Monday morning mixed bag (and of course, Open Thread)

Victorian posy of pansiesIt turns out that a long-time friend of mine is related by marriage to Matt Axelson, who died during Operation Redwings.  As you recall, Marcus Luttrell memorialized Operation Redwings in Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10.  A movie based upon the book opened this past weekend.

My friend heard from her relative some months ago that the movie — which family members got to preview — is really good.  Not only is the box office reflecting the movie’s quality, the movie is also driving the Left nuts for daring to be an American movie that shows our military as the good guys and the Taliban as the bad guys.

Incidentally, I do not include Jake Tapper in my scorn for the media.  There’s been a kerfuffle about him asking Luttrell whether the latter felt a sense of lives wasted when he looked back on that event.  I thought that was a legitimate question in light of the way that Obama, repeating Vietnam, has deliberately lost the war for Americans.

I will not be seeing the movie.  I found the book disturbing enough, without having actors graphically replay it on the big screen.  Not only am I too cowardly to fight, I’m too cowardly even to watch a fake version of a real fight.

Go here for more on the Left’s strident opposition to a factually accurate movie that is American-friendly and Taliban-unfriendly.

***

Although I didn’t blog about it, I didn’t miss the fact that Ariel Sharon, after spending so many years in a coma, finally died.  He was a fierce warrior, always fighting on behalf of his beloved Israel.  I think his gamble with Gaza was a failure, but that failure certainly could have resulted because Sharon was struck down before he could optimize that gamble.  Bibi is good, but he’s never had Sharon’s ferocity nor do Israelis trust Bibi the way they did Sharon. When all is said and done, Ariel Sharon was a larger-than-life, frequently heroic figure who never acted without considering Israel’s welfare.

I’ve also stayed away from commenting on Obama’s tepid response to Sharon’s passing.  However, Keith Koffler did such a good write-up about Obama’s praising Sharon with faint damns that I must pass it on to you.

I’m not surprised at Obama’s dry eyes, of course.  Obama always wears his heart on his sleeve when people die.  Maggie Thatcher, who stared down communism and saved England’s economy?  Eh.  Hugh Chavez, whose hardcore socialism impoverished his country and began the work of turning it into a police state?  Obama wept.  Chris Kyle, who bravely and effectively served his country in war and in peace?  His name never passed Obama’s lips.  Whitney Houston, a drugged-out singer who wasted a God-given talent?  Obama and the missus were beside themselves.  When I look at Obama and Mooch-elle, I always want to copy Groucho Marx by singing “Whatever you’re for, I’m against it!”

***

In Mexico, the drug cartels and the police forces are brothers in arms.  The citizens suffer terribly — except in Michoacan, where a vigilante army has risen up and is battling both cartels and corrupt police.

Or maybe not.  It’s entirely possible that the vigilantes are merely hired guns for a rival cartel.

I tend to believe that counter narrative.  Why?  Because violent, drug-ridden Mexico has some of the strictest gun-control laws on the books.  If these vigilantes have guns, they didn’t get them legally.  The only guns are in the hands of the government and the drug-runners.

Imagine, just for a moment, how different it would be for honest citizens in Mexico if they had a Second Amendment….

***

My friend at To Put It Bluntly has written a post examining the hypocrisy behind the California Supreme Court’s decision to allow an illegal alien to get a law license in California.  It’s not just that this guy has sworn to uphold the laws of the United States and the State of California, despite the fact that he is the living embodiment of their violation.  It’s also that the tactic the Supreme Court used to arrive at its PC conclusion reveals just how much the government has its thumb on the scale when it comes to deciding who can and cannot work.  Too often, in modern America, the pursuit of happiness doesn’t include a right to honest employment without permission from the government.

***

If you’re at all curious as to just how bad John Kerry is when it comes to the Middle East and Israel’s security, he’s this bad.  And if you want to know just how badly Obama dropped the ball on Iran’s nuclear ambitions, he dropped it this badly.  (Alternatively, if you believe as I do that Obama has deliberately decided to pivot away from Israel and towards Iran, he did a great job pivoting.)

***

And for your reading pleasure, leadership buzz words in the Marines.

 

1970s Marine Reserves looking for a few good men who are looking for a good time

I’m struggling to find something pithy to say, but pith seems to have vanished along with the uncontrollable giggles I get every time I watch this:

Hat tip: Castra Praetoria

Also, speaking of Castra Praetoria, America’s Sgt. Major has done another in his continuing “Heard in the clear” saga.  Those are amongst my favorite posts, because they make me laugh and they make me suspect that Marines, even the youngest recruits, are probably a whole lot smarter than the average bear.

In honor of the Marines

Marines dismounting from an amphibious assault vehicle

As the Marines make ready to follow their Commander in Chief’s orders and include woman in combat infantry positions,* perhaps now is the time to stop and consider what we like about Marines who haven’t been turned into jello by a politically correct class, the honest members of which make no bones about their hatred for all things military.  I received the following pro-Marine message from a friend:

Marines:

I like the fact that if you are a self-declared enemy of America, running into a Marine outfit in combat is your worst nightmare; and, that your health record is either about to get a lot thicker, or be closed out entirely.

I like the fact that Marines are steadfast and consistent in everything they do, regardless of whether you agree with them or not.

I like the fact that Marines view the term ‘politically correct’ with nothing but disdain.

I like the fact that Marines stand tall and rigid in their actions, thoughts, and deeds when others bend with the direction of the wind and are as confused as a dog looking at a ceiling fan.

I like the fact that each and every Marine considers the honor and legacy of the Corps as his personal and sacred trust to protect and defend.

I like the fact that most civilians don’t have a clue what makes them tick. And that’s not a bad thing. Because if they did, it would probably scare the Hell out of them.

I like the fact that others say they want to be like them, but don’t have what it takes in the Pain-Gain-Pride department to make it happen.

I like their motto… SEMPER FIDELIS, And the fact that they don’t shed it when the going gets tough, the battlefield gets deadly or when they hang up their uniform for the last time.

I like the fact that Marines take care of each other in combat and in times of peace.

I like the fact that the people of America hold Marines in the highest esteem and that they know that they can count on them to locate, close with, and destroy those who would harm them.

I like the fact that people think they’re cocky; yet they know that they have confidence in everything they do and the fact that they don’t know the taste of that makes them look at them as if they are arrogant.

I like the fact that Ronald Reagan said… ‘Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference… Marines don’t have that problem!’

I like the fact that a member of congress felt compelled to publicly accuse the Marine Corps of being ‘radical and extreme’; and I like the fact that the Commandant informed that member of congress that she was absolutely correct, and then he passed on his thanks for the great compliment.

I like the fact that Marine leaders – of every rank – know that issuing every man and woman a black beret – or polka-dotted boxer shorts for that matter – does absolutely nothing to promote morale, fighting spirit or combat effectiveness.

I like the fact that Marines are Marines first, regardless of age, race, creed, color, sex, and national origin, or how long they served, their former rank, or what goals they achieve in life.

I like Marines and I love the fact that I am both humbled and privileged to walk among the ranks of Marines.
In closing…if you aren’t a Marine, the next best thing is to have a Marine for a husband, wife, father, mother, brother, sister, son, daughter, best friend, or friend.

SAEPE EXPERTUS, SEMPER FIDELIS, FRATRES AETERNI
(Often Tested, Always Faithful, Brothers Forever)

___________________________

*Let me just reiterate what I often say.  Being a woman myself, I have the  highest respect for women and for their abilities.  Some of the tough ones can beat the living daylights out of men.  But women are not men and I think it’s a singularly bad idea to throw them into combat situations together — bad for the women, bad for the men (I can just hear the sexual harassment and rape claims now), and bad for unit morale.

Meanwhile, the view of the scandals from the Left

I really love Facebook.  It helps me hone my epigrammatic skills, since I believe it demands some brevity; it allows me, in sneaky fashion, to expose my liberal friends to articles and ideas that don’t normally appear on their horizons; and it allows me to get a window into what ordinary liberals (as opposed to internet activist liberals) are thinking.

For the past week, as scandal after scandal emerged — Benghazi, AP, IRS — my friends have been conspicuously silent.  They’re starting to re-group, as the memes beginning to flow.  I’m not seeing the overwhelming deluge of posters that they latched onto after Todd Akin opened his mouth, but they’re definitely headed somewhere.

