Marines.Together We Served

Monday, January 29, 2018

My Time in Japan

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
29 January 2018
The Ripon Bulletin

My Time in Japan

The island nation of Japan and its colorful and often violent history was shrouded in mystery to the rest of the world for centuries. By their own standards, the Japanese historically maintained an isolationistic philosophy toward any other nation or people group.

I readily admit to having had a growing interest in all things Japanese while growing up in the 1950s. The only thing about Japan I remember then was we defeated them in WWII, and products made in Japan were junk. By the time I actually set foot on Japanese soil in 1971, a lot had changed. Their economy had grown significantly, and their manufacturing had done a complete one-eighty. Japan had become a major force in the world, economically. They showed great vision and foresight in the development and manufacturing of everything from digital watches (remember Swiss watches?), to computers, to automobiles.

In 1960 our family moved to Paris, France. My brother John, wound up attending a college prep school in Saint Gallen, Switzerland. As a twelve-year-old, I was given my first watch that Christmas of ’60. It was a Swiss watch. Knowing it was the land where the best watches were made, I was feeling very proud of my new timepiece. A decade later, I was buying a digital watch in Japan. You see, when the idea of digital watches was first introduced, the Swiss watchmakers passed on it. After all, they had the watch market all sown up. Boy, did that ever change. And the Swiss are still trying to figure out what happened.

As a newly promoted corporal in the Marines, my first duty assignment over seas was to MCAS Iwakuni, Japan. I flew out of Travis AFB on December 23, 1971 landing at Yokota AFB many hours later. Upon arrival, we were informed that there would be no connecting flight to Iwakuni until the 26th. Once I secured billeting in the transient barracks, I decided to head for Tokyo, roughly an hour’s train ride away. A Marine buddy asked me where I was going. I said, “Tokyo.” “Do you speak Japanese?” he asked. “No. Do you?” I replied. He didn’t. I said, “Look. You and I are obviously Americans. And with Marine Corps ‘high & tight’ haircuts, we’re obviously military. If you get lost, just say to any Japanese person, ‘Iwakuni?’ They’ll point you in the right direction.”

First stop in Tokyo was to the USO where I figured we could learn what might be the best course of action during our three-day-layover. The director asked me if I was hungry. When I said I was, he suggested I walk a few blocks over to the McDonalds. I looked at him thinking he was pulling my leg, but he quickly assured me there was indeed the famous Golden Arches just around the corner. Before heading over to check this out (remember, this is 1971), the director had also set it up for me to have Christmas dinner with an American family in Tokyo.

At McDonalds, I enjoyed a Quarter-Pounder with cheese, fries and a coke. But I had to wait in line for quite a while! I remember McDonalds being roundly criticized for planning to put some of there stores in Japan where fish and rice are the staple foods. As we have all learned over the years, McDonalds does their homework. This store was the only one in Tokyo (possibly in all of Japan), but a decade later in 1986, I was back in Japan, this time as a Navy chaplain, and discovered there were four McDonalds in Tokyo alone! And, yes, the meal tasted just like you get back here in the States.

I arrived on the 26th in Iwakuni where I checked into my new command. That first weekend I decided to do some exploring. I had been given the name and contact number of a Catholic nun who served in a diocese just outside of Hiroshima (where the first atomic bomb was dropped in 1945). Sister Margaret was delighted to hear from me and said to come visit right away. I took the 30-minute train ride to Hiroshima, then somehow found my way to the church. This lady was one go-getter! She was a blur of energy. I just followed in her wake as best I could. It was the Japanese New Year, a time of celebration. She had Japanese friends who had invited her (and me by extension) to a celebratory meal at the home of Mr. Shaw Fuji. I discovered he was a teacher at a nearby Japanese school where he taught English. He was a gracious host, and we quickly became friends.

There is a traditional food that is served on New Years in Japan. It is a ball of sticky cooked rice in a bowl of broth. I can well remember looking at this ball of rice sitting at the bottom of the bowl of broth, wondering how I was going to eat this. The eating utensils were a set of chop sticks. So, I grabbed the sticks, watched how others ate, and copied their moves, clumsily. It was one of those moments that stays with you the rest of your life. I’m sure I provided some amusement for the rest of the dinner guests. I’m still not sure how I managed to eat that sticky ball of rice. It was a great experience! And I was honored to have been invited into the home of a Japanese family after only being in the country a few days.

