Thursday, June 23, 2005
A Short Hiatus
In my absence, which unfortunately for you will probably be accompanied by a total void of new posts or updates -- No posts for YOU! -- may I humbly suggest sampling my Blogroll, and in particular I recommend:
Mudville Gazette: Greyhawk and Mrs. Greyhawk, to whom all MILBLOGGERS owe a tremendous debvt of gratitude, do a fantastic job. Link to other MILBLOGGERS, or check out Mrs. Greyhawk's Dawn Patrol, that daily samples the best the MILBLOGGERS have to offer!
Blogotional: John does an excellent job sampling the current dialogs within the Christian Community, and he tracks the goings on of our deployed Military, too!
Winds of Change: John Roggio of The Fourth Rail joined recently, which adds to an already impressive cast of contributors. Like Chrenkoff, excellent source of news from Iraq and other points of tension.
Chrenkoff: Arthur is, of course, the best source of Good News in the battlespaces of Global War on Terror.
Ragged Edges: Ella's Dad posts some great work on various Christian, cultural, and political issues of the day. He also designed the new look, which I very much appreciate!
Lileks: James Lileks and His Bleat, Screedblog, and amusing etcetera, as always, the best writer on the web.
Enjoy, see you in sometime in July!
Wednesday, June 22, 2005
John gets it just right, in his broader discussion of the many Vietnam tangents the press is determined to open up, but also in the specific comments relating to our incident here with the 42nd ID. While it is unfortunate that larger media outlets can't resist tying this story to "favorite themes," it is nevertheless encouraging that local, small town press can still offer a valuable contribution of reporting (just) the facts.
I wanted to clarify earlier, that I am withholding comments on the specifics of this case for two reasons. One is official, the other unofficial, but strictly speaking, neither is "legal," in that neither I nor any soldier in my unit nor my unit itself are in any way involved in this incident. The two reasons:
1) I have been directed to refrain from any public comment on ongoing military investigations based on current military policy on blogging, andWe know both the victims and the individual held on charges. We are familiar with many details that may relate to the investigation or figure in some way in either the prosecution or the defense. Comment by fellow soldiers or adjacent units may interfere with the course of military justice. And that would not only violate the Army's code of ethics, but my personal code of ethics as well. That, and it would make a bad situation infinitely worse.
2) I believe it inappropriate for me to comment publicly until the investigation is completed and a trial is held.
I have very high confidence that right will be done in this case, and justice rendered accordingly.
Both Gladmanly and Dadmanly have posts entered in the Carnival this week.
Gladmanly reminds us that when we hear the word of God and don’t respond with Obedience, we are as the children of Israel. We consume that which does not satisfy, and seek after gain that does not enrich.
Mrs. Dadmanly shares her own series of "growth experiences" for readers who read my accounts of the tragedy we experienced.
Moss Don’t Grow (on a Rolling Spud) Part One
We had been through a couple of rough patches, but were on the mend. Life in the Army for both soldier and spouse can be rough enough; deployments far away from any home you’ve known, can be much, much harder.
We had the advantage of being able to live off post together following a short separation. My wife at the time knew German – albeit a very Haucht (“High”) university German – and we had a three old kinder fraulein who charmed everyone she met. So we had certain advantages, but it still could be difficult.
I worked a rotation shift, sometimes it was 5 (on) and 2 (off), for a while 6 and 2, although for many months I was lucky enough to land day shift. Always with shift work, it rotated. And backwards, despite volumes of research that says if you must rotate, always rotate forward. Plus, I went off on both a one week technical exchange and a six week language refresher. I am sure being pregnant, life in the Army, and a soldier husband that disappears doesn’t make life easy.
But that was the environment, and the life style.
Spud never got much of a chance to enjoy the Great German adventure of her youth, although she was to fully do so later on (more on that in a later installment). It was a world of Gasthauses, and shopping for the day at the local grocer, watching Armed Forces Network (AFN) television (or occasionally the local German channels), wishing for snow, but knowing it never snows like back home, then a quick birth in a German hospital, back home a day later, and a few short months to enjoy the little Spud before we were packing up for home.
Those first few months with Spud were easier as we remembered Early Life with Jilly Bean, but also much more unsettled. I was busy jamming out resumes and cover letters trying to scare up anything for a job back in the states. Staying in the Army was definitely out of the question, I was getting out and never wanted anything to do with the Army, ever again. I appreciated the skills, the experience, but I came in with a Bachelors and discovered too late that my Montgomery Bill GI benefits would pay for another Bachelors but not for a Masters.
I felt cheated. I had put in 6 tough years (the infamous “Bearcat Six Year Plan”) getting a B.A. in Theater from State University of New York (SUNY), and by gum, I wasn’t going to sit through anymore classes. (Though I tried while deployed, but that fizzled when I wouldn’t keep up with the reading or the papers. A university career in Theater does not well prepare you for the rigors of advanced college education.)
