2-23: VA Secretary Appointed

We have a new Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Dr. David J. Shulkin. His acceptance speech, recorded on the VA’s official website, appears below in its entirety.

Message from VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin

I am grateful to President Trump and to members of Congress for entrusting me with the privilege of serving Veterans and the dedicated employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs as your secretary. It is my highest professional honor.

Together, we’ll ensure our nation’s obligation to provide care and benefits to those “who shall have borne the battle” and fulfill our institutional I CARE Values: integrity, commitment, advocacy, respect and excellence.

That obligation and those values are sacred to me, first, as an American – a beneficiary of the service and sacrifices of Veterans and their families who defend our uniquely American freedoms and opportunities. They’re also sacred to me because my father served the nation as an Army psychiatrist, and both my grandfathers were Army Veterans. My paternal grandfather served as chief pharmacist at the VA hospital in Madison, Wisconsin, and as a young doctor, I trained in VA hospitals. So, serving the nation and serving Veterans is a family tradition.

It was a privilege to serve as VA’s Under Secretary for Health over the past year and a half. Now, I look forward to continuing our collective efforts across the department and our country to deliver the care and services our Veterans need and deserve. Among many critical efforts already underway, we will continue building on significant progress increasing access for Veterans, preventing suicide, addressing unique needs of women Veterans, supporting Veterans’ families and caregivers, continuing to drive down the disability backlog and Veteran homelessness, and pursuing necessary legislation to reform the outdated appeals process and for other critical legislative priorities.

With the support of the president, Congress, Veterans, their service organizations, and the American people, we – the dedicated employees of VA – will continue to fulfill President Lincoln’s promise.

There is no nobler mission. There is no higher calling for any American. I am humbled and proud to serve with you.

End

Release the tax returns!

[I write about politics in this blog because of the direct link I see between the words and actions of politicians and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. America’s political class manipulates our military as though they were pawns in a global game of chess. To them, PTSD is merely an unfortunate cost of war.]

2-22: Flynn out, McMaster in

My ownership of this domain is running out. Please let me know if you would like me to renew it and continue writing this blog. Thank you. –paul

*****

In the wake of the Michael Flynn debacle as President Donald Trump’s defunct National Security Adviser, the president has since appointed Army Lt. General H.R. McMaster in his stead. Yesterday antiwar.com ran this ominous headline:

The US Military’s Limited Critique of Itself Ensures Future Disasters

The article depicts McMaster as “a ‘warrior’ and a true believer in military power, applied intelligently, that is. He [McMaster] has been highly critical of political power brokers in Washington, DC, and wrote a book on the mishandling of the military during the Vietnam War.”

In order to gain some perspective on McMaster’s worldview, seen through his eyes as a career military man, consider the article below from William J. Astore.

From July 26, 2013:

In the New York Times on July 20 [2013], Major General H.R. McMaster penned a revealing essay on “The Pipe Dream of Easy War.” McMaster made three points about America’s recent wars and military interventions:

  1. In stressing new technology as being transformative, the American military neglected the political side of war. They forgot their Clausewitz in a celebration of their own prowess, only to be brought back to earth by messy political dynamics in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere.
  2. Related to (1), the US military neglected human/cultural aspects of war and therefore misunderstood Iraqi and Afghan culture. Cultural misunderstandings transformed initial battlefield victories into costly political stalemates.
  3. Related to (1) and (2), war is uncertain and unpredictable. Enemies can and will adapt.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with these points, or in the general’s broad lesson that “American forces must cope with the political and human dynamics of war in complex, uncertain environments. Wars like those in Afghanistan and Iraq cannot be waged remotely.”

The last sentence is a dig at the Air Force and an argument for the continuing relevance of ground forces, which is unsurprising coming from an Army general who commands Fort Benning in Georgia.

But the sum total of McMaster’s argument is remarkably banal. Yes, war is political, human, and chaotic. Did our military professionals and civilian experts really forget this before making their flawed decisions to go to war after 9/11?

