Archive for August, 2009

PODCAST: Personally

August 31, 2009


New York Times Editorial Says Nation Must Not Forget My Lai

August 28, 2009

The New York Times has an editorial today on  My Lai  that you might want to read.  For one thing, it says, “Mr. Calley endures as a classic scapegoat.”  You can read it by clicking the following link:  New York Times Editorial.

The National Infantry Museum Experience

August 26, 2009

As you walk through the displays at the National Infantry Museum adjacent to Fort Benning,  it may seem incongruous, as you look at all of the representations of violence and mayhem, to reflect on love.  But, love is very much a soldier’s motivator.

Revolutionary War Exhibit, National Infantry Museum, Columbus, GA

Revolutionary War Exhibit, National Infantry Museum, Columbus, GA

A grandmother told me that she was not sure she should take her ten-year-old grandson to see the museum.  “It is about war and all of the horror that goes with it. I am not sure his parents would like it if I took him to see it.”

A lot of people have no problem at all taking their children to see it. I have seen a lot of them there.  For instance, as I was viewing a case with weapons in it, a  little boy walked up and asked me, “Do you work here?”

“No.  I’m just going through it like you are.”

“Were you in the Army?”  

“Yes I was.” 

 Then,  remembering what the grandmother told me, I asked him, “What do you think of all this?”

“Cool,” he replied.  “When I’m old enough, I am going to join.”

Hermann Goering's baton, a gift from Adolph Hitler. Goering was commander of the German air force during World War II, and was Hitler's designated successor.

Hermann Goering's baton, a gift from Adolph Hitler. Goering was commander of the German air force during World War II, and was Hitler's designated successor.

Obviously, he was not traumatized by anything he saw or heard. Age could be a factor, because quite a few of the combat veterans who go through the museum say they are very moved.  One of  the World War Two veterans told Columbus TV commentator Al Fleming, who works as a volunteer at the museum,  that he couldn’t go through the World War Two section of the musuem.  “It would just make me too nervous,” he said.   He probably had seen some close friends killed in battle.

Dad and son viewing 1930's machine gun carrier called a "Belly-flopper," National Infantry Museum, Columbus, GA

Dad and son viewing 1930's machine gun carrier called a "Belly-flopper," National Infantry Museum, Columbus, GA

Do I recommend a trip to the museum?  Should children see it?  Yes.  It is an impressive way to present the history of the infantry to adults and chidlren.  

If you haven’t been, let me recommend that you watch the short movie at the end.  It is very well done and captures the one thing that,  more than anything else, according to a lot of combat veterans,  motivates soldiers to perform truly courageous acts: the love they have for their fellow soldiers,  people  they have lived and trained with for a long time, their “family,”  “brothers” in battle.   Many Congressional Medals of Honor, the nation’s highest medal for valor,  were earned by soldiers who gave their lives to save their buddies.

Calley Offered a Chance to Speak to Vietnamese People

August 26, 2009

Former Army Lt. William Calley, the only American convicted for participating in the My Lai massacre,  can speak directly to the Vietnamese people if he chooses.  He can go there, or he can be interviewed on the Voice of America. 

Voice of America radio studio (Courtesy: Voice of America)

Voice of America radio studio (Courtesy: Voice of America)

Judy Nguyen, who is Senior Editor of the Vietnamese Service for VOA,  contacted this blog and asked for help in contacting Calley.  We haven’t had success with that. 

She wants to let him know that VOA will interview him and beam the interview to Vietnam where it will be heard by a lot of people.  The interview will be translated into Vietnamese.

She says,  “We believe our listeners in Vietnam would be keenly interested in hearing what Mr. Calley has to say, especially if it is different from what they have heard or been told by their own media. If ever Mr. Calley wanted to say anything that would be heard by the people of Vietnam, the Voice of America would be the appropriate channel.”

He has also been invited to come to My Lai by the director of the memorial museum there.  According to the Canadian website “Media with Conscience,” Pham Thanh Cong,  who saw both his mother and brothers killed during the massacre,  wants Calley to return to see how things are there now. “Maybe he has now repented for his crimes and his mistakes committed more than 40 years ago.”  He also said he accepts Calley’s public apology, with a condition. He wants Calley to send him a letter or email apologizing for his part in the My Lai massacre.

When Is an Order Unlawful?

