than that.

With the giving of a smile, there is an approval that is transmitted from one person to the other. And only if for a brief moment, a slight nod of acceptance by the recipient of the initial smile, with a return smile, secures the transaction.

It is said that it takes fewer muscles to smile than to frown. Is it true? I checked it out on the Internet. Here’s what I found out on, Cecil’s Storehouse of Human Knowledge. Apparently, Cecil Adams contacted a doctor David H. Song, MD, FACS (Fellow of the American College of Surgeons), plastic surgeon and assistant professor at the University of Chicago Hospitals. Dr. Song, among other things, reconstructs faces.

Now, for your educational benefit, here are the findings presented by Dr. Song. The first listing is for the muscles involved in smiling. The second is for the muscles required in frowning, or what is also known as a scowl. This is fun!

Muscles involved in a "zygomatic" (i.e., genuine) smile:

Zygomaticus major and minor. These muscles pull up the corners of the mouth. They're bilateral (one set on either side of the face). Total number of muscles: 4.

Orbicularis oculi. One of these muscles encircles each eye and causes crinkling. Total: 2.

Levator labii superioris. Pulls up corner of lip and nose. Bilateral. Total: 2.

Levator anguli oris. Also helps elevate angle of mouth. Bilateral. Total: 2.

Risorius. Pulls corner of mouth to the side. Bilateral. Total: 2. Grand total for smiling: 12.

Principal muscles involved in a frown:

Orbicularis oculi (again). Total: 2.

Platysma. Pulls down lips and wrinkles skin of lower face. Bilateral (though joined at midline). Total: 2.

Corrugator supercilii (bilateral) and procerus (unilateral). Furrow brow. Total: 3.

Orbicularis oris. Encircles mouth; purses lips. Unilateral. Total: 1.

Mentalis. Depresses lower lip. Unilateral. Total: 1.

Depressor anguli oris. Pulls corner of mouth down. Bilateral. Total: 2. Grand total for frowning: 11.

“Despite the fact that smiling uses more muscles (12, to 11 in frowning), Dr. Song believes it takes less effort than frowning — people tend to smile more frequently, so the relevant muscles are in better shape. You may feel this conclusion assumes a rosier view of the human condition than the facts warrant, but I defer to the doctor. Incidentally, a superficial, homecoming-queen smile requires little more than the two risorius muscles. So, if your goal in expressing emotion is really to minimize effort, go for insincere.” (Cecil Adams)

I’m betting that as you read the list of muscles required for smiling and frowning you were attempting to try those muscles to see if this was true. Be honest! You really did move your mouth around, making your lips either curve up or down, right? I know I did!

I found this whole list amusing, if for no other reason than it should cause us all to recognize the importance of smiling every day. So, regardless of how many muscles it takes to produce that much pleasantness, make the effort. Lord knows, our world needs more genuine smiles!

Here are six direct benefits to smiling: 1. Lowers blood pressure, 2. Creates a better mood (especially for bad days), 3. Relieves stress, 4. Strengthens the immune system, 5. Lessons pain, and 6. Smiling is contagious.

Finally, take note of these three verses from the book of Proverbs: 1. A cheerful look brings joy to the heart (Prov 15:30), 2. A joyful heart is good medicine (Prov 17:22), and 3. A glad heart makes a happy face (Prov 15:13).

Or, as the old Merry Melodies cartoon and song said, “Smile, Darn ya, Smile!”

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

I'm Cleaning Up

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
08 MAY 2017

I’m Cleaning Up

Like many of you, I have an interest in many things, most of which have no resemblance to each other.

A few weeks ago, while working at my daughter’s store, Rustic Roots, in Turlock, a lady and her husband came in to shop. I began to chit-chat with them as I so often do with many of our customers, and discovered this lady makes her own soap. This immediately captured my attention, as I have had an interest in learning to make soap for the past several years. I’ve done a lot of study and research on soap-making over the Internet, but hadn’t met someone I could really learn from, and this lady seemed to be just what I was looking for.

We talked for a while, with me explaining why I wanted to learn to make soap. Since Jenny’s store is a small “mom & pop” operation, I have thought for some time that it would be fun to have special bars of soap for sale made with the Rustic Roots logo imprinted on each bar. Mary Anne offered to show me how! I jumped at the chance.

The date we set for making a batch of homemade soap was Monday, May 1st. I told Isaura about this opportunity and she thought it was great. But when she heard we were going to make it on Monday the 1st of May, she said, “Can I come? I’d love to learn!” I responded, “Of course!”

We met Mary Anne at the store at 8:30am on the appointed day. She brought all the physical items we would need along with some of the ingredients, and we brought all the rest of the necessary ingredients. We used a room in the back of the store that Jenny uses to hold her bi-monthly painting classes for those who want to learn how to paint furniture with the vintage/stressed looked that is so popular today.

So, with everything laid out, we began the process of making our very first batch of soap. First up on the things to do was mixing lye with oil. I have never worked with lye, but I know it can be very dangerous if mishandled. Once it is mixed with water it heats up to nearly a boiling temperature. The chemical reaction between the lye and water is instantaneous, but before using it with any other ingredients, it must be allowed to cool down to 100 degrees which takes about an hour.

My one and only experience with lye was while I was in the Marine Corps. It was 1972, and I was assigned to an EA6A squadron at Cubi Point in the Philippines. Subic Bay Naval Base was next door to Cubi Point. Subic had a football team which I played for. It was made up of sailors and Marines. We played against Air Force teams from Clark Air Force Base (the Philippines), and also against Yokosuka Naval Base, and Yokota Air Force Base, both in Japan. One of the teams we played had just lined their field in the white chalk you typically see on football fields everywhere. But there was one problem! The groundskeepers accidentally used bags of lye, believing it to be chalk. As the game was played more and more of the players were complaining about a burning sensation under their pads. As the chalk was rubbed into uniforms and skin, it was mixed with sweaty bodies creating the right conditions for some serious burns. It was so severe that a number of our black teammates had large swatches of skin burned so brutally that the black pigmentation was gone, leaving the pinkest pink skin you’ll ever see. I don’t know if their coloring ever returned in those areas, but I learned then and there to be very careful with lye!