Nothing popped before we had to leave, so I brought my family home to the folks, not having any other place particularly in mind. (And it’s not like I had many options at that point.)
I know we all survived those few months home, but that had to be the most difficult period in any of our lives (except maybe for Jilly Bean and Spud, who I think loved all the attention at Grandma and Grandpas). A young family of four jammed in on top of another family, and a mix of personalities and attitudes and habits to boot.
I know my ex described this period as “You owe me. Big-time.”
I was so desperate for work and income at one point, that I seriously reconsidered joining the service, not Active Duty, but in the Reserves or National Guard. Any need for a Czech Linguist or Intel Analyst? No? Too many right now? Need to travel? What about right here in town?
And before you know it, they had me sign the papers. 4 years, New York Army National Guard. And two days after I signed the papers, I was offered a Technical Writing job. Figures. Good firm, good opportunity. Company with several good writers willing to give a youngster with raw talent but little polish an opportunity to learn, writing User and Technical Manuals for Computer Systems, which the firm’s programmers coded for corporate clients.
But I had a job, and we could move out of my parent’s house.
Spud’s next place of residence was the kind of place that settles in your mind like music in summer, redolent in warm and hazy sways of grasses, orchard fields and solitude, save for the crickets.
We rented a 200 year old farmhouse, really only the upstairs, a family member lived in an expanded first floor, the family Matriarch and landlady lived next door, and our little family lived in the 2nd floor of the old house.
The upstairs had those great old plank floors, at least a foot wide, each plank, and where brick was not directly exposed (though layered with centuries of paint), every other scrap of wood was wide plank or beam, all held together with pegs. The pane glass was old, we even had one that was original, along with the etched initials of some ancestor fiancé who wanted to ensure that the peddler’s diamond was just that.
There were stairs too, leading up to the attic, but we weren’t allowed up there except on the obligatory historical tour, expressly for the purpose of seeing the old standing loom that still resided in the attic, carefully preserved.
The fireplaces were off limits too, mores the pity, although as anyone who knows we well will tell you, that’s probably just as well. (Let’s see, the flue, the cinders, the wood, chopping etc., and then of course, the fire itself. Maybe we should leave the fire making to the professionals, shall we?)
But best of all, this first real home of Spud’s sat on a several acre remnant of an old family farm of landed gentry in Southern Saratoga County. For those that know, that means a slice of a history fast disappearing amid suburban sprawl. The closest I’ve seen to it, and as fast disappearing, are a few remaining slivers of Maryland countryside astride the Baltimore Washington Beltway. Now Saratoga County in New York is not by any stretch wider metropolitan Washington, but the almost ghostlike quality of what little traditional rural life remains, suffers the same melancholia.
But in the sliver of time these memories reside, it is always near summer, there are always tall grasses, and the 200 year old Pear and Apple Trees are resplendent in bloom. And fully swallowed up in the soft grasses is a little babe of a child, with hair beginning to go as blond as the grass seed, a ready laugh, and a sparkle in her eyes that set the birds to twitter.
Sitting and laughing in that orchard field, looking out across a landscape unchanged barely since the Revolution, could you blame us if the whole world seemed as manageable as the apple in our hand? As easy to bite into as that ancient fruit, with a legacy and heritage older than the house itself? As easy to chart a course for the future, as the winds find their easy way through the tall, shifting grass?
And yet, in less than a year, our lives would change greatly, as the next big Adventure would begin.
But for now, in the tall grass, a small child full of brightness and light fixes her eyes on a grasshopper that has hopped up on our blanket. All attention and hope, and then a ready grab, but too late, and the critter pops away. A little chill, the sun heading down, and time to bring the kids inside.
Look for Moss Don’t Grow (on a Rolling Spud), Part Two, following the Spud to the Apartment Complex and her first years at school.
A New Dadmanly
My friend and fellow Christian blogger Ella's Dad of Ragged Edges offered to create a masthead and new design look for me. I am delighted I took him up on his very kind offer. For regular visitors, don't you think?!
For those who have not yet met him online, I might suggest by way of introduction Ella's Dad's excellent two part True Lies posts here and here.
And if you have a chance, drop him a comment letting him know what you think!
Monday, June 20, 2005
I happened to dig through some notes for future posts, and came upon some brief notes on Isaiah 55, which I expand on over at Gladmanly. If you haven't visited, you should check it out.
But I couldn't resist linking to the always insightful and in this case scathing Mark Steyn. In Durbin slanders his own country, in the Chicago Sun Times, Steyn is at his best pointing out the utter ridiculousness of Durbin's rhetoric. Rather than just question his patriotism, Steyn assail's Durbin's sanity:
But give Durbin credit. Every third-rate hack on every European newspaper can do the Americans-are-Nazis schtick. Amnesty International has already declared Guantanamo the "gulag of our times." But I do believe the senator is the first to compare the U.S. armed forces with the blood-drenched thugs of Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge. Way to go, senator! If you had a dime for every crackpot Web site that takes up your thoughtful historical comparison, you'd be able to retire to the Caribbean and spend the rest of your days torturing yourself with hot weather and loud music, as well as inappropriately provocative women and insufficient choice of hors d'oeuvres and all the other shameful atrocities committed at Guantanamo.I am not a citizen of Illinois, but as an American citizen, I have to suffer Durbin as a member of the U.S. Senate. Who has 1/100th of the power of the Senate, and is entitled to wield that power in passing or blocking legislation on my behalf. (Any Senator will tell you, especially those with Presidential Ambitions, they represent the Nation, not just their home states, ask Hillary, she'll tell you.)