August 23, 2009

You are a young lieutenant. 

You are ordered to take out a machine-gun emplacement on a hill. 

You lead your men up the hill to the emplacement. 

The enemy has lined up women and children in front of the machine gun.  You decide you will not shoot the innocent civilians. 

When you get back to your superior officer, he tells you that you have flunked the test.

That’s a true story, told to me by my friend, retired Lt. Col. John Nix,  who served as an  attorney in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps.  He was that young lieutenant – well, he was actually an R.O.T.C cadet pretending to be a lieutenant for that exercise.   He was informed by his instructor that it is a lawful order to shoot innocent civilians if they block your target.

Naturally, this conversation was triggered by the story about the  apology for his role in the My Lai massacre by former Army Lt. William Calley.  ” The difference,” he said, “is that you could not say herding innocent civilians into a ditch and killing them was removing shields that were in front of a target.”

Calley’s defense all along has been that he was following orders.  That was denied by his superior officer.  If Calley’s assertion had been determined right,  he would still have had the problem of following an unlawful order.   

John  Nix says whether an order is lawful or not can end up in a courtroom dispute.  He warns that if a soldier decides not to follow one, he had better be right because the consequences can be dire.  However, the consequences of following an illegal order can also be dire.

According to, the Manual for Courts-Martial says, “An order requiring the performance of a military duty or act may be inferred to be lawful and it is disobeyed at the peril of the subordinate. This inference does not apply to a patently illegal order, such as one that directs the commission of a crime.

Who decides whether an order is lawful or not? It’s certainly not the soldier who decided not to follow the order. puts it this way: “Ultimately, it’s not whether or not the military member thinks the order is illegal or unlawful, it’s whether military superiors (and courts) think the order was illegal or unlawful.”

Wonder how much, if any, training about whether an order is legal or not is given to the average soldier.  I never got any. When I was in basic training I was told just how horrible my life could be if I disobeyed an order.  Nobody ever said, that I can remember,  that I didn’t have to obey an unlawful order.  Maybe it’s different now.  I took basic training fifty-five years ago. 

Basic training graduation ceremony parade, National Infantry Museum, Ft. Benning/Columbus

Basic training class graduation ceremony parade, June, 2009, National Infantry Museum, Ft. Benning/Columbus, GA

Why William Calley Chose to Speak at the Kiwanis Club

August 21, 2009

A number of people have asked me why former Army Lt. William Calley picked the Kiwanis Club of Greater Columbus to speak publicly.  It is because he and TV commentator Al Fleming, an old friend of mine, are old friends.  Al, a member of the Kiwanis Club,  invited him. 

Al Fleming, William Calley at Kiwanis Club of Greater Columbus, Columbus, GA

Al Fleming, William Calley at Kiwanis Club of Greater Columbus, Columbus, GA

As far as a respectful and polite audience is concerned, he picked the right place.  He got a standing ovation when introduced – everyone gets that when they speak at this club’s meetings – but, he also got one at the end.  Al says that just usually doesn’t happen. To be honest,  almost everyone stood both times, but I spotted at least one exception.

The questions were asked respectfully and politely, which could give the impression they were softball.  I don’t think that was the case. The questions got right to the crux of the matter, in my view, and Calley didn’t dodge any of them.   

I have been a guest a few times at this club. On a personal note, I have always enjoyed those visits. In fact, I spoke there last week, giving a Power Point presentation for  Muscogee County Friends of the Libraries,  pointing out the importance of supporting your public libraries.   I enjoyed that, too.

Troy University Edges out Auburn U. and Alabama

August 18, 2009


Steve Dennis, Troy University Athletic Director,  speaking to Phenix City Rotarians, Phenix City, AL

Steve Dennis, Troy University Athletic Director, speaking to Phenix City Rotarians, Phenix City, AL

According to Forbes magazine, Troy University is the number one university in Alabama, edging out both Auburn U. and the University of Alabama.  That’s what Troy’s Director of Athletics Steve Dennis told members of the Phenix City Rotary Club Monday.  He said that Forbes listed the rankings of all U.S. universities and Troy came out ahead of all other Alabama schools of higher education.

He spent the majority of his speech on academics,  how the school makes learning its top priority, and how important online learning has become.  He says the school has a number of online course now,  but that is just the beginning.  Troy U. hopes to eventually offer just about all of its course online.  He was especially proud of  Troy’s program of teaching America’s active duty military personnel,  commenting that soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan are now taking online courses.  