On the Benghazi scandal, we have this one:

Trying to relitigate Iraq

Who cares that the intelligence leading up to the Iraq War was the best available at the time? Who cares that much of it proved to be true? Who cares that Plame and Wilson were inveterate liars and self-promoters?

For the Left, Bush is the magic inoculation: Because Bush was once president, there is nothing Obama can do wrong because no matter his culpability or wrongdoing, Bush was worse.  Nyah!  The fact that the Benghazi incident reveals politically-motivated failures, lies, and negligence simply doesn’t matter, because Bush was worse.

Even if one accepts, solely for the sake of argument, that Bush indeed was exactly as morally culpable for carelessness and cover-ups, that’s a dreadful standard.  “Hey, I know I killed those two guys, but you can’t arrest or imprison me, because Charles Manson was worse.”  “Yeah, okay, so I killed millions of my own countrymen, but what are you going to do?  Mao killed more.”

The fact is, though, that Bush was never guilty of anything more than relying on bad intelligence — or for making bad decisions based upon good intelligence.  Nothing he did was done behind the scenes, nor did he walk away during the night, leaving Americans to die.  And there’s no evidence whatsoever of a cover-up.  After all, post-Watergate, it’s been received wisdom that it’s not the act, it’s the cover-up that’s the problem.

The other thing my Leftist friends are finally catching up with is the umbrella thing.  This poster is now making the rounds:

Umbrellas and presidents

When one of my Facebook friends posted that image, and repeated the question (“What’s the difference?”) I politely pointed out several differences:  First, the other umbrella holders are not Marines. They’re Army or aides, and they’re clearly along to lend a hand, not stand guard. Second, Marines do not carry umbrellas, and for the Commander in Chief to demand that they violate standing orders is bad. Third, Marines only carry umbrellas for women, which makes the president look wussy in the midst of scandals that have even his acolytes questioning his leadership abilities (because he’s either ineffective or corrupt, so they’ve chose ineffective). And fourth, the President’s own words were dreadful: “They’re going to look good next to us.”

(Incidentally, after Hillary’s famous, dishonest, prevaricating, cover-up question “what difference at this point does it make?” I would suggest that Democrats/Progressives henceforth avoid that question entirely.  It invariably means that it makes a big difference, and not one that looks good for them.)

Those words yield themselves to two interpretations, both dreadful. Either Obama thinks of the Marines as props (which is entirely possible given how Michelle framed herself with troops in dress uniform when she handed out the Best Picture Oscar) or he actually thinks that his overwhelming God-like-ness will make the Marines — the Marines! — look better. Or, as some wit showed in a poster:

Obama the Marines and an umbrella

The one thing that none of my liberal Facebook friends has dared to touch is the IRS scandal. I know why, too. Doing so would force them to admit one of two unpalatable things: (1) either they think it’s okay for the IRS to be used for partisan purposes or (2) they would have to acknowledge that conservatives were right that Obama’s administration is corrupt and that big government is a dangerous infringement on individual liberties. They choose silence.

A study in contrasts: man versus pathetic excuse for a man

I’m too old to get all dreamy about Prince Harry.  I do think, though, that he has matured nicely, from a callow, useless person into a fully functioning human being.  Part of this comes from his deep, abiding commitment to his military service.  Here’s a great video of Harry sort of waffling along about life, until reality intrudes.  He looks incredibly attractive running off, not just because he’s a very fit, young male specimen, but because he’s running off to do meaningful, responsible, traditionally manly work. (The moment I describe occurs within the first 40 seconds of the video.):

And then there’s this totally embarrassing moment showing the unmanly, metrosexual Obama using our military forces to shelter him from a few drops of rain.  I follow that video with one that I think is nicely on point, as well as with some useful pictures that I present in the most petty spirit possible:

Is this what he’s worried about?

And speaking of unmanly, it’s impossible to ignore Obama in his mom jeans on a girly bike, especially when contrasted with George Bush?

Obama and George Bush on their bicycles

And if you can’t throw a baseball (and need to do so in those mom jeans again), man up and confess that you can’t before you make a fool of yourself:

Obama wears mom jeans to pitch baseball

And lastly, I know they all do make-up for TV. It’s just that he looks so happy in the moment:

Democratic presidential candidate, U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), has makeup applied before the Univision Democratic Candidate forum at the University of Miami in Coral Gables

Are the Marines approaching recruitment in the right way?

Marines

For at least 60 years, advertisers have pitched young people by saying, “If you buy our product. you will be cool.”  They haven’t said, “You are cool; therefore you should buy our product.”  The promise is that the product will fulfill your desires, desires that go far beyond a particular pair of jeans, a specific soft drink, or a certain brand of after shave.  You don’t desire “Nike.”  You desire the promise of Nike:  performance, sophistication, beautiful body.  The fact that you will wear your expensive Nike shirt stretched over your cuddly beer belly as you lounge on the couch watching Honey Boo-Boo is irrelevant.  You’re wearing Nike, so you know you’re awesome.

Which gets me to a Marine recruitment effort:

The Marine Corps on Wednesday began an advertising campaign targeted toward encouraging enlistment by Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, two groups that make up only a tiny percentage of the Corps.

The campaign, entitled “A Warrior’s Education,” features videos on the Marines’ Facebook page in which 1st Lt. David Pham and 1st Lt. David Oliver David extol the virtues and challenges of being a Marine officer, and link Marine discipline to the values they learned from their families.

Pham, 25, who spent some of his youth in Westminster, attended Georgia Tech and is now a combat veteran of Afghanistan, talks of his mother, a refugee from Vietnam.

“Growing up, I’d say my role model was my mother,” he says. “You always respect your mother, you do the right thing. When you get to the Marine Corps, it’s more a pride you wear.”

From focus groups, Marine leadership learned that family honor and the concept of self-betterment through education are key values among Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, according to Lt. Col. Raphael Hernandez, assistant chief of staff, advertising, for the Marine Corps Recruiting Command.

“They’re strivers, they seek opportunity,” Hernandez said of the two groups being targeted. “We want the influencers to know — the mothers and fathers — that their daughter or son can find success in the Marine Corps.”

On the one hand, I really don’t like the idea of the military targeting specific racial or nationalist subcultures within America.  That seems to me to buy into the multiculturalist PC stuff that’s turning our Pentagon into a haven for every Leftist idea, and that’s driving out the fighting ethos that is, technically, it’s actually purpose in this world.

Having said that, to the extent that the Marines are targeting Asians and Pacific Islanders by saying that being in the Marines is about having something to be proud of and having accomplishments under your belt — well, I think that’s a great way to sell a product.  Nike also thinks it’s a great way to sell a product.  We’re not running after you — but you should be running after us.  Except….  Except that when your ad campaign targets a specific minority group, that’s precisely what you’re doing — you’re running after them, which kind of kills the message about how you’re supposed to be the prize they pay for, and not vice versa.

In other words, the Marines have the right idea (“we’re special and you can be special by association”) but have fallen into political correctness and are sending a meta message that undercuts the spoken message.  (“Please, join us, please, please.  Our quotas are unbalanced without you.”)

I didn’t enjoy the movie Field of Dreams (Kevin Costner just doesn’t work for me as an actor and I just don’t “get” baseball), but I’ve always liked the movie’s famous tag line:  “If you build it, he will come.”  The Marines take pride in being the best. In this day and age, they need to advertise, but the ads should be spread far and wide, to all people, and shouldn’t be a form of quota hunting.  That just cheapens the message.

Incidentally, one of my favorite books to come out of the war in Iraq is Marco Martinez’s Hard Corps: From Gangster to Marine Hero.  When being a gang member sickened his soul, he was drawn to the Marines because they didn’t want someone like him.  They wanted someone better than he was and he too wanted to be that better guy.

Some institutions just shouldn’t pander.

A great way to double your charitable donation for the troops

Last year, when I was casting about for a holiday season charity, a friend recommended the Semper Fi Fund, which helps out wounded service people and their families.  I was planning on making a donation again this year, sometime around December something or other, but I’m not going to wait that long.  I’m going to donate ASAP.