McMaster ends his critique with a few words of praise for the US military’s adaptability. The usual refrain: We messed up, but we learned from our mistakes, and are ready to take on new challenges, as long as the department of defense remains fully funded, and as long as America puts its faith in men like McMaster and not in machines/technology.

Here comes the other foot.

If those are the primary lessons our country should have learned since 9/11, we’re in big, big trouble.

So, here are three of my own “lessons” in response to McMaster’s. They may not be popular, but that’s because they’re a little more critical of our military – and a lot more critical of America.

  1. Big mistakes by our military are inevitable because the American empire is simply too big, and American forces are simply too spread out globally, often in countries where the “ordinary” people don’t want us. To decrease our mistakes, we must radically downsize our empire.
  2. The constant use of deadly force to police and control our empire is already sowing the deadly seeds of blowback. Collateral damage and death of innocents via drones and other “kinetic” attacks is making America less safe rather than more.

Like the Romans before us, as Tacitus said, we create a desert with our firepower and call it “peace.” But it’s not peace to those on the receiving end of American firepower. Their vows of vengeance perpetuate the cycle of violence. Add to this our special forces raids, our drone strikes, and other meddling and what you get is a perpetual war machine that only we can stop. But we can’t stop it because like McMaster we keep repeating, “This next war, we’ll get it right.”

3.  We can’t defeat the enemy when it is us. Put differently, what’s the sense in defeating the enemies of freedom overseas at the same time as our militarized government is waging a domestic crackdown on dissent (otherwise known as freedom of speech) in the “homeland”?

Articles like McMaster’s suggest that our military can always win future wars, mainly by fighting more intelligently. These articles never question the wisdom of American militarization, nor do they draw any attention to the overweening size and ambition of the department of defense and its domination of American foreign policy.

Indeed, articles like McMaster’s, in reassuring us that the military will do better in the next round of fighting, ensure that we will fight again – probably achieving nothing better than stalemate while wasting plenty of young American (and foreign) lives.

Is it possible that the best way to win future wars is to avoid them altogether? As simple as that question is, you will rarely hear it asked in the halls of power in Washington.

William J. Astore is a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF). He taught history for fifteen years at military and civilian schools and blogs at Bracing Views. He can be reached at wastore@pct.edu. Reprinted from Bracing Views with the author’s permission.

Placed in perspective …

It is not unpatriotic to question our military, the defense budget, or American presence and actions in other countries. Astore refers to “the Romans before us.” Two millennia ago it was good to be a Roman citizen carrying all the rights and privileges of the Pax Romana, Roman Peace. As long as other countries paid tribute to Rome–in the form of taxes, soldiers, blue and no-collar workers, food and other supplies–the Roman Army would not annihilate them.

Adherents to the “my country, right or wrong” philosophy may want to read one of these books:

The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon

The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire: Life, Liberty, and the Death of the Republic, Barry Linton

Spoiler Alert: They don’t end well.

End

Release the tax returns!

[I write about politics in this blog because of the direct link I see between the words and actions of politicians and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. America’s political class manipulates our military as though they were pawns in a global game of chess. To them, PTSD is merely an unfortunate cost of war.]

2-21: News Beefs

My ownership of this domain is running out. Please let me know if you would like me to renew it and continue writing this blog. Thank you. –paul

What Passes for News These Days Is Driving Me Crazy

Two issues struck me as I listened to the radio during the day Monday. First, President Donald Trump is “walking back” his lunatic rant/Tweet about a terrorist attack in Sweden. Second, the hagiographic description of Michael Flynn I listened to was sickening.

No Terrorist Attack in Sweden

Because he says it doesn’t make it true. In a desperate, fear-mongering attempt to bolster his claims of worldwide acts of terrorism, Trump claimed over the weekend that we should “look at what happened in Sweden.” Well, apparently the Swedes looked at one another all around the country and wondered aloud, “Huh?” Nothing of the sort happened.

This prompted Swedish officials to contact the White House asking for an explanation. Realizing he was caught in a hyperbolic public display of disgrace, POTUS defended his dire warning by claiming that he had heard this information on Fox News.