Over the next fifteen years or so I would have several more trips to Japan which I will share with you next week.

Monday, January 22, 2018

It's a Faith Thing

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
22 January 2018
The Ripon Bulletin

It’s a Faith Thing

There are times in life when you have the opportunity to look back and see how events came together in a way that you simply could not have seen looking forward at that time. I’m not referring to what might be called coincidences. The path I’m talking about has to do with faith.

When I say faith, I’m not talking about crossing my fingers in hopes that everything will work out. Instead, what is at work here is my having learned to trust Jesus with my life: every aspect of it. Let me explain.

At twenty-four years of age I had an encounter with Jesus while serving in the Marine Corps. There was no doubt in my heart and mind that this meeting, if you will, took place. The realization that God loved me, and Christ died for my sins was overwhelming. I knew then I needed to surrender my entire life to him completely. I remember distinctly saying to Jesus in my prayer of surrender to him that he could have my whole life to do with as he wished. It stands to reason that if he can save me from my sin, his taking care of the remainder of my earthly life should be a cake-walk.

Some might say that’s a bit risky. After all, you really don’t know what following Jesus in a walk of faith may get you. That’s true. But you have to remember that I was serving in the Marine Corps. And I was in Vietnam. People I couldn’t see were trying to kill me. When I took the oath to serve my country, I was, in effect, signing a blank check over to the government stating that my government, the leaders of the United States, and in particular the Commander in Chief, the President, could use me up to and including the sacrificing of my life.

The decision to trust Jesus was easy compared to trusting a gaggle of politicians. After all, the politicians did not create the universe, nor the sun, moon and stars. They did not bring about the forms of life that inhabit this amazing globe we call earth. I am useful to them, yes. But they do not know me, and they certainly do not love me.

God made the universe and rules over it and all that it contains. And he doesn’t even break a sweat. Politicians, on the other hand, can’t even run the postal system without screwing it up. I’ll take God, thank you.

When my enlistment in the Marines was up in 1973, I planned to return to college and pursue something altogether divested from the military. After graduating from San Jose State University in 1976, Isaura and I were married and moved to Portland, Oregon where I was to attend Western Evangelical Seminary. I wasn’t sure which of the three masters programs I should take. While standing in line to sign up with the registrar, I sensed the Lord prompting me to sign up for the Master’s in Divinity (M.Div) degree. But I could not shake the need to go with the M.Div.

Three years later I graduated with my M.Div. and returned to our home church in San Jose to be the youth minister, all the while seeking for an avenue to enter the field of Christian Radio & TV. The superintendent and pastor approached me the need for me to be ordained. I argued against it but they prevailed, so I went through the two-year study program to be officially ordained.

In my early thirties at this point, I felt I needed to move away from youth ministry and get into Christian Broadcasting. Nothing opened up for me, except the opportunity to pastor a church in Fresno.

While in Fresno I reenlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve as a side ministry to go along with pastoring the church. Eight years had passed since seminary and I was still wondering where I was heading in serving the Lord.

One day I received a phone call from a man who identified himself as a Navy chaplain. He had heard of me and wondered if I’d consider being a Navy chaplain. I asked him what the qualifications were. He listed three, in this order: Masters in Divinity, ordination, pastoring a church! I now saw how all three of those things came together so I would be prepared for ministry to sailors and Marines.

I had did not stayed in the Marine Corps because I did not want to keep doing for 20 years what I had been doing – fixing black boxes in jet aircraft.

I did not want to earn a Masters in Divinity because it was a three-year program, not two like the other degrees. Plus, I didn’t need that degree for broadcasting. And I wanted nothing to do with Greek and Hebrew, required for the M.Div.

I also did not want to go through ordination because I felt it was a waste of time since I was going into broadcasting.

Lastly, pastoring a church was not on my list of things to do. I could not see myself preaching to a congregation.

What hit me like a bolt when presented with the Navy chaplaincy was the realization that God had been working to get me to the point where I would be qualified to serve him in the Navy.

Had I chosen to be bull-headed and not have been obedient to his promptings, I would have missed out serving 25 years as a chaplain to the men and women of the sea services. I didn’t want to do it, but I’m so glad I did!

Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Sum of Character

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
15 January 2018
The Ripon Bulletin

The Sum of Character

Following up on my article from last week, Character Matters, I shared a number of Trump character stories from journalist Liz Crokin. In her article entitled, Trump Does the Unthinkable, the rest of her stories about Donald Trump are provided here. Her job as an entertainment reporter was to cover then Mr. Trump for more than a decade. As she stated, “Keep in mind, I got paid a lot of money to dig up dirt on celebrities like Trump.”

Just as a reminder, I am not suggesting that President Trump is perfect, nor should we be making plans to place his carved visage on Mount Rushmore. However, I wrote in a previous article that in voting for Mr. Trump I was not voting for a Sunday School teacher. It has been said that the definition of character is what you do when no one is watching.

*In 2008, after Jennifer Hudson’s family members were tragically murdered in Chicago, Trump put the Oscar-winning actress and her family up at his Windy City hotel for free. In addition to that, Trump’s security took extra measures to ensure Hudson and her family members were safe during such a difficult time.

*In 2013, New York bus driver Darnell Barton spotted a woman close to the edge of a bridge staring at traffic below as he drove by. He stopped the bus, got out and put his arm around the woman and saved her life by convincing her to not jump. When Trump heard about this story, he sent the hero bus driver a check simply because he believed his good deed deserved to be rewarded.

*In 2014, Trump gave $25,000 to Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi after he spent seven months in a Mexican jail for accidentally crossing the US-Mexico border. President Barack Obama couldn’t even be bothered to make one phone call to assist with the United States Marine’s release; however, Trump opened his pocketbook to help this serviceman get back on his feet.

*In 2016, Melissa Consin Young attended a Trump rally and tearfully thanked Trump for changing her life. She said she proudly stood on stage with Trump as Miss Wisconsin USA in 2005. However, years later she found herself struggling with an incurable illness and during her darkest days she explained that she received a handwritten letter from Trump telling her she’s the “bravest woman, I know.” She said the opportunities that she got from Trump and his organizations ultimately provided her Mexican-American son with a full-ride to college.

*Lynne Patton, a black female executive for the Trump Organization, released a statement in 2016 defending her boss against accusations that he’s a racist and a bigot. She tearfully revealed how she’s struggled with substance abuse and addiction for years. Instead of kicking her to the curb, she said the Trump Organization and his entire family loyally stood by her through “immensely difficult times.”

Trump’s kindness knows no bounds and his generosity has and continues to touch the lives of people from every sex, race and religion. When Trump sees someone in need, he wants to help. Two decades ago, Oprah asked Trump in a TV interview if he’d run for president. He said: “If it got so bad, I would never want to rule it out totally, because I really am tired of seeing what’s happening with this country.” That day has come. Trump sees that America is in need and he wants to help – how unthinkable! (“Trump Does the Unthinkable”, by Liz Crokin, July 10, 2016,

          This past week I was speaking with a long-time acquaintance who has served three previous presidents. Here is a composite of some of his remarks and thoughts while serving in the Trump administration.

          During the primaries last year, a black Secret Service agent assigned to Mr. Trump at Trump Towers in New York City, asked one of the maintenance workers what it’s like working for Donald Trump. “I couldn’t ask for a better boss,” he said. Or as my acquaintance says, “He takes care of his people.”

          The salary for the president is $400,000 a year. President Trump has refused the salary. Instead, he asked that it be given to charity. Have you ever heard of any other president doing this?

          The President loves the American flag, bringing back a resurgence of patriotism. He has demonstrated a genuine love and appreciation for our military veterans and active duty personnel.

          During the White House staff Christmas Party last month President Trump made it a point to wish everyone a Merry Christmas several times, including Happy Hanukkah.

          On the evening of the Inaugural, President Trump asked the chef to prepare a dinner for the entire family in the residence of the White House. Afterward, the President and First Lady made it a point to go to the kitchen and thank the chef and his staff for an excellent meal.

          So, think about these reports when you hear the Mainstream Media, Hollywood elites, and the Trump Nay-Sayers attack the character of our president.

          Personally, I’ll take Donald Trump, flaws and all.

