Archive for the ‘Military’ Category

Bellicosis

September 22, 2014

Never heard of it? 

Well, bellicosis is a disease suffered by those who love war and like to see their country in one continuously. It is often fatal and has caused millions of deaths, quite often not to  those with the disease,  since many are quite happy to let other people fight those wars. 

So far, no vaccine has been successful in preventing bellicosis.

 

 

 

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A Blogger’s Free and Responsible Search for Truth and Meaning

June 29, 2014

Being a UU, I know that Unitarian Universalists do not have a creed, but UU communities affirm and promote Seven Principles. The Fourth one, “a free and responsible search for truth and meaning,” is the one that concerns us for this post. I am examining how that principle applies to the body of work that I have produced for this blog, which is a Personal blog. WordPress, which hosts more than 60 million websites including this one, says Personal “is the broadest category and includes blogs about personal topics like politics, music, family, travel, health, you name it.”

Since I started this blog in 2008, there have been 690 posts. There is no way we can examine each one, so let’s take a look at the one that has gotten and continues to get the most hits. The August 19, 2009 post AN EMOTIONAL WILLIAM CALLEY SAYS HE IS SORRY not only continues to get a lot of hits, but continues to get comments from readers.

Former Army Lt. William Calley, the only person convicted of participating in the massacre of hundreds of Vietnamese civilians during the Vietnam War, including a lot of  women and children,  used the occasion of speaking to the Kiwanis Club of Greater Columbus (Georgia), to apologize for his  role in the war crime.  My report was picked up by the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, carried by all McClatchey newspapers , and fed by the L-E to the Associated Press,  causing it to be reported around the world.

I can’t speak  for others, so I’ll just concentrate on what I  see to be true in the report.  One significant truth to me is that some human beings of any nationallity are capable of unspeakable acts. Another one is that not only are some people incapaable of that, but they will actively oppose those who are.    

 What’s the meaning of the story?  For one thing, to me, it again raises the point that  war is an insane way for nations to resolve conflicts.  For another,  it shows that political leaders can get a lot of people killed unnecessarily and can be disingenuous about justifying their lethal actions.    

I realize that it may have an entirely different truth and meaning for you. Please feel  free to click on the comment button and let me know how you feel about the subject.  I do request that comments be civil, not too profane, and sans name calling. 

 

CSU Named a Best College for Veterans

November 25, 2013

Congratulatioons to CSU for its high ranking in helping veterans. I decided to post the CSU release just the way it was sent to me.

COLUMBUS, Ga. — U.S. News & World Report has listed Columbus State University among the Top 25 regional universities in the South in the magazine’s inaugural Best Colleges for Veterans rankings of 234 schools across the nation.

The new rankings provide data and information on schools that offer federal benefits, including tuition and housing assistance, to veterans and active service members, all done in efforts to help veterans pursue a college education under the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

“I’d be disappointed if Columbus State wasn’t on there,”said Lt. Col. Michael Feret, professor of Military Science at CSU. “It’s an important honor. As veterans exit the service, it’s good to be able to offer them educational opportunities, which also will be good for the Columbus area.”

CSU’s ranking reflects the relationship between Columbus State, Fort Benning and the large population of veterans who live in the area, Feret said.

“They’re able to leverage some of the benefits by being so close to Fort Benning,” he said. “There’s a strong partnership between Columbus State and Fort Benning and the community, which allows these programs to be supportive of each other.” 

All of the 2014 Best Colleges for Veterans scored well in terms of graduation rate, faculty resources, reputation and other markers of academic quality. To qualify for the new rankings, the schools had to be certified for the GI Bill and participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program and Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges Consortium.

In total, there were 234 ranked schools across all 10 U.S. News ranking categories: National Universities, National Liberal Arts Colleges, Regional Universities (North, South, Midwest and West) and Regional Colleges (North, South, Midwest and West).

CSU recently reaffirmed its commitment to helping educate veterans when it decided to cover more than $33,000 in tuition and fees for about 50 military students who incurred costs because they registered or attended classes at Columbus State during the federal government shutdown.

During any given semester, about 10 percent of Columbus State’s enrollment is military-related, whether the students are on active duty, veterans or spouses of military members. Those connections prompted the university to ramp up its efforts over the past few years to better serve the military with more online programs, academic credit for military leaders who completed the Captains Career Course, establishment of a CSU office at Fort Benning, expansion of a campus Veterans Affairs office and more.