My reason?  It turns out that Bob Parsons, GoDaddy’s founder and Chairman, is a former Marine.  To celebrate the Marine Corps 237th birthday, GoDaddy has made a $1,000,000 matching pledge for donations to the Semper Fi Fund.  Go here to make a donation, and enjoy this video, which includes one of my favorite songs — Madison Rising’s Star Spangled Banner.

Hat tip:  Bruce Kesler

The girl’s guide to visiting the USS Makin Island

Courtesy of the Navy League, today I boarded the USS Makin Island as an official ship’s greeter.  My visit was a bit more fraught than past experiences have been, so I thought I’d walk you through the girl’s guide to visiting the USS Makin Island, starting with pre-visit preparations:

  1. Review boarding instructions at last-minute and realize that I’m supposed to wear “slacks.”  Who the heck has slacks?  I live in jeans, either blue or black.  Burrow through closet and discover antique pair of bland brown slacks.
  2. Breath sigh of relief that slacks still zip.  I vow not to do any inhaling for the rest of the day, lest the slacks become rebellious.
  3. New problem:  After a harried search for the sole, and ancient, pair of brown shoes I own, I find that they are scratched and dirty.  This is bad.  Worse is that I have no shoe polish.  A frantic hunt for something oily to help liven up the leather yields only Tea Tree oil.  Did you know that if you polish your shoes with Tea Tree oil you go around the rest of the day smelling like disinfectant?  I know that now.
  4. Leave house in order to arrive at Pier 80 (in the southern-most part of the City) by 2:30, since the last, best word is that I should be there at 3:00.  I figure a half-hour of wiggle room is a good thing.
  5. Halfway to Pier 80, I get a timely telephone call telling me that the USS Makin Island is actually going to be at Pier 30/32.  Under these circumstances, San Francisco’s maze of one way streets becomes the enemy.
  6. Arrive at Pier 30/32 at 2:30, blithely assuming that I’ll be on board by 3:00.  Hah!  But more on that later.
  7. Learn that, because of snafu, while I am approved for entry onto the pier, my car is not.  I begin the hunt for San Francisco street parking.  Rather to my surprise, I find a spot only a block away, a distance even my dodgy knee can tolerate.  I spend a few minutes struggling with the new-fangled ticket machine, which charges me a hefty $12 for four hours of street parking.  Four hours should be enough, right?
  8. Arrive at pier, and saunter self-consciously across a vast parking lot and staging area, which is empty but for a handful of people who clearly belong there, including five spit-and-polished Marines.   Here’s a picture of that vast space:

  9. With feigned coolness, because I’m neurotically certain that everyone there is staring at me, I casually seat myself on one of the comfortable-looking, bright orange security barriers.
  10. Learn the hard way, when my weight compresses the barrier on which I’ve seated myself, that said barriers are filled with water.
  11. Come to terms with the unpleasant realization that an objective observer, unacquainted with the facts, could reasonably conclude that I wet my pants.
  12. Check out spit-and-polished Marines to see whether they noticed that I’m suddenly looking remarkably foolish, not to mention incontinent.  Happily they appear oblivious — or perhaps they’re just too polite to point and laugh.
  13. Try to air-dry my butt as discretely as possible.  This involves my skulking along the parking lot with my back to the cars, trying to get the benefit of the stiff breeze blowing across the pier.  I am suddenly very grateful that the Navy is running late.
  14. Begin casting longing glances at the Porta Potties. Why the heck are they in such an exposed location?  Think dry thoughts (which is hard to do with wet pants).
  15. Due to extremely brisk breeze, my pants finally begin to dry.  I also give thanks for very expensive all-weather hair style.
  16. Begin to wonder if the thrill of welcoming an amphibious assault vessel is worth it. I fight urge to beat strategic retreat.  I remind myself that dry pants are a good omen and, feeling courageous now that my butt is dry, I slink off to the Porta Potties.
  17. The intelligent, knowledgeable half of the Navy League greeting committee arrives.  Thank God!!  Then I get the bad news:  I arrived an hour early for a ship that is going to be at least an hour late.  Oh, and I’m the point man for the Navy League presentation.  Have I ever mentioned that I’m terrified of public speaking?  I’m not shy.  I can show up to a party knowing no one and still have fun.  It’s having all those eyes looking at you (see items 9 and 10, above).  This blind panic is made worse by knowing that those staring are (a) mostly male and (b) mostly younger than I.  When I was 25, this would have been cool; now that I’m . . . ahem . . . my current age, it’s just nerve-wracking.
  18. Go to car to regroup.  I try to freshen up, only to realize that I’ve forgotten to bring lipstick.  This girl doesn’t feel fully dressed without lipstick, but I focus on the fact that I no longer look as if I’ve wet my pants.  I’m ahead of my own curve.  With lunch a distant memory, and no eateries nearby, I eat a stale power bar that my son left in the car donkey’s years ago.
  19. Return to pier, which is filling up.  The USS Makin Island appears.  It is magnificent:
  20. Attach myself like a limpet to my wonderful Navy League point man who patiently listens to me as I nervously babble.  I know I should muzzle myself, but I’ve got so much adrenalin pumping through me at the thought of public speaking that nothing is going to stop my mouth from moving.
  21. Finally!  Only an hour and a half after I first report for “greeting duty,” we board the ship.  Dozens of ridiculously handsome/beautiful, polite, incredibly young people, all of whom look spiffy in their uniforms, are everywhere.  Is it really possible that they’re all staring at me?  Remind myself I am no longer 13, and that it’s not all about me.
  22. One of said spiffy young people leads us to the wardroom, where we receive a very polite welcome and are offered food and drink.  I recoil at the thought of food, but demand water like a starving man in the desert.
  23. Briefing commences.  The Captain welcomes all of his visitors aboard.  I’m shocked.  How can someone be so fresh and young, and have so much responsibility?  I later check out the ship’s web page and learn that Captain Pringle isn’t that much younger than I am — he just looks a whole lot better.
  24. Fortunately, I’m not the first speaker.  Before I speak, representatives from the Fleet Week board, the San Francisco Police Department, and the NCIS speak.  They are all composed and quite interesting.  This worries me.
  25. Oh, my God!  It’s my turn.  There must be about — oh my! — 50 (or could it actually be 3,000?) people sitting there waiting to hear me speak.  I introduce myself and my fellow Navy Leaguer, and am more grateful than I can say that I remember our names.  I’ve been known to forget my own name in public speaking settings.
  26. I subscribe to the theory that, if you’re obviously at a disadvantage and the people you’re with aren’t your enemy, you should throw yourself at their mercy.  I therefore apologize in advance for a few things: (a) I’m shaking with nerves; (b) I’m a vast chasm of civilian ignorance; (c) I’ll be reading from a prepared script; and (d) I don’t have my reading glasses, so I can’t see the prepared script.  I am off to a rip-roaring start here.
  27. Things are going well.  I’m making it through the list of goodies that the Navy League is providing for our maritime guests, and I’m only stuttering a little bit.  I get cocky.  When I come to the part about tours up in Wine Country, I ad lib:  “This is up in the Sonoma/Napa area, north of San Francisco.  It’s really beautiful up there and wine tours are fun.  Just be sure not to drink or drive.”
  28. Did I just do that?  Did I tell a room full of Naval and Marine officers not to drink and drive?  Could I have been more disrespectful to them?  I don’t know if recovery is possible, but I try:  “I can say that, because I’m a mother.”  Okay, just kill me now.
  29. I finally wrap up my mercifully brief presentation with only minimal hyperventilation and no tears.  Showing that they truly are officers and gentlemen/gentlewomen, several of the briefing attendees come up to me afterwards and tell me that I did a fine job.  What nice people these are!
  30. Return to my car three hours and fifty-seven minutes after I first arrived.  Hurray!  I didn’t get a parking ticket.  I go home giddy with excitement.  Mission accomplished!

Despite my own neurosis, I had a wonderful time.  As I told the assembled officers, the USS Makin Island is a lovely ship, and I was truly honored to be on board.  If you’re in or near San Francisco this weekend, don’t let the crowds deter you.  As you can see from the Fleet Week website, there are so many things to do and see, and it’s your chance to thank personally the men and women who serve our country.