While he did emphasize academics, he also made it clear that college life is about a lot more.  “It is where young people start deciding who they really are,  what they plan to do in life, and quite often meet their life-partners.” 

And, while he didn’t concentrate on athletics, he did make it clear how important athletic programs are for students.  He said coaches are primarily teachers, mentors who have a tremendous responsibility of instilling the proper values in their students, not just winning,  but being responsible human beings.

When he did get around to discussing athletics, he did admit that some coaches make millions of dollars a year, and that includes both Auburn and Alabama.  But, he said,  if a coach is in it just for the money, he is not the type of coach that Troy wants.  He said when Troy learns that an applicant says he is in it for the money, Troy looses interest in that applicant.  Troy wants coaches that are in it because they love the game and they love positively molding young people.

Afterwards I asked him what his head football coach makes.  He said, “$300,000.”  I said, “Why is he making that when coaches at other schools, schools like Alabama and Auburn,  are making millions?”

He explained that Alabama and Auburn are SEC teams,  and making millions for coaches on those teams is standard.  However, Troy is a Sun Belt Conference team and his coach, Larry Blakeney, is making a top salary for that division.  No doubt, he should, because he is the winningest coach in Troy U’s history,  and the fourth winningest coach in state history, only behind “Bear” Bryant,  Cleve Abott, and Shug Jordan.

“Isn’t the tail waging the dog when so much money is being spent on athletics, money that should on academics?”

He said that school teams pull in millions of dollars for the schools, and that the money doesn’t just go for athletic programs, but also for academic buildings, etc.  Some it goes to the huge, nationally honored,  Sound of the South Band that plays for the halftime ceremonies. He added that academics is the top priority for schools, and that athletic programs are the tail of the school.

Maybe so, but when that tail wags,  mammoth stadiums fill up,  and millions of folks sit in front of their television sets to watch.  Millions of dollars are wagered on outcomes,  and many conversations are dominated for days by what happened on the football field.

Troy University has campuses in Troy, Dothan,  Phenix City, and Montgomery in Alabama,  and facilities in 14 other states, including one in Atlanta.  It also has facilities in nine other countries.

When Will Columbus Produce Another Carson McCullers, or Nunnally Johnson, or Augusta Evans?

August 17, 2009

When you think of internationally famous authors from Columbus, Georgia, three names jump out at you:  Carson McCullers,  Augusta Evans, and Nunnally Johnson.  Who will become number four?  Maybe it will be someone who attends the upcoming Chattahoochee Valley Writers’ Conference, also known as CVWC,  which will be held at the Columbus Public Library September 24th through the 26th.  Full disclosure: I am a new member of the CVWC steering committee.   

Both Nunnally Johnson and Carson McCulllers are being remembered at the conference.  There will be a Nunnally Johnson Film Festival featuring four of his famous movies, and a mixer at the Carson McCullers Center.   Nothing is planned for remembering Augusta Evans.  That doesn’t mean she won’t be mentioned somewhere.

The writers conference features workshops for authors,  talks by sucessful authors,  and writing contests, among other things.   I’ll have more on that and a look at the impact on the world by Carson McCullers, Nunnally Johnson, and Augusta Evans right here.  Stay tuned.

It Flies! It Flies!

August 15, 2009
Now we know.  Linn Hall’s homemade plane will fly.  I did a blog post on his rolling it out at Columbus Metropolitan Airport in Columbus, Georgia after he finished building it after 8 long years.  He told me that he wsn’t going to invite media the first time he flew it.  Pilots who build their own planes are advised not to tell media about their first flight because they might find something wrong with the plane but go ahead and try to fly it anyway because they invited media to come. 
But, there are pictures.  His friend Mary Lynn Lobello  was invited and she made a video of the flight and they put it on YouTube.    

$17,750,000 of E-SPLOST Money Will Go to Athletic Facilities Improvements

August 10, 2009


When I was growing up in Columbus, all of the school football games were played at Memorial Stadium.  Now,  seven are played there, and 40 at Kinnett Stadium, which is much smaller.   Seven games is all the system can get at Memorial because of other events there.  The City of Columbus owns the stadium,  but the school district owns Kinnett.

