Marines.Together We Served

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Vikings Rule!

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
25 September 2017

Vikings Rule!

What a fun week Isaura and I had in Huntsville, Alabama with all of our Overseas Brats friends.

Every year there is a reunion of folks who sometime in the past attended a Department of Defense (DoD) school somewhere around the world as children of a military parent. They are known as Military Brats. In 1986, Joe Condrill and several other Brats decided to have a reunion with those “kids” they had known previously. It has only grown since then as more Brats are located. To attend such a reunion is a combination of American history dating back to 1946 and world geography writ large.

Two of the Brats in attendance this week were in their teens when they traveled to a foreign land with their parents in 1946. Class sizes in the DoD schools were as small as five kids! Many of the schools were located on military bases within the United States. But the places around the world where other schools are located would be a challenge for the most knowledgeable geography professor. There are 133 schools represented. Many Brats attended more than one DoD school as kids. Let’s see, there’s Ankara, Turkey; Bad Aibling, Germany; Bushy Park, London, England; Chateauroux, France; Dreux, France; Garmisch, Germany; Jonathan M. Wainwright, Tainan, Taiwan; Kaiserslautern, Germany; Kobe, Panama; Lajes, Portugal; Machinato, Okinawa; Oslo, Norway; Salzburg, Austria; Tehran American School, Iran; Wheelus, Libya; Yoyogi, Japan; Zaragoza, Spain, to name a few.

The shared experience Brats have bonds them with each other for life. We may not have attended the same schools at the same time, but the challenge of being dropped into a new place, often a new country, language, and culture, causes you to grow in ways you simply could not experience in any other way. My sister Joy and I attended the junior high school at the Oslo American School in Oslo, Norway. At the same time, our brother John, attended high school in Dreux, France.

A different location is chosen each year for our gathering. Next year we’ll be in Fort Worth, Texas. But I have to tell you: If you’ve never been to Huntsville, Alabama, you should make every effort to come here. The people are very friendly, the city is full of history going back to the Revolutionary War.

Our time each gathering always includes sight-seeing trips in the local area, which often includes a dinner at some local eatery.

This year, however, brought a twist to our local visits. Friday evening, we were to attend a performance at the Mark C. Smith Concert Hall next door to our hotel. However, plans were changed because President Trump was arriving in Huntsville to lend support to a congressman running in a special election, so the concert hall was taken over for the rally. We heard the anti-Trumpers shouting, and then the pro-Trumpers shouting down the anti-Trumpers. The place was packed to capacity (seats 5,000), and there were apparently several thousand more supporters outside. The badges which were made for us so we could enter the concert hall were stamped: CANCELLED due to a visit from the President of the United States.

The time we spend together catching up with each other and what has taken place in the intervening years is special. We really do feel a sense of family when we come together.

Because those of us who attended the Oslo American School are known as the Vikings, on the last evening together we always wear our Viking paraphernalia. I bring out my imitation Viking helmet replete with horns, plus I wield a plastic, life-sized Hammer of Thor. The twenty of us representing the school present quite a scene as we arrive all attired in Nordic costumes. We comprise the largest group from any one school, so Vikings Rule! But otherwise, we’re harmless.

At the end of three days, there has been a vast amount of talking and sharing, with promises to see one another again the next year, Lord willing. It is not at all unusual for tears to flow as we say goodbye yet again, but leaving having been refreshed by the renewed comraderies.

Many of us are in our twilight years, so each year together is special. Many of our number are no longer with us. It is our hope to pass the baton of our reunions to the next generation of Brats.

For many of us, these were the best years we experienced growing up. Next August, we’ll drag out our Viking helmets and Nordic stuff and gleefully descend on Fort Worth, Texas to join the host of other Brats who are our Brat Family.

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Value of Seniors

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
18 September 2017

The Value of Seniors

Senior citizens, those with many miles on their frames, are meant to be a blessing to any culture and society. That’s a theme that is evident throughout the Bible. Both my wife, Isaura, and I can vouch for the truth of this role of the aged ones.

Isaura grew up on the Island of San Miguel, the Azores, Portugal. The village where she was born and raised, Arrifes, was also where most of her family still resided, even though some had made the long journey to North America. At age thirteen, and the oldest of her five siblings, her family also moved to America, settling in the Central Valley of California.

But during those formative years on San Miguel, she spent countless hours and days with her many aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents. Especially her grandparents.

On Sundays after church, Isaura would help her grandmother take food baskets to families in their community. This was food prepared by her grandmother. One of their shared loves was working in the garden, tending to the various flowers and plants. Both grandparents were strong Christians, exemplifying their faith by their actions each and every day. She has often mentioned seeing her grandfather through the door to his room which would be slightly ajar. There he would be with his Bible, on his knees, in prayer. She would quietly listen as he prayed out loud. As a farmer, he knew well the importance of the proper weather conditions, especially rain. He would implore the Lord for the crops to grow so he could pay his employees who had families to feed. They would often feed the poor children by bringing them into their home for a meal.  

I am forever grateful to her grandparents, because their example made a deep and lasting impression on my wife, who, not surprisingly, is a woman of prayer; she’s generous to a fault; and loves to work in her garden. When I step across into Glory, I’m going to search out her grandparents and thank them for helping shape my wife’s godly character.