Just for the record, some 15 million to 30 million Soviets died in the gulag; some 6 million Jews died in the Nazi camps; some 2 million Cambodians -- one third of the population -- died in the killing fields. Nobody's died in Gitmo, not even from having Christina Aguilera played to them excessively loudly. The comparison is deranged, and deeply insulting not just to the U.S. military but to the millions of relatives of those dead Russians, Jews and Cambodians, who, unlike Durbin, know what real atrocities are. Had Durbin said, "Why, these atrocities are so terrible you would almost believe it was an account of the activities of my distinguished colleague Robert C. Byrd's fellow Klansmen," that would have been a little closer to the ballpark but still way out.
One measure of a civilized society is that words mean something: "Soviet" and "Nazi" and "Pol Pot" cannot equate to Guantanamo unless you've become utterly unmoored from reality. Spot the odd one out: 1) mass starvation; 2) gas chambers; 3) mountains of skulls; 4) lousy infidel pop music turned up to full volume. One of these is not the same as the others, and Durbin doesn't have the excuse that he's some airhead celeb or an Ivy League professor. He's the second-ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Don't they have an insanity clause?
I suppose we should leave it to the more rational citizens of Illinois to do something about Durbin. But surely it can't hurt if the rest of us might make some mention of his advanced state of mental decay?
(Posted as covered dish at Basil's Blog.)
Those who oppose every step we take in this Global War on Terror often insist that the problems we confront in the world are our own making. If only we handled things differently. If only we approached things more diplomatically. We have angered and humiliated the Arab world. We have created the motive and impetus of the Jihadis who confront us.
The Western reactionary left hold us accountable, and primarily at fault. So why is it that the Arabs who are in the best position to address the root causes for Isalmic Terrorism hold a different view?
Hanson describes the contrasting views:
Free-thinking Arabs refute all the premises of Western Leftists who claim that colonialism, racism, and exploitation have created terrorists, hold back Arab development, and are the backdrops to this war.Hanson has it exactly right in my view.
Indeed, it is far worse than that: Our own fundamentalist Left is in lockstep with Wahhabist reductionism — in its similar instinctive distrust of Western culture. Both blame the United States and excuse culpability on the part of Islamists. The more left-wing the Westerner, the more tolerant he is of right-wing Islamic extremism; the more liberal the Arab, the more likely he is to agree with conservative Westerners about the real source of Middle Eastern pathology.
The constant? A global distrust of Western-style liberalism and preference for deductive absolutism. So burn down a mosque in Zimbabwe, murder innocent Palestinians in Bethlehem in 2002, arrest Christians in Saudi Arabia, or slaughter Africans in Dafur, and both the Western Left and the Middle East's hard Right won't say a word. No such violence resonates with America's diverse critics as much as a false story of a flushed Koran — precisely because the gripe is not about the lives of real people, but the psychological hurts, angst, and warped ideology of those who in their various ways don't like the United States.
In trying to discuss the justifications for our efforts, in trying to explain why what we do is important, the arguments I hear in rebuttal all focus around a complete distrust and deep resentment of American military power or its deployment, really for any purpose at all.
That explains an almost pathological need to paint any American transgression -- no matter how trivial -- as the (im)moral equivalence of any acts by our enemies. Thus the fuss with Guantanamo.
The illogic that drives this knee-jerk anti-Americanism should not be lightly dismissed. There are consequences to those with domestic American political agendas intentionally or unintentionally taking stands consistent with those espoused by repressive regimes. We end up in conflict internally as well as externally.
Hanson concludes with a warning:
A war that cannot be won entirely on the battlefield most certainly can be lost entirely off it — especially when an ailing Western liberal society is harder on its own democratic culture than it is on fascist Islamic fundamentalism.By no means should we say that those who oppose us are the enemy. But we should be concerned when what might have been a loyal opposition find common cause with those who decidedly are -- our enemies.
So unhinged have we become that if an American policymaker calls for democracy and reform in the Middle East, then he is likely to echo the aspirations of jailed and persecuted Arab reformers. But if he says Islamic fascism is either none of our business or that we lack the wisdom or morality to pass judgment on the pathologies of a traditional tribal society, then the jihadist and the police state — and our own Western Left — approve.
Sunday, June 19, 2005
I am thankful for Jonah sharing these words about his Dad. The thought occurred to me, what a wonderful legacy of memories and attributes to have! I am sorry that Jonah must celebrate the day without his Dad.