 

A Graduation Ceremony Worth Flying Almost a Thousand Miles to Attend

October 10, 2011

Brand new Airman Ben McMichael standing in front of the Alamo at San Antonio, TX. We had just left a small theater that showed a movie about the history of the Alamo. During the introduction the volunteer docent looked at Ben and thanked him for his service to his country which caused everyone in the audience to applaud. Then, on the way to the van a man walked up to Ben, shook his hand, and thanked him for his service.

It is always moving to see families coming from all over the United  States to see their progeny graduating from basic training at Fort Benning. Not just  the ceremonies, but in the restaurants and shopping malls around Columbus.  I got a taste of what  it means to those families and their military service members last weekend when I went to San Antonio, TX to see my grandson Ben graduate from U.S. Air Force basic training at Lackland Air  Force Base.  I was there with my son Rick, daughter-in-law Marian, grandson Christopher and his wife Kristen.

Not only did Ben go through the basic training course, but on top of that, he played first trumpet in the 323rd Training Squadron Drum and Bugle Corps.  When he introduced me to the lt. colonel commanding the 323rd,  he told him, “That’s my granddad. He was a drum major of an Army Band.” The colonel said, “Well, this must be really special for you, even if he only did it for 8 weeks.” Indeed it was.  I was a full-time bandsman,  but, even if he was only in an Air Force band for 8 weeks, we can both say we were in American military bands.  Ben is now at  Sheppard Air Force Base at Wichita Falls, TX, where he is in training to  be an ordnance supply and maintenance technician.

The 323rd Training Squadron Drum and Bugle Corps marching and playing for the 323rd graduation ceremony, Lackland U.S. Air Force Base, San Antonio, TX..

For someone who was a young boy during World War II, the graduation ceremony was quite impressive.  Surrounding the graduation pareade grounds were the  great fighters and bombers of that time.  Among those historic war birds was a P-51 “Mustang” – Ben’s training squadron is called the Mustangs, and there is a mural of a Mustang on his barrack’s wall – and there was a P-38 fighter, and a B-29 bomber, a B-17 “Flying Fortress,” a B-24 “Liberator,”  and the transport work horse of World War II, the C-47.

P-51 "Mustang" World War II fighter.

You take all of that, add the 323rd Drum and Bugle Corps playing “The Air Force Anthem,” you know, the one that starts with “Off we go into the wild blue  yonder,” and “America the Beautiful,”  an Air Force general welcoming the new Airmen into the “most powerful air force in history,” and the 600 graduates and their instructors passing in review, and you get a lot of cheering in the stands from moms and dads, sisters and brothers, granddads and grandmothers, and even aunts and uncles. (I met a lady from California who had come to see her nephew graduate.) You also get a lot of moist eyes, including mine.

Me and Ben following the 323rd Training Squadron Retreat and Coin Ceremony. Even though family were allowed to come over and talk with the graduating airmen, the drum and bugle corps members had to stay in formation. Why? Don't ask me.

After the Retreat and Coin ceremony was over, we went to a base store where Ben bought a coin just like the one he was given by the Mustang association, put it in the palm of his hand, and shook hands with me leaving the coin in my hand. It's the most valuable coin I will ever have.

Ben and his proud dad, my son Rick.

The Power of One

May 9, 2011

Just Imagine What An Insane Terrorist Armed with Nuclear Weapons Could Do

To me, the most dangerous person in the world is a religious fanatic.  When a person believes he will go to heaven because he sacrificed his life to murder people who he perceives do not believe the way he does, I can’t think of a more dangerous person.  Logic and reason mean nothing to such people.  The fact that they are in the minority – it appears most religious people are not that fanatical – offers little comfort.

Just look at what 19 religious fanatics, armed with box cutters, accomplished.  Not only did they bring down the twin towers of the World Trade Center,  killing more than 3,000 people,  they propelled the United States to go to war in Afghanistan, and were used as an excuse to attack Iraq,  all of this costing the US thousands more killed and wounded,  and more than three trillion dollars, much of which was borrowed from China because as we went to war our government cut taxes.