When it comes to playing politics, not all Marines are subject to the same rules

Sgt. Gary Stein was discharged from the Marines because he created a web page critical of President Obama.  Despite the fact that I agree with Sgt. Stein’s political views, I think the Marines did the right thing. One of the things that makes our military great is the fact that it is a non-partisan institution.  Sure, we know that individual service members have political views — often strong ones — but the military presents itself as assiduously non-partisan.  Our American military, including the individual men and women serving within it, supports America as a whole, not specific parties within America.

To address the tension between serving ones country and losing ones First Amendment speech rights within that same country, the Department of Defense came up with a fairly decent compromise:  If you’re presenting yourself as a private citizen, you have full First Amendment rights.  When you are actually wearing that uniform, however, you represent the American military and your powers of speech, while presenting yourself to the public as a service man or woman, must be consistent with the military mission and therefore be non-partisan.

Not all Marines, however, seem to be subject to the same scrutiny as Sgt. Stein was.  The Mellow Jihadi has come across a group of Marines and other members of the Armed Forces who have actively embraced the Occupy philosophy, including creating a web page advancing the far Left occupy agenda.

The Mellow Jihadi, who takes seriously his responsibility to remain non-partisan, even as he shares with his readers interesting stuff from all over the world, asks in a polite and non-partisan way “Please tell me if this the way Marines (active-duty or not) should be treating their uniforms.”  As I understand it, the answers he’s received from people associated with Occupy Marines have, apparently, been non-responsive, unless you consider obscenities and threats adequate answers to the question.

The Department of Defense Directive regarding political activities while in uniform actually provides a pretty clear answer to the Mellow Jihadi’s question:

4.1.2. A member of the Armed Forces on active duty shall not:

[snip]

4.1.2.10. March or ride in a partisan political parade.

[snip]

4.1.2.15. Attend partisan political events as an official representative of the Armed Forces, except as a member of a joint Armed Forces color guard at the opening ceremonies of the national conventions of the Republican, Democratic, or other political parties recognized by the Federal Elections Committee or as otherwise authorized by the Secretary concerned.

It is no defense to the conduct of the people in the Facebook page to say that OWS isn’t partisan but is, instead, a “people’s movement.” Because OWS has a clear political agenda, that in itself makes it partisan. In effect, by having clear, consistent policy goals, OWS has turned itself into a political party.  As for the fact that some of the people in the photos may be former or fake service members . . . well, the former group should be ashamed of itself and the latter group is committing a fraud on the public.  Neither group has anything to boast about.

My parting question:  Will these protesters, assuming they are still (and actually) active duty, be subject to the same sanctions that saw Sgt. Stein discharged (not very honorably) from the Marines?  Or in Obama’s America, is all political speech by men and women in uniform to be treated equally, except that some (that favorable to the Obama agenda) will be treated more equally than others?

Help a Marine friend out!

Usually, Marines are there to help us.  Today, though, you can help out a Marine — America’s Sergeant Major, who blogs at Castra Praetoria, is in a dead heat at the Milbloggies for best Marine Milblogger.

Mike’s not only a friend of mine, but he runs a wonderful blog, one that is funny, moving (both emotionally and in terms of exercise tips), informed and informative, and just generally a great read.  His is the kind of blog that reminds you that one aspect of America’s greatness is that not all of her best and brightest opt for comfortable government or academic sinecures, with lots of room for easy money, power, and fawning press attention.  There are some who elect to serve our country, often at great risk to themselves, and always in the kind of generally uncomfortable circumstances that would send the average Yuppie screaming for Mommy.

So, go here, scroll down for the “Best U.S. Marine Corps Blog Nominations,” click on the “see nominees” link, and cast your vote for Castra Praetoria.

Naomi Wolf, by castigating Katy Perry for her “shameless” Marine music video, shows that you can be the smartest person in the room and still be stupid.

Two people sent me a link to stories about Naomi Wolf castigating singer Katy Perry for making a “shameless” piece of video “propaganda” celebrating the U.S. Marines.  One sent me the link because he knows that, I went to school with Naomi.  The other sent me the link because he knows that I like the Marines.  Before I got to my opinion about this, both as someone who celebrates the Marines and who doesn’t celebrate Naomi, a little background about this story.  Let’s start with Katy’s video:

Me, personally?  I think it’s nice.  Perry’s not a major talent by any means, but she’s a rock-solid pop singer.  This is a catchy, generic pop song, presented as a genuinely respectful look at Marines and their training.  It’s good for the Marines to have this out there. My only complaint is that Katy turns the Marines into the American version of the French Foreign Legion.  (For those who find this reference obscure, the French Foreign Legion used to be known as a place for men who were either escaping from a shady past or a broken heart.)  I hate to see the Marines painted as a sort of Lonely Hearts Club.

And now the Naomi Wolf interlude:

Feminist Naomi Wolf, author of “The Beauty Myth,” is calling Katy Perry’s new video a propaganda piece for the Marine Corps and has suggested her fans boycott the singer.

More specifically, Naomi said:

It’s a total piece of propaganda for the Marines . . . I really want to find out if she was paid by them for making it . . . it is truly shameful.  I would suggest a boycott of this singer whom I really liked — if you are as offended at this glorification of violence as I am.

(As an aside, Naomi’s writing is execrable.  She seems to have abandoned entirely the basic grammar we learned with such effort in high school.  Our English teachers, who were quite good back in the day, would be horrified.)

Before I dive too deeply into this, you have to know that I’m not personally fond of Naomi.  At school, she hung with the “artsy intellectual” crowd and made a point of letting people know that she functioned on a higher intellectual plane than they did. I’ve since learned, from her own writing in fact, that she was a deeply unhappy young woman.  With hindsight, I realize that, typically for an unhappy person, she was trying to make herself feel better by spreading her unhappiness around.  I can now view her with some degree of compassion, but it doesn’t make me like her any better.

Okay, that was my full disclosure.  Back to more substantive issues.

Naomi’s statement about Katy Perry’s video shows that you can be the smartest person in the room (and Naomi is undoubtedly intelligent on the IQ scale) and still be stupid.  Katy Perry is a private citizen and is free to make any type of video she wants, including one that praises the U.S. Marines.  There’s no doubt that the Marines supported Perry’s effort — they did, after all, give her access to Camp Pendleton and forty of the women who live and train there — but there’s no indication whatsoever that they paid for Perry’s services.  Absent that proof, to call a private citizen’s homage to the United States Marine’s a piece of “shameless” “propaganda” is just embittered foolishness.

Wolf’s manifest hostility to the Marines (a hostility that exists despite her later attempts to say that she really admires them for being pathetic cannon fodder) demonstrates how divorced Naomi is from reality.  Naomi enjoys her fame, wealth, and free speech platform because of Marines, men and women both, who are willing to do the dirty work.

In war after war, the United States Marines have willingly, and at great cost, protected America’s national security.  Without the Marines, we might be living in a world with a powerful Bushido Japan controlling the Pacific.  Alternatively, Japan’s control over the Pacific might have been displaced by the Chinese Communists who would have overrun the Pacific Rim in the 1950s and 1960s.  Today, by engaging the Islamists in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Marines (and, of course, America’s other military forces) have kept the battle on the battlefield and away from the home front.

For Naomi to pitch a hissy-fit because an American pop singer lauds an America institution (one that pre-dates America itself) is just so . . . Naomi:  arrogant, foolish, and deeply unhappy, with the kind of unhappiness that just has to spread itself around.

(As another aside, I find it amusing that Perry did this video, because I seem to recall that her soon-to-be ex-husband Russell Brand was famed for spouting anti-American nonsense. To the extent that this is a highly patriotic video, I wonder if it isn’t meant as a slap at him.)

The Marines take care of their own — forever

I’ve finished reading the wonderful Brute: The Life of Victor Krulak, U.S. Marine, and am about to embark upon Give Me Tomorrow: The Korean War’s Greatest Untold Story–The Epic Stand of the Marines of George Company.  One of the things that stands out in any book one reads about the Marines is the fact that they never leave their fallen comrades behind.  The Chosin Reservoir campaign, which is covered in Brute and which is the Give me Tomorrow, wasn’t just a stunning military victory, it was also a profound moral victory because the Marines not only fought their way out of a deep hole, but they didn’t leave anyone — living or dead — behind.