On the other hand, I was born in Connecticut, right on the Long Island Sound. My parents were born and raised in Texas, but moved to New York in 1934 where my father was able to find a good job during the Great Depression. So, my brother, sister and I were all born in Connecticut. My parents divorced when I was five. My mother remarried shortly before I turned seven. My grandparents all lived in Texas. Traveling there in the late ‘40s and ‘50s was a major evolution, and costly. My new step grandmother who hailed from Concord, Massachusetts, won me over quickly with her homemade strawberry shortcake with real whipped cream! I can still taste it. She only cooked from scratch! She moved in with us when I was ten, having been widowed seven years earlier. She would make pancakes for me which I loved. They were the ugliest things you’ve ever seen, all misshapen and lopsided. But my taste buds and saliva glands could not have cared less.

All the grandkids called her Bambi. I don’t know why other than the older grandkids started calling her that long before I came along, even though her name was Ethel. I would open the bedroom window for her at night, and close it in the morning before heading for school. I also enjoyed brewing her a cup of tea in the morning. I learned a lot about cooking, especially baking, by watching her in the kitchen. She loved reading books of all kinds, along with working cross-word puzzles. But what I loved and appreciated most about her is the time she would take to listen to me talk about whatever was on my mind. She was so patient, listening to my childlike thoughts, but never making light of what I said. I always felt like I could bring up any subject with her, and she would listen intently. She was a gift to me. And guess what? I love to bake and putter around in the kitchen. I love to read all sorts of books. And I must have learned to listen because I spent a lot of time counseling as a pastor, and as a Navy chaplain.

When I was on active duty in the Navy, our girls were quite young. So, at each duty station we would look to “adopt” an older couple who would be surrogate grandparents for our girls. We were blessed with many people over the years who were willing to give of their time and energy with our girls.

Isaura and I have been retired over three years and are enjoying spending lots of time with our grandkids. They can be seen helping Meema (Isaura) in her garden, or baking goodies with me in the kitchen. I especially enjoy those moments when they have questions or simply want to talk.

Are you a senior citizen? Do you have grandkids or great-grandkids you can invest your time and energy into? Perhaps they live too far away for that. Then let me suggest that you look for children in your local neighborhood, church, or school who could definitely benefit from your life and experiences.

You may be retired and feel you are no longer of much use or value to society. But you would be wrong about that! There are children who desperately need you to give them your time.

It was meant for you to live this long so you could be a blessing. In being a blessing, you will also be blessed, many times over.

What are you waiting for!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

End of the Age?

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
11 September 2017

End of the Age?

As typically happens whenever there are natural catastrophes of immense destruction, there are those who come out with doomsday pronouncements declaring the world is being judged, or the end of the world is at hand.

As the 24/7 news cycle has so breathlessly attempted to keep us up to date, we have watched as massively destructive hurricanes ravage Texas along its Gulf of Mexico coastline, and now Hurricane Irma is about to pounce on Florida from stem-to-stern. There is a virtual national hysteria over the size and force of Irma as she bears down on Sunshine State, having her way, disrupting all the inhabitants from Key West to Jacksonville and beyond. This hurricane has already left in her wake death and destruction, ripping through the Caribbean Islands. A retired Navy chaplain friend who hails from Saint Thomas, the Virgin Islands, informed me that he finally made contact with his brothers and sister back in St. Thomas. They are all well, but one cousin was killed. And not a single roof survived the fury of the storm.

I find myself getting really annoyed by fools who decide to stay even after a mandatory evacuation has been called for. I’m referring specifically to those who are very capable of leaving the area, but choose not to for whatever foolish reasons they imagine. I heard of one professional surfer who decided he would like to ride the wave produced by Irma. I’m not sure where he did this, but the end result was his death. Others are seen running around like frat boys acting stupidly in the face of certain death. You would think that the horrors of Hurricane Harvey would have been enough to convince folks that these storms are nothing to trifle with.

Mexico has had its own natural disasters over the past couple of days. First, it was an 8.2 seismic reading some 60 miles off the western coast of Mexico now known as the Chiapas Quake. It is listed as the strongest quake anywhere in the world during 2017. Last report listed 61 people died. A day later, a hurricane hit the other side of Mexico wreaking destruction and additional loss of life.

Back home in the western part of the USA, we have experienced devastating forest fires in Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, and Colorado. I looked at a map on the Internet that showed where all the fires are. It’s frightful to literally see ten of the western states going up in flames. A golfing buddy just returned from Denver where he said they fires had created so much smoke that you couldn’t see any blue sky. Another friend said the air quality in Oregon and Washington was horrible, all due to out-of-control fires.

Add to these assaults by mother nature a crazy man as the leader of North Korea, who seems to think it’s okay to “beard the lion.” Kim Jung Un is doing his utmost to draw the US into a war. This is lunacy! He threatens to use nuclear weapons against our allies, South Korea and Japan, as well as nuke the US territory of Guam and even mainland USA! What chutzpah! Can this madman actually cause destruction and death? Certainly! Can the US wipe him and his nation out quickly? Yes. But only if we are forced to do so. Let’s pray that this nut job will take a hiatus.