So, what he said during the campaign turns out to be true. 1) He doesn’t take daily intelligence briefings because he doesn’t need them. 2) He gets his news from television. I have written this before, folks: This is scary.

Michael Flynn, Hero

I tuned in to conservative talk show host Michael Savage. For nearly an hour he bemoaned the fact that Michael Flynn, Trump’s erstwhile National Security Adviser, was pilloried by the liberal media and that is what forced him out of office. Make up your own mind on that, I have another fish to fry.

Savage referred repeatedly to Flynn as a hero, saying multiple times that he had served with the 82nd Airborne and jumped out of airplanes directly into harm’s way. I will not denigrate another veteran’s record. From everything I have seen, heard, and read Lieutenant General Michael Flynn (Ret.) served his country with honor and distinction.

But here is where Savage gets it wrong and I draw the line. When pictured in full dress uniform, including, ribbons, Flynn does not have a Combat Infantryman Badge. Keep your eye out for it when you view any member of the U.S. Army in uniform. The CIB sits atop all other awards. All of them. It indicates that the wearer—who must be an Army infantryman—has been in combat, hot combat, under fire combat, boots on the ground combat. The real deal.

Flynn wears a Ranger patch, which means he trained as a Ranger; it does not mean that he fought as a Ranger. He served with the 82nd Airborne, which means he jumped out of airplanes; it does not mean that he landed in combat zones. Fresh out of college in 1981, Flynn began his military career as a 2nd Lieutenant with the 82nd. That would have made him, at most, a platoon leader when President Ronald Reagan unleashed Operation Urgent Fury, the invasion of Grenada. The 82nd was there.

Fun fact for military history buffs: more medals were awarded for that operation than the number of men and women who participated in it. Another fun fact: during this glorified field exercise the Department of Defense discovered that the various branches of service—Army, Navy, Air Force—could not communicate with each other. Their technology purchases had not been coordinated (they are now) and so they could not talk among themselves, so to speak.

When all is said and done,

Let’s urge our leaders—and ourselves—to consume news from various sources, not just the ones that flatter our already held positions. Evil does exist, that’s a fact. But hiding from it won’t make it go away. And let’s stop sanctifying all soldiers. I, for one, am grateful for and respectful of their service. Each and every one of them. But they are not all powerful, nor should they be, and they are not all wise.

There is a reason our commander-in-chief is a civilian. Think about it.

End

Release the tax returns!

[I write about politics in this blog because of the direct link I see between the words and actions of politicians and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. America’s political class manipulates our military as though they were pawns in a global game of chess. To them, PTSD is merely an unfortunate cost of war.]

2-9: Sad Tale of Dakota Pipeline Continues

Army Corps of Engineers March On

When my light infantry brigade was based in Tay Ninh in 1966, we shared a bunker line with PhilCAG, Philippine Civil Assistance Group. The main job of this civil engineering unit was to build roads in this western province of Vietnam near the Cambodian border. If my platoon or company was not out in the boonies on an extended mission or otherwise engaged in protecting the camp itself—e.g., patrolling or manning the bunker line—we would assist PhilCAG by riding shotgun in their dump trucks and setting up a protective perimeter around their excavation site.

In the midst of wartime devastation of that beautiful land these guys were actually building something. I mention this because it is the only experience I have with military civil engineers, a very positive experience. So I can easily and readily transfer that sense of good will to U.S. military civil engineers. I can also attest to their bravery, as their work brings them to the enigmatic front lines which exposes them to imminent danger.

An Aside

After the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941 the U.S. Navy created the Navy Construction Battalion. They soon shortened their name to “CB” which morphed into the nickname “Seabee.” Which brings us back to …

The Dakota Access Pipeline

Earlier this week the Army Deputy Assistant Secretary, Paul Cramer, announced in a letter to the House (of Representatives) Natural Resources Committee that the service—i.e., the Army Corps of Engineers—planned to allow Energy Transfer Partners to build a section of pipeline through Sioux territory without conducting an environmental impact study.