I am gratified that there are still Dad's of Great Substance in the world, that there are sons and daughters who may still pay tribute. I gratefully count myself among that number on this Father's Day, and grateful too I can still tell him so. The world is perhaps not so bad off as we sometimes may lament.
Some gems from Jonah's tribute. First, some thoughts on humor and wisdom.
But I think it would be a mistake to think my Dad’s wisdom and his humor were different facets of his personality. For him, “humor” and “wisdom” were different words for the same thing. After all, a sense of humor is merely the ability to see connections between things we haven’t noticed before (while laughter is what we do when we realize that those connections should have been obvious all along). Is wisdom really such a different thing?And a very remarkable story about the uniqueness of life on Earth:
To this day, I clearly remember how he insisted that it was far more likely, in a random universe without a God, that astronauts would find a perfectly running pocket-watch on Mars than even a rudimentary life form, since even single-celled creatures were vastly more complex than a pocket watch.And, last but not least, a very funny story that I think every parent can appreciate:
One time, when I was in high school, I was eating something with hot sauce in the kitchen. By accident, I got some on my fingers and then managed to rub the Tabasco into my eye. The stinging began almost immediately and I ran to the bathroom and started flushing my eye with water from the tap. My dad walked by the open bathroom door and saw me. He came up to me and asked what was wrong. In short spurts between splashes of water, I told him, “I…rubbed…hot…sauce…in-in-in… muh-my eye.”The stories Jonah relates are so rich with meaning, intelligence and humor, I think he could create a deeply moving Biography. I have long admired Goldberg's writing (and the thinking that evidently precedes it), and now I have a better appreciation perhaps of some of his inspiration.
My Dad paused for a moment and then in that dry, razor-like pitch-perfect monotone said, “Damn. I could kick myself for not telling you not to rub hot sauce in your eye.”
Friday, June 17, 2005
Happy Father’s Day, Dad!
I have mentioned previously that my father resembles Abraham Lincoln.
I think that’s pretty cool for a Dad, to look like Abe. The gaunt face. The beard. The sorrowful eyes. Solemnity.
That’s how he looks, that’s not how he acts, thank goodness!
I grew up knowing that Dad’s told puns at the dinner table. At first they were mysteries. Then they were as incomprehensible as the word, “incomprehensible.” Then they were bad, and as my Dad himself noted later in years, “And bad means GOOD.” (These were the seventies, okay?)
Dad had his moments. I can’t imagine raising 5 kids, spending 16 years of evenings through the ‘50s and ‘60s taking Actuarial Exams, and having to deal with the all too public spectacles of the Red Scare, the Bomb Scare, JFK’s Assassination, Vietnam, Watergate, the Sexual Revolution, Women’s Lib -- it must have all seemed like constant change, and little of it for the better. Wasn’t that why landing on the Moon was so incredibly cathartic? How cares about this old piece of rock, it chased all that other garbage off the TV!
I remember raging arguments over the dinner table. Appetite was the first casualty, relationships and trust were next.
Now that I’m a Dad, I have a totally different and deepening appreciation for all that my Dad has done. He’s a Great Man. One of the few I have ever met. Any Great Man I meet in the future must compete with him in my esteem.
Now I need to remark, that despite a distance, aloofness almost, a detachment from us kids that made closeness difficult early on – no doubt in large part due to the factors noted above – my Dad experienced an epiphany at one point in our early adult lives.
He realized he wanted to be our Friend, not just our Father. He wanted to be support for us as we made our way, he hungered for contact, to know and be known.
I can’t think of anything much more heroic for a grown adult with adult children than to reach out with humility and say, in essence, “I am here for you. I wasn’t always. You want an ear, I’ll listen but not judge. You seek encouragement, I can clap and hug, and not find fault. I will not let another day go by without investing in my kids.”
I find myself reaching for that example more and more. And I cherish that he gave us that. It could not have been easy, after all the fights and taunts, rejections and abuses.
My Dad taught me a thing or two.
He taught me honesty and integrity. When I was little, we went to church. I remember being scared to go to Sunday School, I remember the 5 of us kids dressing in little suits and dresses, I remember a little cap I wore, I remember bow ties and dress shorts. I remember piling into the back of some big old ‘50s sedan – no seatbelts back then of course – and heading off to church.
We stopped going when I was 5. The explanation I got when I was older was, “We don’t believe in organized religion.”
Much later I found out that, despite leaving the church in ‘64 or ’65, my father continued his payments into the building fund for another 3 years, until his pledge was completed. He’d made a commitment.
My father taught me justice. Sometimes I was on the receiving end, sometimes my honor was upheld in retribution for harm done. Sometimes, there was the “Knock it off, both of you,” variety of collective punishment, but always there was a sense of fairness, of consequence, and decidedly, a lot more of hurting him than hurting us. At least, that’s how it seems to me today.