Monday, January 08, 2018

Character Matters

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
8 January 2018
The Ripon Bulletin

Character Matters

You may recall the brouhaha surrounding then President Bill Clinton when his character was being called into question. Those on the political left came to his defense espousing this absurd blather, “Character doesn’t matter!” It was during the height of Bill Clinton’s dalliances that the American people were expected to swallow the preposterous lie that “Character doesn’t matter as long as the President’s policies are sound.”

Such a statement would be laughable if it wasn’t so serious, because whatever roads a person travels in life, is greatly affected by their character. Virtues are tantamount to being trusted by others. The Boy Scouts have a code or law consisting of twelve points. “A Scout is: Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent.” It sure sounds like the sort of code a person with good character should have!

I find it interesting then that a story about the character of President Donald Trump receives virtually no attention from the mainstream media. The article is entitled, Trump Does The Unthinkable, written July 8, 2016 by journalist Liz Crokin for Townhall. Ms. Crokin sets the stage for this article in the next two paragraphs. The remainder of this article lists many of the examples of the President’s character. In next week’s article I will post the remainder of the stories from Ms. Crokin’s article.

“Donald Trump is a racist, bigot, sexist, xenophobe, anti-Semitic and Islamophobe -- did I miss anything? The left and the media launch these hideous kinds of attacks at Trump everyday (sic); yet, nothing could be further from the truth about the real estate mogul. As an entertainment journalist, I’ve had the opportunity to cover Trump for over a decade, and in all my years covering him I’ve never heard anything negative about the man until he announced he was running for president. Keep in mind, I got paid a lot of money to dig up dirt on celebrities like Trump for a living so a scandalous story on the famous billionaire could’ve potentially sold a lot of magazines and would’ve been a “yuge” (sic) feather in my cap. Instead, I found that he doesn’t drink alcohol or do drugs, he’s a hardworking businessman and totally devoted to his beloved wife and children. On top of that, he’s one of the most generous celebrities in the world with a heart filled with more gold than his $100 million New York penthouse.

Since the media has failed so miserably at reporting the truth about Trump, I decided to put together some of the acts of kindness he's committed over three decades which has gone virtually unnoticed or fallen on deaf ears.”

• In 1986, Trump prevented the foreclosure of Annabel Hill's family farm after her husband committed suicide. Trump personally called down to the auction to stop the sale of her home and offered the widow money. Trump decided to take action after he saw Hill's pleas for help in news reports.

• In 1988, a commercial airline refused to fly Andrew Ten, a sick Orthodox Jewish child with a rare illness, across the country to get medical care because he had to travel with an elaborate life-support system. His grief-stricken parents contacted Trump for help and he didn't hesitate to send his own plane to take the child from Los Angeles to New York so he could get his treatment.

• In 1991, 200 Marines who served in Operation Desert Storm spent time at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina before they were scheduled to return home to their families. However, the Marines were told that a mistake had been made and an aircraft would not be able to take them home on their scheduled departure date. When Trump got wind of this, he sent his plane to make two trips from North Carolina to Miami to safely return the Gulf War Marines to their loved ones.

• In 1995, a motorist stopped to help Trump after the limo he was traveling in got a flat tire. Trump asked the Good Samaritan how he could repay him for his help. All the man asked for was a bouquet of flowers for his wife. A few weeks later Trump sent the flowers with a note that read: We've paid off your mortgage.

• In 1996, Trump filed a lawsuit against the city of Palm Beach, Florida, accusing the town of discriminating against his Mar-a-Lago resort club because it allowed Jews and blacks. Abraham Foxman, who was the Anti-Defamation League Director at the time, said Trump put the light on Palm Beach not on the beauty and the glitter, but on its seamier side of discrimination. Foxman also noted that Trump's charge had a trickle-down effect because other clubs followed his lead and began admitting Jews and blacks.

• In 2000, Maury Povich featured a little girl named Megan who struggled with Brittle Bone Disease on his show and Trump happened to be watching. Trump said, the little girl's story and positive attitude touched his heart. So, he contacted Maury and gifted the little girl and her family with a very generous check.

There are those who will never give this president any credit for anything. Regardless of your political leanings, you have to admit that Mr. Trump has demonstrated a generous spirit which belies the vicious assaults on his character launched daily by a media complicit with Hollywood to destroy this good man and his family.

Next week I’ll conclude this look into the character of President Trump.