The previous administration granted a stay of this polarizing project back in December in order to allow time for the conduct of such a study. The current administration obliterated that stay via Executive Order. The Army’s Acting Secretary, Robert Speer, said, “… another study on the project’s possible environmental impact was unnecessary …”

Checked, Not Balanced

Drilling down the Corps’ official website, one finds a description of its Environmental Advisory Board.

The Environmental Advisory Board (EAB) was created … in 1970 as a means for the Chief to gain outside, expert and independent advice on environmental issues facing the Corps of Engineers.…  We intend to … use the Board as a vehicle of communication to reach out and build partnerships, understandings and cooperation with the environmental community, and public at large.  Environmental concerns have never been more important. We see the EAB playing a key role in contributing to enhanced mutual understanding and confidence between the Corps and both the general public and the conservation community.

Further down the webpage is the EAB’s Charter Purpose:

Advise Chief of Engineers by providing independent advice and recommendations on matters relating to environmental issues facing the Corps of Engineers.

So, what’s the hurry? The Huffington Post’s Michael McLaughlin summarizes the Standing Rock Sioux’ argument against the project. It

  • threatens the water source for their reservation
  • disturbs sacred ground, and
  • violates a 19th century treaty with the federal government

What if?

If this fight is now over, we, the American people, lose. Respect for indigenous people disintegrates. Civilian control—the executive branch—over our distinguished military—the Army Corps of Engineers, in this case—devolves into dictatorial mockery. Treaties—our sacred word as a nation—become meaningless. And so one may sadly ask:

What have we become?

End

[I write about politics because of the direct link I see between the words and actions of politicians and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. America’s political class manipulates our military as though they were pawns in a global game of chess. To them, PTSD is merely an unfortunate cost of war.]

1-25: Do We Really Want a Military Showdown with China?

[I write about politics because of the direct link I see between the words and actions of politicians and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. America’s political class manipulates our military as though they were pawns in a global game of chess. To them, PTSD is merely an unfortunate cost of war.]

[I consult and consider many sources in search of appropriate subject matter for this blog. Often I find material that is best left (mostly) untouched by me, e.g., today’s piece filed at Worldpost by Reuters.]

As written here recently, disturbing activities in the South China Sea may prove volatile, if not downright belligerent, soon. China’s actions and American reactions, if not resolved diplomatically, do not bode well. Yesterday’s report from Reuters is reason for pause.

China Insists It Will Protect South China Sea Sovereignty

At first, China responded publicly to declarations from Washington, saying it

… had “irrefutable” sovereignty over disputed islands in the South China Sea after the White House vowed to defend “international territories” in the strategic waterway.

Here is what spokesman Sean Spicer said at a press conference that prompted China’s strong words.

“The U.S. is going to make sure that we protect our interests there,” … when asked if [President Donald] Trump agreed with comments by his Secretary of State nominee, Rex Tillerson. On Jan. 11, Tillerson said China should not be allowed access to islands it has built in the contested South China Sea….

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying, like Spicer, spoke at a news briefing Tuesday during which she said, “the United States is not a party to the South China Sea dispute.” She is correct. So why is the U.S. pressing this issue so vigorously? In addition to protecting the empire,

It’s the oil!

China claims most of the South China Sea, while Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Brunei claim parts of the sea that

  • commands strategic sealanes
  • has rich fishing grounds
  • has oil and gas deposits

The gauntlet is thrown.

Tillerson’s remarks at his Senate confirmation hearing prompted Chinese state media to say at the time that the United States would need to “wage war” to bar China’s access to the islands [in the South China Sea], where it has built military-length air strips and installed weapons systems.

Tillerson was asked at the hearing whether he supported a more aggressive posture toward China and said: “We’re going to have to send China a clear signal that, first, the island-building stops and, second, your access to those islands also is not going to be allowed.”

This is heavy-duty talk.

The former Exxon Mobil Corp chairman and chief executive did not elaborate on what might be done to deny China access to the islands.

But analysts said his [Tillerson’s] comments, like those of Spicer, suggested the possibility of U.S. military action, or even a naval blockade. Such action would risk an armed confrontation with China, an increasingly formidable nuclear-armed military power.