My Dad helped me understand love. He showed it towards my Mom in rare unguarded moments, but it showed freely back in Michigan, with our families “back home.” Too long dispossessed from any fiber of roots from Southern Michigan, still and all every visit brought my Dad back a vitality and youthfulness. He was the Son made good gone East. A College Man. Does something with Insurance. Want to go fishing?
He told us tales of hunting Bull Frogs at night. He gave me the gumption to try Frog Legs at my first French Restaurant. He says they ate Potato and Onions about a hundred different ways during the Depression. He forged a Legacy of College Photos of a lanky Tennis Star, who seemed made to order for the Blond Debater at Western Michigan.
He doesn’t understand it yet, but he pointed me to God.
We used to fight a lot in my teens, I think I went three years in College without a word passed between us. Yet we became good friends. He taught me important things about the ties that bind, about what lasts as nearly to forever as anything we experience on this Earth.
I sometimes want to be mad at him. If I am who I am so much because of him, why can’t he see things the way I see things?!
But that’s something else he taught me. Respect for others and their differences.
And I remind myself, too, maybe his Dad wasn’t quite the kind of Dad I had.
And it makes me all the more proud and humbled by the Man he is, not the Man I think he should be.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad. Thanks for all that you are, all that you’ve done, and all that you’ve left me in Legacy of you.
(Linked as Covered Dish at Basil's Blog.)
Jilly Bean Jamboree, Part One
Jilly Bean was born scant weeks before I left for Basic Training. In fact, she was in large part why I was there. (See, it’s your fault, Jill, but more on that later!)
She was a joy to behold, I remember a quiet, delightful, sparkling baby. Jilly Bean’s first bed was an old fashioned pram, a big carriage with springs that lifted off the frame and doubled as a basinet. We lived in what used to be the parlor of a Doctor’s residence or office (maybe both), with French doors leading out into hall and stairwell to the flat upstairs. Next door was a big laundry, not a self-serve Laundromat, but the kind of industrial laundry where hotels and other businesses would have laundry done in bulk. I don’t remember if there was noise; in any case, Jill rarely stirred those first few weeks.
We came upon parenthood then as if procreative pioneers. We lived in a reactionary slice of decaying Hippiedom (Geographically and mentally), though the ‘80s were upon us, we panted the slogans of the ‘60s. We were a long ways from our 30’s, and could yet be Trusted, and We Knew Everything there was to know. And we knew that we knew, as only those afflicted with university town myopia can know. (Truth or Dare: Binghamton, New York)
As a recent Liberal Arts grad, my prior conceptions of adult life affixed to the Life of the Vagabond. My idea of a Career revolved around stage credits and big ticket venues.
Swept by sudden decisiveness, I joined the Army (!). “I need to find me a steady paycheck,” I supposed, and given 6 years of Russian studies in junior high and high school, a career as some kind of translator seemed a smart choice. (Some might have suggested there might be saner alternatives to this abrupt dose of reality, but I wouldn’t have been listening anyway.)
While my new reality began with Basic Training, Jilly Beans’ and her Mom endured the reality of the seedbed of Dadmanliness. Long time readers may recall vague mentions of 12 step and recovery. While I won’t dispute (nor will I discuss here) any theories addressing said same patrimony, suffice it to say that any “monkeys on my back” had long become those of my own remaking.
Upon completion of Basic Training, we gathered up our meager belongings and headed to Language School in Monterey, California.
Now Monterey is a beautiful spot, but on Specialist E4 pay prior to being provided family-based benefits (which then kicked in only after 2 years of service), ferociously expensive.
Jill spent ages 3 months to 15 months at Monterey. Monterey had many distractions, not all of them at a cost. Jill’s favorites were Pelicans down on Fisherman’s Wharf; Italian gelato at Gelato Mia’s. (Thank goodness her Mom worked there or that would have been expensive too.) I think she had some curious encounters with some big garden snails (they were all over outside our first apartment), and we saw Humpbacks from the air in the private plane of one of our instructors, Pan Jensen. Jilly Beans saw her first ocean at the beach outside of Carmel, the one hidden at the end of a cul de sac, where the language students had crab bakes on the dunes. Here, Bean started a love affair with surf, shells, and little ocean dwellers that continues to today.
She also made her first (boy) friend, Morgan, the son of an Air Force student of Mandarin Chinese. The little boy with the big round head. I thought he looked like Charlie Brown, but a year or two later, writing from Hawaii (lucky dog), the family photo showed the rest of his body caught up with that oversized head.
Jilly Bean’s mom took the Foreign Service Exam in San Francisco one Saturday, and in the spirit of adventure (and not having the luxury of a babysitter), we all went together. More “can you believe how little sense he has?” I have our little folding stroller, so while Mom is taking the 4 hour exam, Jilly Beans and I will spend the time touring San Francisco on foot. With a strong wind. With a 9 month old. Never having been there before.
Okay, you can stop laughing now.