To me, there’s a vaguely Biblical quality to the Marines’ reverence for their fallen.  As you know, under Jewish law, the dead must be buried immediately.  I always thought that was simply a practical rule for a people living in a hot climate.  A more scholarly friend, however, explained to me that there is a much deeper, spiritual reason behind the rule.  The human body is God’s creation.  One does not fold, spindle, or mutilate that creation (so that piercings and tattoos will not show up amongst the Orthodox).  This was not just an abstract idea.  During Biblical days, the Jews lived surrounded by pagan tribes that practiced human sacrifice and ritually mutilated enemy corpses.  By immediately burying their dead, the Jews ensured that God’s handiwork would be respected and protected, even in death.

Sometimes, recovering the dead may take a while, but the Marines try to leave them in safe hands and they go back when they can.  This video is a moving illustration of that fact.

 

Why I like Marines

You know me — I’ve always had a soft spot for the Marines.  (No offense to the Navy League, of course, especially because the Marines are an integral part of the Navy League.)  Since I can’t imagine anyone not sharing my feelings about the Marines, I thought you’d like the following remarks from Col. Mike Lowe, the Commander of Marine Corps Base Quantico.  It’s not a new speech (as best as I can tell, it’s been circulating at Marine blogs for a while), but it’s a wonderful speech:

From that elegant introduction, you may or not have picked up on the fact that I have had 5 tours in Marine divisions, serving in all 4 divisions and 3d MarDiv twice. I have made 8 Marine expeditionary unit deployments, served with the special operations command and have been to every level of PME possible in order to hone my war fighting skills.

Utilizing your great deductive abilities, intellect and experience as Lieutenants, you should have questioned the Corps’ collective judgment when they decided to make me a Base Commander! I sure as hell did and I still do!

Look up “base” in the dictionary.

According to Mr. Webster: “lowest part or bottom. Having or showing little or no honor, courage or decency; mean; ignoble; contemptible; menial or degrading; inferior in quality; of comparative low worth”.

So… After 28 years of focusing on locating, closing with and destroying, I’ve got that going for me!

That’s ok! Go ahead and laugh! There is at least one future base commander sitting among you right now!

Seriously, I am honored to return to the Basic School as your guest, at this, one of our most time honored traditions. I have been asked to speak on my insights and experiences as a leader of Marines.

Basically, I was told to talk about what I have learned over the last 28 years of leading Marines. Well, I have only learned eight things, and it will only take me about 60 seconds to share them with you.

Now that I think of it, if I had been invited to speak to you the day Charlie Company formed up, I could have probably saved you six months of TBS training.

I thought I would get this structured portion out of the way up front so I could talk about anything I want to, so here goes.

1. Seek brilliance in the basics, always do the right thing, and have a plan to kill everyone you meet.

2. If you are riding at the head of the herd, look back every now and then and make sure it is still there.

3. Never enter an hour-long firefight with 5 minutes of ammo.

4. This one is really important for all of you born North of Washington, DC. Never, never kick a cow chip on a hot day.

5. If you’re not shooting, and I can see by your marksmanship badges that some of you are challenged in this area, you better be communicating or reloading for another Marine.

6. There are three types of leaders. Those who learn from reading, those who learn from observation, and those who still have to touch the electric fence to get the message. (This is really true!)

7. Anything worth shooting is worth shooting twice. Ammo is cheap.

8. And finally, you might want to write this one down: Never slap a grown man who has a mouth full of chewing tobacco

Now that I’ve put that check in “proper military instruction” block, are there any questions? Of course not! What a stupid question to ask a bunch of Lieutenants so close to graduation! Now that I think of it, my TBS class stopped asking questions after the first two weeks.

I have a few minutes left; so let’s talk about something I like, Marines. Up front, let me tell you how much I admire you. Why is that? Unlike the vast majority of your fellow citizens, you stepped forward and committed yourself to a greater cause without concern for your personal safety or comfort. And you did it knowing that you would gain nothing in return. Except the honor and cherished privilege of earning the title of “Marine Officer”.

Individually, you are as different as apples and oranges, but you are linked for eternity by the title “Marine” and the fact that you are part of the finest fighting force that has ever existed in history.

If you haven’t picked up on it, I like being a Marine and I like being around Marines. Like most of you are probably thinking, I came into the Corps to do four years and four years only. But a strange happened. I was having so much fun that I simply forgot to get out. Hell, at this point, I am thinking seriously about making the Corps a career!

So what is it that I like about Marines? This is the easy part!

I like the fact that you always know where you stand with a Marine! With Marines, there is no middle ground or gray area. There are only missions, objectives and facts.

I like the fact that if you are a self-declared enemy of America, that running into a Marine outfit in combat is your worst nightmare, and that your health record is about to get a lot thicker or be closed out entirely!

I like the fact that Marines are steadfast and consistent in everything they do. Regardless of whether you agree with them or not; that Marines hold the term “politically correct” with nothing but pure disdain; that Marines stand tall and rigid in their actions, thoughts and deeds when others bend with the direction of the wind and are as confused as a dog looking at a ceiling fan!

I like the fact that each and every Marine considers the honor and legacy of the Corps as his personal and sacred trust to protect and defend.

I like the fact that most civilians don’t have a clue what makes us tick! And that’s not a bad thing. Because if they did, it would scare the hell out of them!

I like the fact that others say they want to be like us, but don’t have what it takes in the “pain-gain-pride” department to make it happen.

I like the fact that the Marines came into being in a bar, Tun Tavern, and that Marines still gather in pubs, bars and slop chutes to share sea stories and hot scoop.

I like our motto: Semper Fidelis, and the fact that we don’t shed it when the going gets tough, the battlefield gets deadly or when we hang up our uniform for the last time.

I like the fact that Marines take care of each other. In combat and in time of peace.

I like the fact that Marines consider the term “Marines take care of their own” as meaning we will give up our very life for our fellow Marines, if necessary.

I like the fact that Marines know the difference between “chicken salad” and “chicken shit” and aren’t afraid to call either for what it is!

I like the fact that Marines have never failed the people of America and that we don’t use the words “can’t”, “retreat”, or “lose”.

I like the fact that the people of America hold Marines in the highest esteem and that they know that they can count of us to locate, close with and destroy those who would harm them! I like Marines. And being around Marines.

I like the fact that a couple of years ago an elected member of congress felt compelled to publicly accuse the Marine Corps of being “radical and extreme”. I like the fact that our Commandant informed that member of congress that he was absolutely correct and that he passed on his thanks for the compliment.

I like the fact that Marine leaders — of every rank— know that issuing every man and woman a black beret — or polka-dotted boxer shorts for that matter— does absolutely nothing to promote morale, fighting spirit or combat effectiveness.

I like the fact that Marines are Marines first. Regardless of age, race, creed, color, sex, national origin or how long they served or what goals they achieve in life!

Let me give you one example: a young man enlists in the Navy in WWI. When the war is over, he ships over and joins the Army.

He next enlisted in the Marine Corps and served from 1920-1922. There was no Air Force back then, so I guess he felt he had put all the checks in the block! When he served out his time in the Corps, he went after an education: receiving various degrees in engineering, history and political science from UCLA and Montana State University. He entered politics and served for 11 years in the House of Representatives. Next, he tackled the Senate where he served for 24 years, as both the Democratic whip and later as the Senate majority leader. He was then appointed as the ambassador to Japan where he served for 11 years.

This gentleman went from snuffy to national and international prominence. And when he passed away in 2001, he was rightly buried in Arlington. If you want to visit his grave, don’t look for him near the Kennedy Eternal Flame where so many politicians are laid to rest. Look for a small, common marker shared by the majority of our heroes. Look for the marker that says “Michael J. Mansfield, PFC, U.S. Marine Corps.

You see, Senator Mike Mansfield, like each of us gathered here tonight was prouder of being a Marine than anything else in his incredible life of national service.

There is one thing I have learned for sure over the last 28 years. The years fly by, names change, the weapons and the gear change, political leaders and agendas change, national priorities and budgets change, the threats to our nation change. But through it all, there is one abiding constant —- the basic issue, do-or-die Marine.

He or she will do damn near anything asked, under terrible conditions, with better results and fewer complaints than any civilized human being should have reason to expect. And we, who have the privilege of serving them and leading them, make our plans and execute crucial missions based primarily on one fact of life. That the basic Marine will not fail his country, his Corps and his fellow Marines. That they will overcome any threat. If allowed to do so.