Back to the soap. The next step was to mix the oils and bring this to a boil. This too, would be allowed to cool to 100 degrees. Once these two “hot” items had cooled sufficiently, they were mixed with an electric hand-mixer, bringing the lye/oil mixture to the consistency of pudding. The process from that point is fairly simple and straight forward. We set out the soap molds to receive the mixture, but first we had to measure in separate bowls the amount of the soap mix needed to fill the molds to be used. Since I was experimenting, I wanted to make three different “loaves” of soap with different fragrances. To accomplish this, you would add your fragrances, thoroughly stirring this into the batter. We, of course, made one with a lemon fragrance, which was Isaura’s choice. The other two loaves were my choice. One was cinnamon, and the other was Pappy’s Lemon Spice. I have wanted to make soap that has an aroma that men would like. In other words: Manly Soap! If I can figure out how to make fragrances of Engine Oil, or Gun Powder, or even Old Baseball Gloves, I’ll be happy! My neighbor, Dave, has already said he wants one of the Pappy’s bars!

The three loaves are now cut into bars and setting for four weeks to “cure.” That is, they harden, and therefore are less likely to dissolve quickly.

Oh, yeah! Almost forgot. I ordered a special mold which was shipped from Poland. In every detail, it’s cast in the shape of a Hand Grenade! Is that beautiful, or what! I’m going to have to create a camouflage color for this soap, then add to it the Gun Powder fragrance.

I think I’ll name it, Savon de Grenade! (French for “Soap Grenade”). That would be the bomb!

Monday, May 01, 2017

That Little White Ball

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
01 MAY 2017

That Little White Ball

               Ever since my step father introduced me to the game of golf at the age of ten, I have found myself seduced by this benign game. Ah! But therein lies the problem! This so-called “Gentlemen’s Game” is the very definition of deception and treachery. This game, in all its apparent innocence, is alluring, shamelessly humiliating the strongest of men.

          I know that golf is just as infectious to women as it is to men. One of the greatest women golfers ever to play the game was Babe Didrikson Zaharias. This lady was a world class athlete and Olympic star, winning two gold medals (80 meter hurdles, and the Javelin throw) and one silver (high jump) in track and field during the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles. Her talents were endless. She was an All-American in basketball. She also played organized baseball and softball, and was an expert diver, roller-skater, and bowler. She was voted “Female Athlete of the Year” by the Associated Press six times from 1932 to 1954. She may well have won it more times had she not developed colon cancer. Despite this debilitating illness, she continued to play golf. A month after surgery and wearing a colostomy bag, she won her 10th and final major championship. She was a founding member of the LPGA (Ladies Professional Golf Association).

          Some of the quotes by Babe Zaharias shed light on her view of golf. “That little white ball won’t move until you hit it, and there’s nothing you can do after it has gone.” How true. “Golf is a game of coordination, rhythm, and grace; women have these to a high degree.” No argument from me. Men, with a golf club in hand, often look like Neanderthals attempting to kill their dinner! “Practice, which some regard as a chore, should be approached as just about the most pleasant recreation ever devised.” I must admit, I much prefer to play than endlessly hit practice shots on the range. “It’s not just enough to swing at the ball. You’ve got to loosen your girdle and really let the ball have it.” I had to chuckle at this one! And this last quote sums up the effect golf has on so many of us. “I played many sports, but when that golf bug hit me, it was permanent.”

          So, two weeks ago my brother, John, made his way to California from his home in Virginia to join me in playing golf for seven days. Even though he is 73 and I am 68, there are not enough hours in the day to play too much golf. In our lexicon of golfing vernacular, there is no such thing as “too much golf.”

          I picked John up at the Oakland International Airport on Tuesday evening. Wednesday morning we were teeing it up at 7:30 with my golfing buddies at Spring Creek. After that round we had lunch before our next round, which was the “After Taxes Tournament.” The next morning we joined our friend and fellow golf enthusiast, Hank, at the Turlock G&CC for two more rounds. Then on Friday John and I played with my buddies again to start the day, followed by two more rounds to close out a 54 hole day. On Saturday we played one round in the morning. There was a family wedding down in the Fresno area late that afternoon so we weren’t able to tee it up again until early Sunday afternoon where we were joined by Hank, and our cousin Jimmy Lake, who drove down from his home in Nampa, Idaho to join us. He’s still a heck of a good player at 79! On Monday, John, Jimmy and I drove to Fresno to play a round with our nephew, Ryan, at the Riverside Golf Course. In the afternoon, we drove to Chowchilla where we played another round at the Pheasant Run Golf Course. I wrote an article about this course when I was doing some free-lance writing for a golf magazine about twenty years ago right after the course opened.

          On Tuesday, our last day before John flew back to the East Coast, we played two more rounds at Spring Creek. All told, we played 234 holes of golf in seven days which translates to 13 rounds. We had a blast! I guess you could say we were hit by the golf bug when we were kids. Pop, our step father, got us started, and it sure has been fun.

          Several people have asked if we were tired after playing so much golf. The answer is a simple, No! In fact, the more we played during the seven days together, the better we played.

          This mild looking game will deceive you. In closing, and borrowing a phrase from Country and Western singers, here’s my advice: “Mommas, don’t let your babies grow up to be golfers!”