I really don’t remember anything about San Francisco, except that it’s all hills, the wind is cold, and there really isn’t anywhere to go with an infant. I do remember finding every way imaginable to create wind baffles with an umbrella, coats, bags, papers, anything that came to mind as a fought a failing battle crafting some kind of protection from the wind for Jill.
I had an opportunity this past year to take a class at the Naval Postgraduate School, and one of the evenings I prevailed on my class mates to make a trip to Pacific Grove and Lover’s Point. This is perhaps the most photographed spot on the Monterey Peninsula. Of course – Mrs. Dadmanly, no comments please – we get there at night. But still, the light from the adjacent restaurants and hotels allow some appreciation of the view.
But there was a more powerful sense at work, and the multi-sensed flood of recollection it brought with it.
The surf. It pounds. Out on the point, the closer to the huge rock promontory, waves crashed in from three sides. There’d been a storm the day previously I think, and the tide (and surf) was high. The ocean at night reveals its power, and I all but bathed in its embrace.
I remembered on my return visit – not before – that Jill, her Mom and I visited Lover’s Point with that same stroller with which I battled the Streets of San Francisco. I remember rolling Jill just as far as I could on the dirt trail out to the point, and when there were too many rocks in the way, lifting her out of the stroller and carrying her as far as I safely could go out onto the cliff. It was as if, we two, were out on the edge of the world.
I felt like that then, with my first child in my arms, looking out across the vastness of a creation I didn’t understand or fully comprehend, that we were on the edge of the future itself. Anything was possible; everything was forward.
And yet there were many steps backward from that point.
Look for Jilly Bean Jamboree, Part Two, retracing the path from Monterey to Texas, home for a spell, then on to Bavaria.
(Linked as Covered Dish over at Basil's Blog.)
Thursday, June 16, 2005
A Witness of Mrs. Dadmanly
A Witness of Mrs. Dadmanly
My turn again! Today marks one week that I did not know whether or not my husband was alive or with the Lord. It has been a week of many twists and turns and an extremely heavy, heavy weight that I could physically feel over me and I could not seem to shake it.
God being God "again" showed me His Power, His Strength, His Provision, His Love, His Compassion, His Grace, His Mercy, His knowing exactly what I need when I need it. I have been sharing with many and asking for prayer and praying myself, but last night was the time God chose to allow me to again "let Go.”
For the past year I truly have had very little fear attached to my husband being gone. I would have a moment, maybe an hour or two now and then (one other incident that was a bit longer), but God kept reminding me "I am your Rock, Refuge, Fortress...Trust in Me,” and I truly have believed that no matter what, He IS IN CONTROL.
When I realized last week that my husband might be one of the fallen soldiers, everything spiraled down and changed for me. My strength left, my faith dwindled, and my fear rose above everything I knew and trusted. That is what I have been carrying around for a week. And the fact that I know that my husband did survive, but someone else’s husband did not, they were chosen to die, while mine was spared.
So what happened yesterday was such a blessing from God to me. I came to work and opened my e-mail and there was a notice from our Army Unit, inviting me and others to join them last night at the Armory, to process what we all had gone through this past week, since hearing about our soldiers.
I decided to go hoping that if nothing else, I would hear something from someone that might give me some peace, because nothing I had done all this past week allowed that to happen.
I picked up Little Manly and headed to the unit. When I arrived there were lots of people walking in and lots of cars in the lot. I was very surprised and extremely happy that everyone had made the effort to show up. There were children everywhere and a lot of sad faces on the adults, saying "Hi" very soberly and somber. We went in, and were greeted with hugs from the soldiers that are here that stayed back to work. Seeing the faces of so many of the wives and husbands of soldiers, was just like walking into a family gathering with people you have not seen and cannot wait to connect with.
Little Manly quickly ran off with the other kids to have a scavenger hunt, pizza, soda, water balloons and cake. That was just what he needed and God supplied.
I walked into the main room and there was a circle set up with about 60 chairs, they did not want anyone sitting behind another, face to face, heart to heart.
It was AWESOME. They wanted us to share our names and our soldiers name but did not want to know rank, titles, units, etc. They set it up as if we were all equals and wanted to keep it on that level.
They had a counselor there from Youth for Christ, two counselors from a Veteran’s Center, our Colonel from Rear Detachment, and others that have gone through this before.
Lots of people shared. Everyone that shared I could identify with. We cried, laughed and reminisced about CPT Esposito who died, those that knew and remembered how he had helped and was there for so many.
Just last week his Mom and Dad came to help out packing care packages for the soldiers. People were sharing how we have touched each others lives, and that just like our soldiers, we also would never be the same again.
One very pleasant older lady spoke and said, "We need to keep our focus on the Lord," and, "We need to pray, we need to remember who is in charge." Another lady spoke and said, "We need to exercise," and, "just get up and exercise!" Everyone laughed. She went on and on for about 10 minutes about exercise, lol.
It was very clear that we were all accepted and allowed to feel and be exactly where we were at that moment. Then they talked about the funeral that was taking place that day.
Tears flowed and we all connected as if we all knew that we were spared and blessed, and felt so sad all at the same time.