Think about that and remember that for 228 years it has worked and it has kept the wolf away from America’s door. I like Marines, because being a Marine is serious business. We’re not a social club or a fraternal organization and we don’t pretend to be. We’re a brotherhood of “warriors” — nothing more, nothing less, pure and simple.

We are in the ass-kicking business, and unfortunately, these days business is good. But don’t worry about that. What you need to remember is that the mere association of the word “Marine” with a crisis is an automatic source of confidence to America, and encouragement to all nations who stand with us. As Marines, our message to our foes has always been essentially the same. “We own this side of the street! Threaten my country or our allies and we will come over to your side of the street, burn your hut down, and whisper in your ear “can you hear me now?” And then secure your heartbeat.

Now I must tell you that I had an opportunity to review your MOS assignments. I remember that time in my life well as a real group tightener! Regardless of what MOS you now have, if you don’t already know it, being a leader of Marines is about as much fun as you can legally have with your clothes on! And that’s true regardless if you are a grunt, datadink, sparkchaser, stewburner, wiredog, buttplate, remington raider, rotorhead, legal beagle, fast stick, cannon cocker, track head, skivvie stacker, dual fool or a boxkicker. And if you don’t believe it you will! Trust me!

Why is that? Because each us fought to gain the coveted title “Marine”, it wasn’t given to us. We earned it. And on the day we finally became Marines, an eternal flame of devotion and fierce pride was ignited in our souls.

Charlie Company, let’s not fool ourselves. You know it and I know it. You have some challenging times and emotional events ahead of you. I am not talking about tomorrow morning’s headache. I am talking about the fact that the world is a dangerous place and as leaders of Marines, you will be walking point on world events.

Make sure you keep that flame that I mentioned earlier burning brightly. It will keep you warm when times are hard. It will provide light in the darkest of nights. Use it and draw strength from it, as generations of leathernecks have done since our beginning.

Before PCS’ing to Quantico, I completed a 24-month tour with the 31st MEU aboard the USS Essex. Some of the Marines here tonight were with me. The Essex is a great ship and one of six to bear that name in defense of our nation.

In 1813, the first Essex was commanded by a tough skipper named Capt. David Porter. By all accounts, Capt Porter was the type man you did not want to see at Captain’s Mast. He was tough, but he was a true warrior. On one particular mission, the Essex was ordered to sail alone to the Pacific and attack Great Britain’s Pacific whaling fleet.

Obviously, Captain Porter knew the fleet was well-guarded by British men-of-war and he knew his job would be a tough one and that he would be severely out gunned in his task.

Prior to sailing, Capt Porter addressed the assembled crew of sailors and Marines on the deck and explained the task at hand. He asked for volunteers only and told his men to “take seven steps forward” if they would willingly go in harm’s way with him. He then turned his back and waited.

After a few moments, he turned to face his crew and noticed no holes in the ranks. The ranks looked just as they had and not a single Marine or sailor stood to the front of the formation. It is reported that he went on a tirade and screamed, “What is this? Not a single volunteer among you?” With this, an aide leaned over and whispered in Porter’s ear, “Sir, the whole line has stepped forward 7 paces.”

I think of this story often. And when I do, I think of Marines like you. Charlie Company, on behalf of the generations of Marine lieutenants who have gone before you, thank you for taking the “7 steps forward”, thank you for your love of country, thank you for your life-long commitment as a United States Marine.

For those of you who are wondering, “Am I up to it?” forget it. You will be magnificent, just as Marine officers always have been. I realize that many of your young Marines are going to be “been there, done that” warriors and that they will wear the decorations to prove it. But you need to know, that they respect you and admire you. You need to know that they want and need your leadership. All you have to do is never fail them in this regard and everything will turn out great. Hold up your end of the bargain and they will not fail.

I am pretty sure I can speak for the entire group of distinguished guests here tonight when I say, “We admire you and would trade places with you in a minute to do it all over again.” Sooooo, if you’re interested in giving up a platoon in order to be a base commander, see me at the bar!

One last thing. When you check into your first unit and start the fantastic voyage that only Marines will ever know, kick some serious ass. Because it is a full time job and there is a lot of that activity that must occur for America and her allies to survive.

“Long live the United States. And success to the Marine Corps!”

Hat tip:  America’s 1st Sgt

How does one resuscitate a reputation that the media has savaged?

You remember Ilario Pantano, don’t you?  Well, maybe not.   It’s been a long time now since the media savaged his reputation, selling him to Americans as a cold-blooded killer, a story that ran endlessly on newspaper front pages and in TV headlines.  Interestingly, the media was pretty quiet when the report came out clearing Pantano of those charges, which were nothing more than a smear by a disgruntled sergeant with a bone to pick against Pantano.  Aside from minimal statements to the effect that he was cleared (so minimal that I missed them entirely), the media has had no reports about the sergeant and his malevolent attack, not just on a man’s career, but on something much more valuable — his reputation.

Frankly, in terms of “sex selling” in the media, a story about this kind of personal attack, based on nothing more than malice and lies, is also.  Sadly for Pantano, it’s not sexy enough to convince the media that a wronged man deserved vindication as public as the attacks against him once were.

Please give a gift to Ilario Pantano this Christmas season by emailing to your friends and posting on your facebook and twitter accounts Arthur Herman’s reminder that, while Pantano was cleared as a matter of law, he is still a man whose (false) reputation precedes him, keeping him trapped in an endless nightmare:

Five years late, Ilario Pantano has been fully vindicated. Now where does he go to get his reputation back?

A dogged NCIS investigator has proven that Pantano, then a Marine lieutenant, should never have been put up on war-crimes charges back in 2004-5. But that doesn’t wipe away the endless smears thrown at him since.

Maybe the media and the bloggers hated him so much because he lived the classic American success story.

Born to a poor family in Hell’s Kitchen, Pantano showed the smarts to get a half-scholarship to the elite Horace Mann School — then put off college to join the Marines in the first Gulf War.

After that tour, he came back and worked nights to finish college, then landed a job at Goldman Sachs — until he re-enlisted shortly after 9/11.

In April 2004, 2nd Lt. Pantano was leading his squad in Iraq’s deadly Sunni Triangle when they stopped two Iraqis fleeing in a car from what turned out to be an insurgent ammo dump. Pantano ordered the pair to search their own vehicle to make sure it wasn’t booby-trapped. When they charged at him instead, he opened fire.

But one Marine, a disgruntled sergeant Pantano had disciplined more than once, claimed the two men had been kneeling and that Pantano shot them from behind. All other testimony contradicted him, yet that was the witness the Judge Advocate General’s investigating officer chose to believe when he charged Pantano with murder.

Since the witness kept changing his story and no evidence backed him up, the charges were dismissed in May 2005. But Pantano’s career as a Marine was over — and his nightmare was just beginning.

Read the rest here (and distribute it widely, please).

Know your priorities and act without hesitation

Suek posted this is an open thread, but I thought it was too good to keep hidden:

Marines are taught:

1) Keep your priorities in order and

2) Know when to act without hesitation.

A MARINE was attending some college courses between assignments. He had completed missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

One of the courses had a professor who was an avowed atheist and a member of the ACLU. One day he shocked the class when he came in, looked to the ceiling, and flatly stated, “God, if you are real, then I want you to knock me off this platform. I’ll give you exactly 15 minutes.” The lecture room fell silent. You could hear a pin drop. Ten minutes
went by and the professor proclaimed, “Here I am God I’m still waiting.”

It got down to the last couple of minutes when the MARINE got out of his chair, went up to the professor, and cold-cocked him; knocking him off the platform. The professor was out cold. The MARINE went back to his seat and sat there, silently. The other students were shocked and stunned ! and sat there looking on in silence.

The professor eventually came to, noticeably shaken, looked at the MARINE and asked, “What the hell is the matter with you? Why did you do that?”

The MARINE calmly replied, “God was too busy today taking care of America’s soldiers who are protecting your right to say stupid shit and act like an asshole. So, He sent me.”

Whoooooya!