Tillerson’s appointment has moved from committee, where he was approved, to a vote for confirmation from the full Senate.

Are we, the people, ready to risk going to war, again, over oil? Is it not appalling that, even before he is sworn into the office that will direct our nation’s foreign policy, the Secretary of State-to-Be speaks in terms of: waging war and not allowing another country to pursue its own interests? This does not smack of diplomacy.

Nowhere in this brewing dispute have I seen mention of the United Nations. But, then again, Exxon-Mobil never cared much what the international community had to say about anything. Tillerson has claimed—publicly, proudly, and defiantly—that, as CEO, his allegiance was first and foremost to his shareholders … not his country. That leopard’s spots ain’t changing anytime soon.

*****

The illustration at the blog’s top is the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. The blogger is a Vietnam Veteran, 1966-67. He is an author and past state chaplain for a major veterans organization. He welcomes comments on posts and encourages readers to subscribe to PTSDOutreach.com; two points: 1) it is free, 2) posts appear directly in your e-mail in-box.

1-19: Manning-7, Petraeus-0

Military Justice: It’s Complicated

Two U.S. soldiers deploy to Iraq during undeclared war time, one a 4-star general and the other a private first class. Under ordinary circumstances their names would never appear together … anywhere. Their paths would never cross. But today they do. Both of these Americans, while wearing the uniform of their country, swore to uphold and defend the Constitution. Implicit at their swearing-in ceremony was the willingness to obey all legal and moral orders issued to them by their superiors.

Within the rigid rank structure of the Army, PFC Chelsea Manning could not “order” anyone to do anything. General David Petraeus, on the other hand, commanded the entire force. They served at opposite ends of the chain of command … literally. And yet, it turns out, both had access to “classified” material. And also, it turns out, both leaked said material. They were both wrong. They were both guilty of criminal activity under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. It can easily be argued that each in his own way brought harm to America.

In brief, for sharing Top Secret information, which included actual names of intelligence operatives, to his lover/biographer, Petraeus was charged with no crime, never appeared before a jury, and in essence received a “naughty boy, don’t do it again” from the system.

Better than that,

You can read all about the general’s life and career in a hagiography written by David Pietras. For me, the title is almost as creepy as the near-homonym names of author and subject. What I have read of In the Footsteps of a Hero: The Military Journey of Retired General David H. Petraeus nauseates me. I expect more than career building at any cost from my heroes. Petraeus suffers from hubris, the fatal flaw that should have brought him to his knees. Before being outed as a philandering blowhard, Petraeus headed the CIA. The CIA!

Meanwhile, at the lowest rung on the ladder,

Chelsea Manning, who grew increasingly disillusioned with U.S. military presence and activity in Iraq, took it upon himself (living as a male at the time) to release a slew of classified material to Wikileaks. Wrong then, wrong now. Having by the time of her trial been allowed to identify openly as transgender, she was sentenced to 35 years in jail and has so far served nearly seven. Since passage of the “Espionage and Sedition Acts of 1917,” no person has ever been sentenced to as many years as Manning, nor has any person served as much time in prison.

Apples or Oranges?

We can argue ad infinitum about the relative damage done to America by the treacherous actions of these two former soldiers. What is inarguable is that they both broke the law.

In one of his final actions as POTUS, Barack Obama commuted Manning’s sentence. Obama haters take note: he “commuted” Manning’s sentence, he did not “pardon” her. Petraeus walked, walks, and will continue to walk free. I guess the adage is true:

Privates go to jail, while generals go free.

When setting these cases side by side, for me, justice suffers. While we the public learned every detail of Chelsea Manning’s life during her incarceration and trial, as far as Petraeus goes, we mainly heard what a brilliant officer he was, not dragged-out specifics of his adultery and carelessness. Manning at least acted (inappropriately) out of a sense of honor, believing that the mission in Iraq was inherently wrong. Petraeus cannot claim that high ground. He spilled secrets to his mistress/biographer/running partner. His life story was in her hands, why not demonstrate to her how powerful he was?