When the meeting was over the woman that spoke about the Lord came over to me and said, “In your humanness you were fearful, God understands your fear. But it is time to let it go, remember who is taking care of you. He loves you and has not left you.” Then she encouraged me to read Psalm 40, and the one part that stuck with me was, "He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand"!
PRAISE GOD! When I left that meeting last night I felt totally released of the weight, I actually could feel it physically that it was gone, what the enemy meant for evil, the Lord AGAIN prevailed.
I needed to experience this past week, I needed to get to a place that I could draw near to the Lord again. He had not moved, He had not left me, He had not instilled the paralyzing fear. He was holding me up all week and last night I was able to Thank Him.
On the way home in the car my son said, "Mom, please
tell me everything you know about CPT Esposito’s death."
I said, "All I know is that his life was taken and we need to pray." Little Manly then told Me not to be sad, because if CPT Esposito believed, he is with Jesus now and he is in a much better place, and is probably very happy.
Then he said, "Mom, tell me all you know about heaven."
I told him, "It is a glorious place, where the roads are gold and there are fruit trees all over the place. We live in these mansions, and we never will cry or have pain again…”
He stopped me. “That’s good, Mom, that’s all I need to know.”
I'm reminded again, how faithful our God is. How His timing is perfect. How he knows what we need and He supplies it and He Never Never Leaves us. I'm so grateful today I cannot even begin to put it into words.
It is WELL with my SOUL!
A Dadmanly Postscript:
She says she can’t begin to put it into words. I’d beg to differ, but I’ll let you be the judge.
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
Both Gladmanly and Dadmanly have posts entered in the Carnival this week.
Gladmanly reflects on Paul's Apostleship from Romans 1:1-7 and how it relates to recent events while serving in Iraq.
I also share my struggles with despair and sadness and how God used them to set up a divine appointment for me in a post entitled "It is Well With My Soul".
And lots of other good posts at the carnival, including more from Ella's Dad at Ragged Edges, A Physicist's Perspective with important thoughts on Psalms 119, and Mark Olson at Pseuso-Polymath, who poses an important ethical query that could use some answers.
There were memorial tributes to the two men, some reflections on their military careers, what they accomplished, what kind of men they were, sympathy for the families they leave behind.
Surviving members of their command paid tribute to their abilities, their dedication, their passion in their jobs, their commitment to our purpose. The ceremony itself centered on a memorial stand of boots, rifle and helmet in a fashion now well established for such memorials.
I didn't feel comfortable taking photographs, that seemed a violation of something sacred.
We overflowed the rather small grandstand seating that sites in front of the main archway, much of the Division HHC turned out, and many of us from other subordinate commands.
Our band played, one band soldier played Taps, and a honor guard executed a firing of volleys with deep solemnity.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, a command delegation began the rendering of final respects, followed by a selected contingent of HHC soldiers, followed then by all other mourners present.
The band has gotten quite good throughout the Division AO, they've done more than a few of these now.
I have never fully understood the devotion expressed by survivors of past wars and conflicts. I must have thought somehow that such attachment of sentiment had to have something to do with something unique about the individuals or the units, or even the war. The Greatest Generation was great, wasn't it, because of the depth of their sacrifice or magnitude of their struggle or the great consequence of their triumph?
I don't think that anymore. I think I now understand the bond that veterans speak of, the bond of common experience, of course, but a bond of common sacrifice and loss as well. We have shed blood here. We leave a piece of the whole here. Innocence lost, some scarring in a place that had for most of us not known wound before.
I resolve never again to let the petty concerns of bureaucracy or organizational politics blind me to the reality of the human beings alongside whom we serve. We may have had our differences, all of us, as we struggle to bring order to chaos, and discipline to violence. But we will never share with others outside, that connection to the past that does not travel with us forward in time. There are memories that will stay locked in OIF III, in 2005, in the Month of June, in the sweltering heat of the Iraqi summer.
During final respects, the band began playing again softly. I wasn't sure at first the tune. By the time it reached the refrain, it was clear: they played "It Is Well With My Soul."
There are times, when through circumstance or the providence of others upon whom He places His purpose, God makes His presence felt. Very near, very strong. But in that still small voice. I will never forget.
As a postscript to my earlier posts about this tragic event, Mrs. Dadmanly tells me that on the evening she was able to have confirmed that I was safe and sound, the CD that she was listening to had a hymn that provided her great peace and comfort the moment it began. Third track. Do I need to say which hymn?
"It Is Well With My Soul."
(Linked as Covered Dish this lunchtime at Basil's Blog.)
Monday, June 13, 2005
It Is Well With My Soul
I was up VERY late with work and then writing, and then got up early and was exhausted, then found out that the Command Sergeant Major (CSM) had sent an email at 6:00 am wanting me to be in his office at 10:30 (on my "day off" not that there really ever is such a thing), I find out at 10:35, I haven't even showered, so I throw on my clothes and start walking in anger up to the BN HQ. I end up getting a ride the last bit from the new CPT who is taking over for CPT Esposito.