Had this Marine been in Berlin in 1925, he might have kept my Dad from becoming a lifelong atheist.  My Dad’s mother always told him that, if he ate leavened bread during Passover, God would strike him dead with a lightening bolt.  When my Dad was six, he decided to put this theory to the test.  He stood on the curb with a piece of leavened bread in his hand.  His plan:  Take a bite of the bread and simultaneously jump off the curb into the street, so that the lightening bolt would miss.  He put the plan into effect, but to no purpose — the lightening bolt never appeared.  With six-year-old logic, rather than concluding that his mother was misinformed, my  Dad gave up on God.

Justin Timberlake, the Marines and something I did not know

I’m about to show my age here, but what can you do.  Up until this morning, I had no idea who Justin Timberlake was.  I mean, sure I’d heard his name, but I just vaguely thought “Singer?  Actor?  Whatever.”  I’ve pretty much checked out of pop culture lately, finding it too antithetical to my politics, my values and my parenting.

As of right now, I still haven’t heard Timberlake sing or seen him act, but I have read about the fact that he accepted an invitation to the Marine Corps Ball and that he made good on that acceptance.  More than that, I’ve read on his website the tribute he put up describing his experiences:

I’m writing this out to all of you after attending an event that turned out to be one of the most moving evenings I’ve ever had…

I had the honor and privilege last night of attending The Basic School Instructor Battalion 236th Marine Corps Birthday Ball at the Greater Richmond Convention Center with Corporal Kelsey DeSantis…

[snip]

I’ve always been very vocal about my support of our Armed Forces. I’ve always felt like they offered us the opportunity to live our lives freely without the fear that so many other nations have to endure still to this day. And, they do it without asking for anything in return. I had this very feeling walking into this dinner. So, to say I was stoked to be there would be more than accurate.

[snip]

They started the ceremony. And, the next thing I knew I was watching a video about Pearl Harbor/WW2 and the September 11 terrorist attacks

[snip]

While this tribute was playing, you could hear a pin drop. It was a surreal moment to be in that room with so many of our great Marines who have such a different type of connection to those stories. One that we who don’t serve will NEVER understand. It was familial. It was like they were listening to their own blood brothers. I glanced around the room at young men and women, spouses and soldiers… At kids way beyond their years, really… All so deeply entwined. Not just by battle, even though we who have never endured anything remotely close to those experiences and have NO position to comment on… But, by having such life changing experiences through them and to not ever waver in their love and respect for our homeland. That’s what I saw. A faith in us that has been tested time and time again. And, through it all, NEVER a drop of doubt.

I was truly moved.

Timberlake may not be a Marine but, in the Bizarro World that is American entertainment, he is a truly brave man, and I applaud him. I also wish I could have been at that Ball, not to see Timberlake, but to see the Marines gathered to celebrate their Corps and their history.  I’ve been to some pretty gorgeous Navy events, and I suspect I’d enjoy a Marine event every bit as much.  (With all due respect, of course, to my Navy friends.)

By the way, about Corporal Kelsey DeSantis, the one who invited Timberlake to the Ball?  Here’s something about her I bet you didn’t know, but that I greatly admire.  That gal is a fighter in more ways than one.

Honoring our Seafaring Services *UPDATED*

In honor of Fleet Week (which starts Saturday in San Francisco), I have three Navy/Marine related stories to relate and I want to promote a few of my favorite Navy related blogs.

Story 1:

My daughter has started a new school and is making new friends.  The other day, I met the Mom of one of these new friends.  (I’m happy to say that both mother and daughter are nice gals.)

“Is your daughter an only child?” I asked.  (Go ahead, say it:  I’m nosy.)

“No,” she said, “I have a son, too.”  Then, with the usual apologetic look one sees in Marin, she added “He’s joining the Navy next week.”

Having said that, the Mom cringed slightly, clearly expecting me to launch into a shocked lecture about the immorality of supporting our armed forces, especially with the blood of our young men.

“Wait!  Wait!  I’ve got to show you something,” I mumbled as I head to the stack of magazines on the kitchen counter.  Ruffling through papers for a minute revealed what I was looking for:  SeaPower magazine, which comes as part of my Navy League membership.  I handed it to her, along with a statement of the obvious.  “We’re big fans of the Navy in this house.”

Needless to say, she was delighted.  We talked about boys becoming men in the military.  She agreed.  Being a mom, she’s a little worried about her 21 year old son (he’ll always be her baby) going into the Navy.  Still, she realizes that her son needs a place to grow up and become a man — and our culture isn’t that place.  We currently train boys to be perpetual adolescents with feminine emotional traits, rather than encouraging the best aspects of manliness (bravery, loyalty, honor, camaraderie, etc.).

I think the push to become a manly man, in the best sense of the word, applies with special force in their case, because she’s a single Mom living in a low-income, all-black community.  Young men coming out of that community do not necessarily fare well in life.  Her son apparently realized that sad fact himself, since it was he who wanted to go into the military. After a couple of years at the local community college, he was lost and felt he needed something more meaningful.

When the Mom left, she thanked me profusely. “I feel so much happier now about his decision.”

Story 2:

At the local dojo a few months ago, I asked one of my Mom friends (a second degree blackbelt, incidentally), what her son (also a second degree blackbelt) was going to do with himself during the summer. Her face got that familiar Marin grimace.  She ducked her head and spoke softly.  “You hadn’t heard? He’s enlisted in the Marines.” Then came the inevitable pause, as she readied herself to be berated (or to get a saccharine and insincere, “Well, that’s nice.”).

“Oh, my gosh! That’s so cool. Wait I minute, I’ve got something to show you.” I dug frantically through my purse and — yes, there it was! — dragged out my Navy League coin. She blinked, startled. This wasn’t supposed to happen.

“Wow!  That’s wonderful.” she said. “I have to admit that this was a surprise to us. He came home one day and said ‘I’ve spent two years at community college, and I don’t know what to do with myself there.’ So he joined the Marines.”

My friend, who I assume is the usual Marine liberal then added something interesting:  “You know, I’ve been thinking about this. We should have our best and brightest defending us.  I think this will be a good thing.”

That was at the beginning of the summer.  A little while ago, the young man graduated from Marine Boot Camp, down at Camp Pendleton.  His mom sent me a photo of a young man absolutely radiating pride in himself and his uniform.  Mom was also deeply impressed by the graduation ceremony, which she said everyone should see.

Story 3:

My life is carpools.  Yesterday, I had in my car a darling 13 year old whom I’ve known since he was a little boy.  I stand very high in his estimation.  It’s not my charm, beauty or intelligence.  It’s the fact that he learned, last year, that I have friends in the Navy, including an admiral.  (Actually, I can boast about several admirals, since some of them might actually recognize me at a party if they ran into me.)  I am now persona grata, since this young man has as his life’s ambition entry into the Naval academy, followed by a career as a SEAL.

This boy has been thinking about BIG ISSUES.  “This is a really good time to get into the military, because I believe that we’re going to be in a very big war soon.”

“What makes you say that?” I asked.

“The way I see it,” he answered, “a few years ago, the news was filled with stories about the war.  Now, though, there are no stories.  I think they’re hiding something big.”

He was unimpressed with my suggestion that the media might have been trying to embarrass George Bush, whom they didn’t like, while trying to spare Barack Obama, whom they do like, the same embarrassment.  “No, I think there’s something big.”  He’s not quite sure who the enemy will be, but he knows there’s one out there.

Wrap-up to the above stories:

I think I should start a support group in Marin for those moms whose sons are entering the military.  The message would be, we don’t all hate you and we think your sons are doing a good thing!

And now the links

There are, as you all know, myriad mil blogs out there, all of which are a testament to the high caliber of men and women who serve in our military.  Since this is Navy/Marine Day at Bookworm Room, I’m just going to list my four favorite Seafaring military (and, perhaps, retired military) blogs:

The Mellow Jihadi
CDR Salamander
Neptunus Lex
Castra Praetoria

If you know of Navy/Marine/Coast Guard/Merchant Marine blogs that deserve recognition, let me know.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

UPDATE:  I’ll start adding reader suggestions here as they come in.

Information Dissemination

Congratulations to the Marines and their Afghan allies for the Marjah victory

I meant to post this yesterday, but time got away from me:  many, many, many congratulations to the Marines and their Afghan allies for the Marjah victory.  I never doubted that they would win, but I certainly understood that each Marine and Afghan soldier faced the risk that he would make the ultimate sacrifice for that victory.