One more devastation is the widespread famine that has affected significant portions of Africa. Famine is nothing new on the African continent, but most of the time these famines are caused by sparse rainfall. Two the worst famines in Africa at this writing have been caused by warring factions, each destroying the fields and crops of the other. Literally tens of thousands are dying due to lack of food.

It’s at times like this that I’ll hear someone intone, almost as a prayer, “Jesus has to be coming back soon! Things can’t possibly get any worse.” My response is, “Not so fast!” Does the Bible have anything to say about this? Well, yes it does. In the 13th chapter of the Gospel of Luke, we read, “When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.”

What does all this mean then? The beginning of the End Times will be evident through earthquakes, wars and rumors of wars, and famines, among other things. But this would only be the beginning of that lengthy time period leading up to the triumphant return of Jesus.

You and I have no control over the natural cataclysms that take place, nor do we have the power to prevent war and its aftermath.

But we can decide whose side we’re on. Joshua said, “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord!”

Monday, September 04, 2017

A Matter of Grace

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
4 September 2017

A Matter of Grace

Where to begin?

A great deal of criticism has been, and is being leveled against President Donald Trump by the Main Stream Media along with various detractors across the political spectrum. Some of what is charged against Trump is deserved, either because he is combative by nature, or he enjoys tweaking his opponents. Much of what is said about the President is hateful, and intended to diminish the man and his presidency.

As I have written in previous articles for my column, Donald Trump was not my first choice as the Republican candidate for the presidential nomination. In fact, of the seventeen Republicans running, Trump was number seventeen for me. As the various candidates dropped out, it became clear that Trump was possibly going to win the Republican nomination. Any of the seventeen would be far superior to a Hillary Clinton presidency.

The things I disliked about Trump from the outset had to do with his overall manner. His attack on Senator John McCain, where he said he was not a hero, was over the top. As a thirty-four-year veteran of our military, I did not appreciate this vendetta against McCain. From a political perspective, Senator McCain and I have little in common. But he did not deserve to be publicly shamed and berated by Mr. Trump at the outset of the campaign.

Furthermore, I did not like Mr. Trump’s bullying tactics toward the other Republican presidential hopefuls. He is frequently rude and boorish. He has involved himself in activities that make me cringe. But as I have written before: I was not voting for a Sunday School teacher.

In Mr. Trump, I believe those who voted for him were a lot like me. That is, they didn’t always like what they saw in him, but they were fed up with the empty promises of neatly groomed politicians who say the right things to get elected, but fail to deliver once in office. Mr. Trump is a hard-nosed businessman. He’s a wheeler-dealer. For many of us who supported him for the presidency, we liked this man who knows how to get things done. He has made many campaign promises, such as “draining the swamp” in Washington D.C. Building the wall along the Mexican border. Restoring America as the economic engine of the world. Building up our military as the premier fighting force on the planet. And so forth.

Some have challenged me for supporting President Trump. How can I as a Christian, they ask, support someone who has been married three times? How can I support a man who has owned and operated casinos?

Here’s my answer.

I support President Trump (just as I have supported every president during my 69 years on planet earth, even those I was diametrically opposed to politically and philosophically) because I believe he loves America, and wants to restore our nation by protecting our freedoms and liberty.

Here is where I believe some of us in the Christian community make a mistake. I did not grow up in the church, so I was not exposed to solid Christian teaching. I had a life-changing encounter with Jesus when I was a twenty-four-year-old sergeant in the Marine Corps. I had much to learn about this Savior who loves me.

My life-style up to that point was far from exemplary. The night I walked into that Christian Serviceman’s Center, changing my life forever, I had been living with a hooker (prostitute) for the previous six months. My mouth was a cesspool of vulgarity. I was in the bars almost daily drinking with my friends. The path of life I was on scared me, but I knew of no way to change. Jesus intercepted me and changed all of that, for which I am forever grateful.

In becoming a Christian, I was accepted into churches and fellowship wherever I traveled around the world. No one has ever held it against me that I did not always live a clean, Christian life. I was able to attend seminary. I have enjoyed being the pastor of several churches. And I had a wonderful career as a Navy chaplain for twenty-five years. I have been truly blessed.

So then, why is it that there are Christians who cannot bring themselves to support our president because he has not acted like a Christian throughout his life? To my knowledge, he has never professed to have had a life-changing encounter with Jesus. Why then do we hold him to Christian standards? This seems highly unfair. If the person doesn’t even know the rules, how can you expect them to live according to those rules?

Here’s the most important thing in all of this. Every last person on this planet is a sinner. Nothing complicated in this. We have all violated God’s laws at one time or another. So, we’re already toast, condemned. But God loved us enough to pay the price for our sin. Jesus is that payment. In accepting Christ as Lord and Savior we are forgiven. This is known as Grace. Jesus extends grace to us.

I’m no longer judged by God for my life of sin. I’m forgiven! So, let’s not expect a person who is not a Christian to live like one, whether it’s your neighbor across the street, or the President of the United States. It’s all about grace.