With all due respect to retired General Petraeus, in the end, judging them by their final acts as active duty soldiers, PFC Manning is the bigger person. Bear with me here.

Remember the courtroom drama in A Few Good Men. Jack Nicholson’s character—the commander at Guantanamo Bay—screams at Tom Cruise’s character, “You want me on that wall.” No, the audience realizes, Americans don’t want rogue soldiers running loose, deciding autonomously and despotically right from wrong.

*****

The illustration at the blog’s top is the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. The blogger is a Vietnam Veteran, 1966-67. He is an author and past state chaplain for a major veterans organization. He welcomes comments on posts and encourages readers to subscribe to PTSDOutreach.com; two points: 1) it is free, 2) posts appear directly in your e-mail in-box.

12-1: Veterans to Stand with Sioux against Pipeline

[I consult and consider many sources in search of appropriate subject matter for this blog. Often I find material that is best left (mostly) untouched by me, e.g., today’s piece derives from two sources: The Daily Kos (Walter Einenkel) and Facebook (Veterans Stand for Standing Rock).]

Veterans’ Place in Society

Veterans are not monolithic. Yet 99% of Americans—i.e., those who never have nor ever will serve in the military—seem to treat us that way. Different. They laud us on Veterans Day and Memorial Day with honorifics such as “brave” and “best”; but, really, after that it’s pretty much “out of sight, out of mind.” For me, that’s pretty muck okay.

War veterans share a lack of say in the validity, morality, or righteousness of the war(s) in which they were engaged. Whether enlisted or drafted, the combat soldier goes where told, acts as ordered, and ultimately lives or dies in service of country. Politicians wield the power to send “us” to war, but they never send themselves and rarely offer this unique chance for glory to members of their own families.

Different Rules for the Military

Members of the military conduct themselves according to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, a code which severely alters the way they live. A soldier cannot just leave a duty station and go home without permission, for example, anytime he pleases; if he did, he would be declared AWOL (away without leave) and subject to punishment under the code. So, then, soldiers learn to comport themselves within the confines of that code. Moreover, the soldier confronts at all times the chain of command, from his immediate superior all the way up to the commander-in-chief.

Having served within the confines of the UCMJ for a predetermined period of time, the soldier separates from the military with an Honorable Discharge, honor being the operative word. And this is how veterans should be perceived, as men and women of proven honor. The story below depicts how people of proven honor can and do continue to serve the America—and Americans—they love: no chain of command, no “official” code of conduct required.

December 4-7, 2016

2,000 Veterans plan to be a “human shield” for the North Dakota Pipeline activists

As more and more signs point towards the government trying to strong-arm Dakota Access Pipeline protectors and activists in the coming days, a movement called Veterans Stand for Standing Rock  plan on lending their help and their bodies.

As many as 2,000 veterans planned to gather next week at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota to serve as “human shields” for protesters who have for months clashed with the police over the construction of an oil pipeline, organizers said….

The veterans’ plan coincides with an announcement on Tuesday by law enforcement officials that they would begin blocking supplies, including food, from entering the main protest camp after an evacuation order from the governor, according to Reuters. But protesters have vowed to stay put.

It is Native American land!

The veterans’ efforts also coincide with the Army Corps of Engineers plans to close off access to the movement’s campsite by creating the Orwellian-named “free speech zone.”

“Yeah, good luck with that,” Michael A. Wood Jr., and founder of the veterans’ event, said in an interview.

Veterans Overwhelming Response to Call for Justice

Wood Jr. … was bowled over when, in asking for 500 veterans sign up, he found himself having to cap the event at 2,000. The veterans participating want the U.S. government to reveal what it is really about. Are they going to continue totalitarian and violently oppressive tactics or are they going to recognize that the citizens did not and still do not agree with this pipeline plan?

For me this is a stand worth taking, a battle worth fighting. How pathetic it is that American and Native American men and women of honor must face down uniformed agents of our own government on American soil.