FBI's latest Ten Most Wanted poster of Osama bin Laden

Osama bin Laden, the late head religiously fanatical terrorist, was not living in a cave near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, protected by heavily armed al-Qaeda guards as media speculation led us to believe.  As we now know, he was living in Pakistan in a large house – some call it a mansion, but it didn’t look like one on TV to me – with three wives, and was guarded by one courier who was quickly dispatched by US Navy SEALS.  It didn’t take jet fighters, or a drone, or artillery or thousands of troops to bring this evil man down, only two helicopters and a few Navy SEALS. This man, without a large army and no nuclear weapons, led his relatively small group of fanatics to terrorize the world.  He is gone, but his organization is not and the threat remains.

Just think of the even worse havoc he could have caused if he had nuclear weapons, even primitive ones.  And just think what the terrorists who are still with us can do if they get them.  The reason that “mutually assured destruction” has prevented any nation from using a nuclear weapon is that its leaders have been sane enough not to set off the destruction of life on earth.  If a violent religious fanatic gets hold of one he would have no qualms about ending life on earth because he thinks he would be going the heaven for doing it.

World leaders, knowing no one is exempted from this threat,  are coming together to address it.  They started their nuclear nonproliferation efforts years ago. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty dates back to 1970, according to an article in the “Great Decisions” 2011 magazine edition.  It states that with that treaty in place, “the spread of the bomb has been limited to nine nuclear powers today.”  The fear is that the more nations get nuclear weapons the greater the chance of terrorists getting hold of them.  Not only preventing the spread of nuclear weapons concerns world leaders, but also the security of the weapons already stockpiled. The United States is leading a multilateral effort to secure nuclear material around the world in four years. President Obama hosted a 47-nation nuclear security summit last year to address the problem.

All it would take is for one terrorist armed with nuclear weapons to possibly set off the destruction of the world.  This thought leads me to the often-used excuse for not voting:  My one vote won’t make any difference. Never underestimate the power of one for good or evil.

The Maneuver Center of Excellence Band Gives Excellent Christmas Concert

December 6, 2010

My Army band memories came flooding back yesterday afternoon as we sat in the mezzanine of the Bill Heard Theater.  The Fort Benning band, now called the Maneuver Center of Excellence Band, was delighting an almost-full house with its annual Christmas concert, “Ringing in the Holidays!” ( Bill Heard is a 2,000-seat theater.) The band also packed them in again for the evening performance. It got a long, standing ovation at the end of the concert, and, I am sure it was not just because Columbus is an Army town, one that continually shows its appreciation for the Fort Benning troops, but because it was an excellent concert.

Ft. Benning Maneuver Center of Excellence Band's "Ringing in the Holidays" concert, Bill Heard Theater, River Center, Columbus, GA

30th Army Band, Munich, Germany, 1955

The 30th Army Band, the one in which I was a percussionist and drum major in 1954-55, no longer exists, and a Google search produced no history of it.  It was located at McGraw Kaserne, Munich, Germany, which was headquarters for the U.S. Army in southern Germany. 

We also played some concerts for civilians, but our main function was to play for review parades, not only at McGraw Kasern,  but for Army posts all over southern Bavaria.  Every week we would board a bus and travel to other kaserns and posts.  The views could be spectacular as the bus would wend its way to some remote posts high in the Alps.

The Price of Unending War

September 13, 2010

 As retired Sergeant Major Samuel Rhodes spoke to the Rotary Club of Columbus about the U.S. Army’s suicide problem, I could not but help reflect on all of the costs of  being at war continually. 

Command Sgt. Maj. Samuel Rhodes (retired)Sgt. Rhodes, who served for 30 months in Iraq and contemplated suicide himself, now works at Changing the Military Culture of Silence, the title of his book, in order to help soldiers cope with PTS, post traumatic stress. He says one in five combat veterans is diagnosed with PTS.  Many of them will contemplate suicide and the suicide rate keeps rising.  In the past the Army, he said, tried to sweep the problem under the rug, but that has changed.  The military’s top brass have praised him for his efforts in focusing on the military’s dealing with mental health issues. 

One of the reasons for the increase in suicides is extended deployments of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Nine years of wars, wars that most Americans basically ignore because they are being fought by less than one percent of the population, have put a tremendous strain on the Army. Instead of increasing the size of the Army, soldiers are given extended deployments keeping them away from their families for long periods of time. For one thing, this has put a strain on marriages.  Sgt. Rhodes said when he returned home with PTS after his last 18 months in Iraq, his marriage of 26 years ended, and he contemplated suicide himself.  Instead, though, according to an article in the National Journal, he is remarried, happily he says, and he and his first wife remain good friends, and he is dedicating his life to doing what he can to help soldiers with PTS and their families. 