Monday, January 01, 2018

Darkest Hour

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
1 January 2018
The Ripon Bulletin

Darkest Hour

Movie reviews are not part of my usual literary trappings, but occasionally I watch a movie that really grabs my attention. As a rule, my wife and I rarely watch movies, either at home or in the theater.

Since we had made no particular plans for New Years Eve, we decided after church to enjoy a restful afternoon at home. I had already purchased tickets for the 6:20pm showing of the acclaimed Darkest Hour movie about Winston Churchill’s rise to power as England’s prime minister at a most critical juncture in what would become known as World War Two.

I hardly consider myself a connoisseur of the art of filmmaking, but I love history and Darkest Hour gives us a window into a one-month span in the embattled times of England as it stood on the brink of catastrophe. Their army of some 300,000 men was facing annihilation by the German Army of the Third Reich. Pinned down on the beaches of Dunkirk, France with their backs to the English Channel, their situation appeared hopeless. Germany ruled the sea and the air, as well as the ground. Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain (1937-40) had previously met with Der F├╝hrer, Adolf Hitler, returning home to England to proclaim peace agreements had been reached with Hitler. It turned out to be a hollow promise on the part of Hitler, placing Chamberlain in a most unfortunate position, and an embarrassing one, to boot.

The British Parliament was divided over how to proceed with a robust and voracious German military power that was running rough-shod over all of continental Europe. Chamberlain lost the confidence of the ruling parties, and was forced to step down. The only person who was acceptable to both political parties was Sir Winston Churchill, a curmudgeonly character if ever there was one. He was ill-mannered most of the time, impatient to the extreme, rude and demanding. Of all the witticisms attributed to Churchill, the one best known was in 1946 when he was attending a dinner party where Bessie Braddock, the rather plump leader of the Labour Party of Britain at the time, said to Churchill, “Winston, you are drunk.” “Madam,” he said, “you are ugly, and I will be sober in the morning.”

But in May of 1940 the British were facing insurmountable odds. Parliament was preparing to enter into peace negotiations, effectually surrendering to the Germans. Winston Churchill would have none of that. The king of England at that time was King George the VI, who initially wanted nothing to do with Churchill and was opposed to him becoming the prime minister. But as he saw Churchill’s grit and determination, the King pledged his support, and as they say, the rest is history.

Throughout the movie there are numerous bits of delightful humor that had Isaura and me laughing out loud at times. It balanced the serious nature of the movie’s storyline perfectly.

One of the bits of history I had never known before was how Neville Chamberlain became instrumental in changing Parliaments decision to reject the terms of peace, and, instead to fight Germany at all costs. Unfortunately, Chamberlain will be forever stuck with the “peace in our time” assurance, but at crunch-time he did support the unpopular Churchill who was determined to fight Germany.

One of the great acts of history was the manner in which the British people saved their army. The military leaders were paralyzed in taking any action in rescuing their stranded army, only eighty miles across the English Channel. Churchill asked the English people to take their personal water craft and sail to Dunkirk (Dunkerque in French). Thousands of boats came across the water, rescuing nearly all 300,000 British troops. Some boats were so small that they could only carry a few troops per crossing.

Winston Churchill is the sort of person you need in a moment of crisis. He was a master in knowing how to invigorate and challenge the British people to courageously stand against the military might of Germany. This, at a time when every other European country was either remaining neutral or had already been conquered by the well-equipped and well-trained German army.

I know very little about actors these days, but I will say that Gary Oldman, who played Winston Churchill, was absolutely amazing. The rest of the supporting cast was equally well placed. Isaura turned to me at one point in the movie and said, “I think that’s an actual film of Churchill.” It wasn’t, but the filming was so well done that it made you feel as though it was.

Another poignant part in the film was the phone conversations Churchill had with American President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Churchill implored FDR to come to England’s rescue, to no avail. In fact, the United States did not enter the war until Sunday, December 7, 1941 when Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese. The next day, Monday, December 8, Germany declared war on the United States. Nearly two years had passed since Britain’s darkest hour.

Grit and determination are characteristic of the Brits. This movie portrays this in spades. And Winston Churchill was the King of Spades when it came to grit and just plain cussedness.

Go see the movie, Darkest Hour. You’ll be glad you did.

Happy New Year!