Dr. Gary Gibson, Director of Athletics, MCSD, at Kinnett Stadium, Columbus, GA

Dr. Gary Gibson, Director of Athletics, MCSD, at Kinnett Stadium, Columbus, GA

Dr, Gary Gibson, Director of  Athletics for the MCSD says Kinnett is used so much that it needs artificial turf for the football, soccer, lacrosse field,  and a new 9-lane track, plus a new scoreboard, and sound system.  He wants $17, 750, 000 of the proposed Special Purpose Local Options Sales Tax to pay for improving Kinnett stadium and other projects,  including a small, new stadium at Brewer Elementary. That stadium, plus a track, tennis courts,  and parking will cost $7,500,000. 

Dr. Gibson explained that the new $2.5 million track at Kinnett will be nine lanes, all wider than the lanes on the present track

Dr. Gibson explained that the new $2.5 million track at Kinnett will be nine lanes, all wider than the lanes on the present track

The Brewer Stadium will be small,  but Dr. Gibson says, “There are a number of games that don’t draw very large crowds.    Kinnett will hold about six thousand people,  and Memorial Stadium seats about 16,000.  There are games that just don’t draw crowds that large.”

He says the Brewer stadium, which, like Kinnett,  will be used for football, soccer, and lacrosse,  will take some pressure off Kinnett.

The total cost for Kinnett upgrades is $2,750,000.

Part of the Kinnett expenditure will go for a new scoreboard to replace the broken and obsolete one now in use,  and for a new sound system. The old sound system doesn’t work any more. Portable speakers are brought in and mounted on top of the press box  for games.  Dr. Gibson says, “The new scoreboard will be better, but not in the class with the high-tech ones at schools like Valdosta High, which have digital screens that show instant replays.”

Kinnett Stadium obsolete and broken scoreboard, with stadium sized speakers on top that haven't worked for years

Kinnett Stadium's obsolete and broken scoreboard, with stadium-sized speakers on top that haven't worked for years

Dr. Gibson has greater plans for Kinnett,  but realizes that the SPLOST won’t cover those expenses.  For one thing, he wants to build a new dressing room facility.  “The old one is inadequate,” he says.  “It will only hold about 20 members of each team so the coaches have to talk to them at half time by having the offensive team in for one session, and the defensive for another one.” 

Kinnett Stadium locker room, which has no lockers, or showers,  and is so small teams have to use it in shifts

Kinnett Stadium locker room, which has no lockers, nor showers, and is so small teams have to use it in shifts

Torn training table in Kinnett Stadium locker room

Torn training table in Kinnett Stadium locker room

He hopes  to pay for the new locker room facility and other upgrades with what he calls licensing.  Businesses or individuals can license a facility, which means they will get its name on it  by making a financial contribution.  He said, “You know, maybe the new locker room could be the Aflac Locker Room.  The renovated press box could be the Synovus Press Box, for instance, and so on.”  While explaining that idea, he emphasized how greatful the system is to the Kinnett family for its contributions in getting the stadium built.

But, all of that will have to wait.  The projects that the SPLOST will pay for have the top priority. 

Besides the big ticket items at Kinnett and Brewer,  Fort Middle School will get a new system-wide gymnasium that will have four locker rooms, and seat 2,500 people for $5,000,000.

Spencer will get $650,000 improvements, including track and baseball field upgrades, and a new softball field.

Northside, Jordan, and Kendrick will get track upgrades, costing $200,00 each.  

Columbus High will get $200,000 for an upgrade of the softball field at Lakebottom.

And the new Carver High school will receive $825,000 for its baseball and softball fields, and a warm-up track around the football practice field.

What does he have to say to those who say that academics should come first. Is it a good idea to spend all that money on sports?

“Studies have shown,” he told me, “that students who participate in programs, on average, perform better in academics than those who don’t. Also, schools with good athletic programs have fewer behavioral problems. And programs engender strong school spirit, uniting students and faculty to support he school teams.”

I think he’s right.  Bands do that, too.  I told him about the Bob Barr Alumni Band doing a memorial half-time show at Kinnett a few years ago and the huge crowd that it attracted at a Jordan-Columbus football game. Dr. Gibson said he understood the importance of music programs.  He said,  “While I was a high school athlete, I also played the piano and sang in the chorus.” 

I said, “That’s good. In other words, you were well rounded.” 

He replied, “My mother insisted on it!”