Marines.Together We Served

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.

Monday, October 02, 2017

Marine Corps Museum

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
2 October 2017

Marine Corps Museum

As part of our two weeks of travel, Isaura and I drove from our Brats Reunion in Huntsville, Alabama to my brother’s home in Great Falls, Virginia (608 miles). Such visits with my brother John, whether he comes to California, or I go to Virginia, is always an occasion for numerous rounds of golf!

We had the opportunity to visit with a number of friends here in Virginia, some we haven’t seen in many years. All visits were centered around food and laughs. One of the Brats I saw in Huntsville last week I had not seen in 53 years! It just so happens that he and his family live in Great Falls! So, we met at a Mexican restaurant, El Tio, in Great Falls. Steve and Laura Robinson are a delightful couple. She and Isaura were chatting non-stop the whole evening.

We decided to spend a day to ourselves last Thursday, so we drove to Quantico, Virginia to visit the National Museum of the Marine Corps. I had visited this museum not long after it opened in 2006. However, since then it has been expanded which now includes a portrayal of all the wars the Marines have fought in. Initially, it covered World War Two through Vietnam because veterans of those wars could see their own history. The museum boasts more than 500,000 visitors a year.

The day we visited was a bright, sunny day so the hour-long drive was a pleasure. The museum is self-guided, allowing time to pause at various points of interest. In my initial planning for this outing, I figured we’d be there two, or maybe three hours which would include lunch. Boy! Was I mistaken.

The museum opens at 10:00 am, so we figured to be there when it opened. When we left it was already getting close to 4:30. We started by watching a 13-minute video introducing the museum and how it came to be. “The Museum is a public-private partnership between the U.S. Marine Corps and the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation.” We then sat in on a 45-minute film which took you through the training regimen of a Marine. Having experienced this first hand nearly 50 years ago, I just smiled as I recalled the various rigors of boot camp followed by infantry combat training. My wife, on the other hand, was stunned to near silence. She had no idea just how harsh and brutal the training is in the making of a Marine. But then again, war is a nasty business. Perhaps a comment on one of the placards says it best. “For Marines, ‘First to Fight’ is both a promise and a point of pride. Readiness for rapid deployment and sudden violence demands strict discipline and tough training.”

Hanging from the apexed ceiling of the main concourse are a World War I bi-plane which is the first war where airplanes were used in combat. Another suspended plane was the F4U which was used by Marines in World War II.

Each of the wars Marines were engaged in had their own section which you could walk through. They were designed to make you feel as though you were right there. Even the Korean War exhibit was closed off, requiring you to enter through a door because they created a very cold environment, simulating the bitter cold Marines faced during the running battle known as the Chosin Reservoir. Those Marines who fought there are known as “The Frozen Chosin”. So serious was the situation for the First Marine Regiment at Chosin that the commanding general, Marine icon, Chesty Puller, said, “We’re surrounded . . . that simplifies our problem.”

The Vietnam War section had you walking through the aft end of a CH46 troop transport helicopter into the rice paddies of ‘Nam. You could even smell the hydraulic fluid which is so much a part of helicopter flight. The attempt to make this as realistic as possible was well done.

We did have lunch at the Tun Tavern, a spinoff of the original Tun Tavern in Philadelphia where the first Marines were recruited on what is now the Marine Corps Birthday, November 10, 1775. Next month will be the Marines’ 242nd birthday. One of the items we ordered for lunch was an appetizer: Deep Fried Pickle Chips! Yum! The food was excellent, as was the service.

We finished by wandering through the Art Gallery, portraying combat art by Marines, some professional, but most were created by men in the midst of combat.

Having taught Marine Corps history while still in the Marine Corps Reserve, I found I was learning many things all over again in addition to adding to my knowledge of Marine Corps history and lore. It was a great experience.

If you find yourself in the Washington D.C. area, make it a point to visit this museum. And it’s free. You’ll be glad you did!