Naturally, the Times, rather than celebrating a great military feat, is already trying to set up new (and in Times-land, almost certainly insurmountable) hurdles for our troops.  I have no doubt that our troops will do just fine.

For a reminder about what out-of-control, murderous troops really look like, read this story of the way in which Soviet soldiers raped the women who found themselves in the soldiers’ path during WWII.  There are no, and I mean no, stories like that about our American troops, whether one is looking at WWI, WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the First Gulf War, the war in Iraq or the war in Afghanistan.  (Indeed, I bet I could say the same for American troops going back to the Revolutionary War.)  Sure, there are always renegade men who go off and do bad things, but these same men appear periodically in our cities and towns too.  Bad guys exist, but American troops have proven definitively that they are part of a good institution, one that does not use rape as a weapon.

Drifting a little further afield, the fact that American men are not rapists even when they have the power of the military behind them, is also a useful reminder about what a misanthropic religion Islam is.  (And no, I didn’t get confused and substitute misanthropic for misogynistic.)  While it’s certainly true that one of Islam’s most glaring deficiencies is its desperate desire to subjugate women out of fear of their sexuality, it’s quite obvious that the Islamists hide from feminine sexuality because they believe men to be inherently weak.  In the Islamic world, the theory goes, any man, upon seeing a woman, will be incapable of refraining from raping her.  That is a scathing indictment of men.

In stark contrast, American men are civilized creatures.  Sure, they might leave the toilet seats up, scratch their crotches in public, and belch at inappropriate times, but when push comes to shove, they are models of self-control.

So, in thinking it through, congratulations are due to our Marines, not only for being great warriors, but also for being great human beings.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

A delightful evening aboard the USS Green Bay

Thanks to the Navy League, I’ve just returned from a delightful evening aboard the USS Green Bay.  I knew the evening was going to be lovely even before I boarded the ship.  Although a nasty storm is threatening to hit the Bay Area tomorrow, the drive into the City was exquisite.  The air was clear, with a pinkish-blue tint, and the City seemed to glimmer in this pre-storm light.  Also, amazingly, there was no traffic.  I glided through the City through one green light after another.  By the time I arrived at the Pier, I was practically giddy with the excitement that a smooth and beautiful journey engendered.

Getting to the ship took a little bobbing and weaving through security, but I thought the whole thing was cool.  The Marines and the Naval officers were extremely polite, and very competent.  And though they are working dogs and (Mr. Bookworm assured me) are not cute, I was nevertheless charmed as the bomb-sniffing canines circled my vehicle, making sure I was good to go.  When you live the kind of comfortable suburban life I live, there’s definitely a little frisson that goes with this type of extremely polite, efficient, and deadly-serious security.

While you don’t see the USS Green Bay very clearly from the street, you do see it clearly from the parking lot — and it is a very striking ship.  It’s brand new (commissioned in January 2009), and it looks like the product of a joint design team from Hollywood and the Lego company:

Isn’t that beautiful?

I won’t insult the ship by trying to describe it in my own decidedly layman’s terms.  Here’s what the ship’s own website has to say about this modern marvel of troop transportation:

The USS GREEN BAY will be used to transport and land Marines, their equipment and supplies, by embarked air cushion or conventional landing craft or Expeditionary Fighting Vehicles, augmented by helicopters or vertical take off and landing aircraft. USS GREEN BAY will support amphibious assault, special operations, or expeditionary warfare missions throughout the first half of the 21st Century.

[snip]

Length 684 feet (208.5 meters)

Beam 105 feet (31.9 meters)

Displacement Approximately 24,900 tons full load

Speed In excess of 22 knots (24.2 mph)

Aircraft Four CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters or two MV-22 tilt rotor aircraft may be launched or recovered simultaneously. The ship’s hangar can store 1-2 aircraft.

Armament Two 30 mm Close-in-Guns, for surface threat defense; two Rolling Airframe Missile launchers for air defense

Landing Craft Two LCACs (air cushion) or one LCU (conventional)

EFVs 14 Marine Corps Expeditionary Fighting Vehicles

Power plant Four Colt-Pielstick diesel engines, two shafts, 40,000 Hp

Crew 360 (28 officers, 332 enlisted), three Marines

Troops 699 (66 officers, 633 enlisted); surge to 800 total.

Those dry statistics, though, don’t do justice to what a really beautiful ship it is.  Unlike older ships, it has spacious passageways (or, I guess I should say, passageways more spacious than usual), well designed work spaces, and really excellent crew quarters considering space constraints (although I’ll have more to say on that subject), plus a fully equipped, modern hospital.  The corridors are filled with street signs from the City of Green Bay, which takes very seriously the fact that a ship was named after it.  The Bridge actually took my breath away.  It’s large and beautifully laid out, with hardwood floors and  glowing computer monitors.

After dining in style on a buffet that offered fresh fruit and vegetables, roast, shrimp, chicken wings, meatballs and cheese plates, Mr. Bookworm and I wandered through the passageways in awe.  We had the good luck to stumble across Lieutenant S, who kindly offered us an in-depth tour of the ship, beyond the areas that were open for general viewing.  He took us to the Bridge, the Command and Control center (less claustrophobic than the ones on the older ships), the room that oversees all ships functions (I’ve forgotten the name, but it’s the one with the computer systems hooked up to water, sewage, electricity, security, etc.), the upper deck, a random office (just so we could see what one looks like), his own immaculate sleeping quarters, and the Marine quarters (which are not used right now).

The sleeping quarters were especially nice, by naval standards, and Lieutenant S was most appreciative of that fact.  He said that new ships are built with an eye to making living quarters more comfortable than they been before.  This is sensible.  We’re in the 21st Century, and there’s really no need for sailors to sleep in the luxury characteristic of life below decks on an 18th Century British Man O’ War (that bit about 18th Century standards is sarcastic, by the way).  Because the ship isn’t full, officers currently have their own quarters, including their own head.  In past billets, Lieutenant S has had to share a head with 10-12 people, so having his own space is a real luxury.  And even when the ship is fully populated, the head/crew ratio is better than on ships of old.  The only thing missing for officers, suggested Mr. Bookworm, is room service.

The Marine transport quarters were something else entirely.  The beds are stacked three high, with a passage way about 2.5 feet wide between each stack of beds.  I thought they were pretty medieval, but Lieutenant S assured us that they were truly state of the art.  Although the top bunk has no head room, the two bottom bunks are configured so that the Marines occupying them can sit up, and even have a little desk before them when they’re in their bunks.  The units also have enough storage space (at least in theory) to store each Marine’s gear near his (or her) bunk.  Modern quality notwithstanding, the high estimation in which I’ve always held the Marines went up just a little bit more when I saw the conditions under which they travel.

As is always the case when I’m aboard ship, three things impressed me about the men and women serving.  The first is how nice all of them look in their uniforms (service dress blue, for this affair).  The second is what lovely manners the men and women in the service they have.  Now, I know that they’re required to be polite as part of their job, but they do their job well, with grace and courtesy.  When I walked down steep ramps or went down steep steps, someone was at hand to give me a hand.  And while normally I don’t need help (hey!  I’m a martial artist), today I did, since I broke my toe (or maybe two toes) this morning.  Even hopped up on Ibuprofin, I was in considerable pain, and changing levels left me unbalanced.  Having a nice young man at my side helping out was a real treat.

The third thing that impressed me, and this one is less tangible than how nice Naval people are in both appearance and conduct, is the fact that the Navy has extremely high expectations of the people who serve — and the fact that, for the most part, officers and enlisted live up to those expectations.  One of the things that frustrates me so much in ordinary life, especially when it comes to children, is how little we expect of them.  Making the transition from a Montessori school to a public elementary school was an object lesson in going from an environment in which children are viewed as intelligent and capable, to one in which they are all averaged out to mediocre and incapable.  (Although I must say that our local middle school is extremely demanding.)  The Navy, by contrast, demonstrates that people, when called upon to do well and behave responsibly, quite often do precisely that.

I’d like to end this post with an extra thank you to Lieutenant S.  He was personable, knowledgeable, humorous, and had real warmth, both towards us and towards the Navy.  There was no question we asked for which he didn’t have a comprehensive and intelligible answer.  I’m sure I would have enjoyed any tour I received on the ship, but I especially enjoyed the tour he gave.