It is good to know that the military is now openly facing and trying to do something about this problem, but, in my view,  all of its efforts at providing therapy will not get to its root, the practice of staying continually at war. The military can’t solve that one. Only the politicians can do something about that. 

Most Americans may be going about their daily lives giving little thought to the sacrifice that a very small percentage of the population is making, but whether they’re paying attention or not, these wars are still affecting them on a grand scale.  The price is very steep. 

More on this in future posts.

(The photograph was supplied by my friend and fellow Rotarian Jim Cawthorne of Camera1.)

Spending Too Much on War and Not Spending Enough on America’s Workers

July 31, 2010

PRESIDENT OBAMA INCREASES DEFENSE SPENDING, AND CORPORATE AMERICA SITS ON PILES OF CASH INSTEAD OF PUTTING AMERICANS BACK TO WORK

There are a couple of op-eds in the New York Times that need to be read by a lot of people.  One is on the incomprehensible way the U.S. is spending way too much on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and spending it unwisely.  For instance, we are spending more on keeping one soldier in Afghanistan for a year than it would have cost to build 20 schools.  Check out 1 Soldier or 20 Schools.

The other op-ed deals with the way that many corporations are maximizing profits by cutting work forces way more than is necessary to adjust for the recession, and sitting on their piles of cash instead of getting Americans back to work.  Check out A Sin and a Shame.

IMAX at Patriot Park Revisited – Part 1

June 21, 2010

Wendy Banks, National Infantry Museum IMAX Theater projectionist

Wendy Banks says, “I love my job.”  Her job is operating the highly sophisticated and very expensive movie projectors at the IMAX Theater at the National Infantry Museum.  She says her first job was as an usher in a movie theater.

“They moved me out of ushering and into selling popcorn when they found out I wasn’t a good bouncer. You know, ushers have to kick rowdy people out of the theater. But I loved working there then, and I love doing this now.”

I told her that I did know about the perils of being an usher since I was one.  I ended up being promoted to Assistant Head Doorman, and, at age 14, did indeed manage to keep order.  It was during World War II and the crowds were huge, which meant I had to learn about crowd control. Also, I broke up some smooching in the balcony, and made people get their feet off seats in front of them; however, I never “kicked” anyone out of the theater, but one guy thankfully left of his own accord after threatening me with physical violence.  

I also remember that projectionists were the elite pros. Back when I was an usher, they were unionized, made good money, and were not to be “bothered” by the likes of people like me.  That means Wendy has made it almost to the top of the movie theater pecking order, especially as a projectionist who operates IMAX projectors.  They definitely are not ordinary and are top of the line. 

Since my hit meter tells me that I continue to get multiple hits almost daily on my posts of more of than a year ago about behind the scenes at IMAX, and the greatest interest is in the projectors, I asked Ben Williams, Executive Director of the National Infantry Foundation, to allow me back into the projection booth to learn more about them.   He accompanied me there and I’ll take you there  for a close-up look at those technological marvels, and a progress report on the IMAX Theater.  Stay tuned.

Infantry Museum’s IMAX Theater Shows “To Hell and Back” Sunday, Audie Murphy’s Birthday

June 19, 2010

NATIONAL INFANTRY MUSEUM’S IMAX  SHOWS THE AUDIE MURPHY BIO SUNDAY EVENING, JUNE 20, 2010, AT 6.

Audie Murphy was the most decorated soldier of World War II. The military's top award, the Medal of Honor, was one of the many he was given. After the war he became a movie star and played himself in "To Hell and Back." He was killed when his private plane crashed in 1971. His grave at Arlington is the second most visited, with John F. Kennedy's being most visited. (U.S. Army photo)

The showing of “To Hell and Back” is a benefit screening for the local Audie Murphy club.  Proceeds will go to the club and the museum. The public is invited. Tickets are $10.

Though shown int he IMAX Theater, it will not be an IMAX movie, shown instead on the theater’s digital projector which is similar to the ones in Carmike Cinemas.  

Speaking of projectors, we’ll take a closer look at the IMAX projectors and how the theater has fared in its first year of operation starting Monday. Stay tuned.