From Facebook:

Veterans Stand for Standing Rock

Event capacity based on accommodations, travel logistics and supplies … has been set at 2,000 rostered participants…. If you’d like to contribute to this mission please consider donating/sharing to our GoFundMe https://www.gofundme.com/veterans-for-standing-rock-nodapl. All funding is dedicated to transportation, supplies, gear, onsite infrastructure and legal fees. Our team is made up exclusively of volunteer Veteran and Civilian self organizers dedicated to our mission of service. Zero salaries, Zero marketing….

IMPORTANT REMINDER: This event (and this event page) will not tolerate hate, violence or divisive behavior of any kind. We’re doing this to support our country so lets do it with honor….

*****

The illustration at the blog’s top is the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. The blogger is a Vietnam Veteran, 1966-67. He is an author and past state chaplain for a major veterans organization. He welcomes comments on posts and encourages readers to subscribe to PTSDOutreach.com; two points: 1) it is free, 2) posts appear directly in your e-mail in-box.

11-11: Veterans Day

[I consult and consider many sources in search of appropriate subject matter for this blog. I have chosen for Veterans Day to cite myself–to share an excerpt from my book, After the Storm.]

Putting Lipstick on a Pig

I do not believe the artificial rhetoric I have heard since the election about how the President-Elect will govern so much differently than he campaigned. I do not sincerely believe he can be magnanimous or gracious. And does he still believe that the election system is rigged? I believe we are in for a bumpy, humiliating, disastrous ride.

Yes, I am cynical. What came to my mind in thinking about an appropriate Veterans Day blog was our nation’s naiveté. I get that many, many voters simply dislike Hillary Clinton; I don’t understand it so much, but I get it. What I don’t get is the acceptance of Donald Trump as the alternative. I am honestly afraid of what his presidency will bring, the damage it will inflict on our culture, and the humiliation—at the least—we will suffer around the globe.

“Before” the Storm

As a way of introducing and summarizing Chapter 14 of After the Storm, “Pulling the Pin,” I cite a line from William Butler Yeats’ poem, “The Second Coming”:

The ceremony of innocence is drowned.

That’s how I feel about America today. In my view the electorate has “pulled the pin” and thus triggered a tumultuous, vindictive, dangerous bomb called Trump. It is impossible for me to imagine that our next commander-in-chief can in any way relate to the 20-year-old infantryman described hereunder.

“Pulling the Pin”

Not long after our first encounter with death …the platoon went out on patrol in a free fire zone … we found the terrain relatively easy to navigate …

We saw a small clearing ahead … Plunging straight ahead could be suicide for (my) squad … The plan came down that the squads on either flank would skirt the edges of the wood line, thereby establishing some lateral security, and (my) squad would advance cautiously across the open stretch: run a few steps one fire team at a time, hit the dirt, run a few steps, hit the dirt until we reached the other side.

As we dropped to the ground maybe twenty yards or so into the clearing, I saw a flash of movement behind a pile of dirt at the far left corner, that is, at the beginning of the woods we were headed toward. The mound itself looked suspicious because it appeared from the color of the dirt to be freshly dug. A bunker, perhaps; a foxhole; a grave?

Without much thought, I signaled to the rest of the squad and both flanks to stay down. Then I detached a hand grenade from my harness and low crawled directly toward the target. When I got close enough to feel comfortable that I could lob the grenade just over the berm thereby causing maximum destruction to whomever or whatever lay behind it, I pulled the pin, tossed the grenade, and still on my belly tried to squeeze my entire body inside my steel pot for protection, in case the shrapnel blew through or over the mound. Bulls eye…. I now had to inspect the result of my first deliberate belligerent act.

I’m not sure what I expected….

Over the years, I have remembered and thought sometimes very deeply about this incident…. I know that part of me died that day. For I knew from that instant what I am capable of. Without emotion, without hesitation, with no sense of guilt at the moment, I could kill. I could kill someone I never met and didn’t hate. My innocence lay shattered that day….

A paradox of war is that, within the context of this basest of human activities, individuals often discover in themselves and others the highest of human qualities: patriotism, honor, loyalty, courage, comradeship, dignity, love of life. The moment I pulled that pin, however, I discovered the nadir of my humanness….

In my very humble opinion, I do not believe we have yet witnessed the worst of Trump.

*****

The illustration at the blog’s top is the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. The blogger is a Vietnam Veteran, 1966-67. He is an author and past state chaplain for a major veterans organization. He welcomes comments on posts and encourages readers to subscribe to PTSDOutreach.com; two points: 1) it is free, 2) posts appear directly in your e-mail in-box.e is an author and past Chaplain

 

 

10-24: Connect with VA

If you are a veteran–or know one–and are not yet connected to the VA, stop putting it off. There are a number of ways to get there. You can simply input Veterans Benefits into your browser and see where it takes you. Personally, I use the site “myhealthevet” which gets me everywhere in the system I want to be.

If you have heard horror stories from the media or maybe even someone you know, don’t take that as an answer. My personal experiences with the VA have been outstanding. But you have to make the first move.

Connect with VA:

In order to connect through one of the following media, click before the first letter of your preferred medium (e.g., before the “F” in Facebook) and a link will appear on your screen. Click it and you are in.

The important thing is that you get and stay connected to the VA. One of the best services I avail myself of is ordering prescriptions. Any prescription the VA prescribes costs $9. 00 per month. That’s it! And, I order them on-line and they appear in the mail. It is as easy as that.

  • Facebook – Veterans of the Day, Top VA news & videos
  • Twitter – Veteran news from around the country
  • Subscribe – Never miss a VA update
  • Instagram – Top Veteran pictures from around the country

 

#VeteranOfTheDay Nominations

Nominate a special Veteran as #VeteranOfTheDay

It’s easy to nominate a Veteran. All it takes is an email to us with as much information as you can put together. Click on the picture to the left for an overview of how to put together a great #VeteranOfTheDay package.

10-21: Women Vets Speak Out

[I write about politics because of the direct link I see between the words and actions of politicians and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. America’s political class manipulates our military as though they were pawns in a global game of chess. To them, PTSD is merely an unfortunate cost of war.]

 [I consult and consider many sources in search of appropriate subject matter for this blog. Often I find material that is best left (mostly) untouched by me, e.g., today’s piece from blogger Denise Oliver Velez. I wrote that I would not write about the Republican nominee until he either drops out or the election is over … I consider this blog to be about much more important people to me.]

Denise Oliver Velez supports–and is looking for support for–a group of female veterans who seek justice in this election.

Women Vets Speak Out Against XXXXX

A group of women veterans have made an ad talking about why they see xxxxx as unfit to be Commander in Chief.

A Testimonial

My name is Wendy Barranco and I am a proud Army veteran who served her country honorably in Iraq.

Blue Falcon (not an honorific)

It is my patriotic duty to stand up to hatred and bigotry, which is why a few weeks ago, we teamed up with Common Defense PAC. We realized we needed to share our stories. xxxxx is a blue falcon. He’s the kind of guy who won’t have your back when the stakes are high. He’s the kind of guy who steals your gear when you’re not looking. He’s the kind of guy who’s only ever in it for himself.

We are not big players, we are veterans. Our best friends are not millionaires and billionaires. So the only way we can get this ad out is with help from working class Americans. Small dollar donations mean the world. If we can raise $30,000, we can reach more than half a million undecided voters in swing states like AZ, NH and NV.

Please help us share this message, donate and listen to vets.

Sincerely,

Wendy, Jess, Mika, Trina, Crystal and the Common Defense PAC

You can help spread the word on twitter at #TrumpBlueFalcon:

The purpose of this blog is not to solicit money for causes, even causes that I wholeheartedly agree with. Rather, it is to raise awareness of issues that impact veterans to the point of their suffering with PTSD. No one can tell from their open letter/ad what the emotional condition of these women actually is, other than anger. However, there can be no doubt that they have strong feelings about the chain of command, feelings they are strong enough to express publicly.

Also, this letter gives lie to the general perception that those in the active military as well as veterans are a reliable voting bloc for Republicans. The deeper we dig the clearer the vision we see of endless, senseless war and war mongering. Blue falcons and chicken hawks be damned.