I get there, and we (CSM the C Company SFC and me) spend an hour and a half pretty much saying the same things we always say. A lot of the conversation is pretty course, that's just how they are. It can wear you down.
I did manage to get about 2-3 hours sleep in the afternoon, but that just made me depressed. Then I read Mrs. Dadmanly's and Little Manly's cards, got all sad, and then went to church.
Turns out they had our first Communion since being here (at least, my first), and I was so upset and angry about all this stuff. I tried to work through my inventory, asking for forgiveness for the things that still weighed against my heart, but I had to walk out of the room as the worship songs started, I was too agitated.
But then God set up this divine appointment. There is an older gentleman who works for KBR and runs the MWR Palace. He comes to our services, but wasn't there tonight. He asked if I was going to the service, I told him how I was feeling, and how I had stepped out to clear my head. He shared that he hadn't been able to take communion today, either, full of anger too and grief and he's been struggling too around the language he hears everyday and succumbing to it sometimes.
I shared that I struggled with that too. He had shared a week or so earlier when we gave him an award for helping the unit, that he had gone through a very difficult life experience and decided to come to Iraq and help the effort here. Tonight he told me that he had gone through a bitter divorce he didn't want after 30 years of marriage, that his child (children?) weren't speaking to him. But he acknowledged that if God hadn't allowed this experience to happen, he would still be at home sitting on the sofa fiddling with the remote and coaching football, and miss this chance to be a part of God's greater purpose and work with all this GREAT young (and not so young) men and women.
I shared with him a portion of our witness, how God had redeemed both Mrs. Dadmanly and I from the tragedy and heartbreak of failed first marriages, and offering him the encouragement that God can do that, redeem brokenness. I shared that God has used our closeness, being best friends to redeem brokenness in Mrs. Dadmanly's family, in my family, in our churches, and that He might give Him that opportunity too. He told me that when he was here with the prior unit, he used to have an "Accountability" meeting with some Captains. I told him what a good idea, that I'd be interested, he said maybe we should both pray about what God would have us do.
I felt so much better after talking to him, that I was able to return to the service, hear the sermon (which was kind of neat), and take communion, which felt good after all this time.
The Chaplain recounted a story about a hymn lyric written by Horatio Spafford on the occasion of his trip to reunite with his wife following a tragic loss. Days earlier, his wife had set sail with their 4 daughters on a trip to England, on a ship that sank in 20 minutes from a collision. Spafford was to receive a 2 word telegraph from her, with the words, “Saved Alone.”
Spafford, when he reached the point in the Atlantic where his daughters perished, there wrote the words to this hymn:
1. When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,What with the sharing with my KBR friend, the story the Chaplain told, and all the rest, God gave me stories of Hope and Encouragement just when I was down, and that was a pretty cool thing.
when sorrows like sea billows roll;
whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
It is well with my soul,
it is well, it is well with my soul.
2. Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
let this blest assurance control,
that Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
and hath shed his own blood for my soul.
It is well with my soul,
it is well, it is well with my soul.
3. My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
It is well with my soul,
it is well, it is well with my soul.
4. And, Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
the clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
the trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
even so, it is well with my soul.
It is well with my soul,
it is well, it is well with my soul.
This morning I woke up to the clearest sunlight we’ve had in a week. No dust, no silt, no dirt. A smile and and some hope for a better day.
It is well with my soul. It is well, it is well, with my soul.
(Linked at Basil's Blog)
Total number of books owned, ever: I come from a family of reading fanatics, my Great Grandfather was a serious book collector, my youth was a study in book immersion. My parents living room is three walls of book shelves, floor to ceiling, with at least two other rooms as library annexes, and probably that many more given to us kids (there were 5 of us). My parents have probably gotten close to 5,000, I would say 2000 of which I read (I don't really care for mysteries, so that knocked out 500, and they probably have bought as many in the years since I left home as many as they had had at that time.
I mention this because I now own perhaps 250 books (including the ones in boxes downstairs). I have probably purchased and lost, given away or sold another 750 for a total of 1000. Why so few? I haven't had much time to read, raising a family and working. My free time is spent with my wife and children, doing things, and in the evenings, we watch movies or TV, as hard as that is to admit.
I consider this a shortcoming, although my voracious reading as a child was perhaps overindulgent, and resulted in a very difficult time socializing. (It helped educate me and gave me an excellent vocabulary, but I think I'd have liked to be happier, too.) Mrs. Dadmanly and I have yet to fully "settle down," we may move again, we have avoided permanence, we rent. My desire now is to read that which edifies, that reflects truth. Fiction may yet find it's place in my priorities, but I look forward to classic non-fiction I've missed along the way: DeToqueville, the Federalist Papers, Rousseau, and perhaps some Stephen Ambrose, biographies, American History.
If I ever actually retire, I suspect I will again be drawn to Literature. But right now, a bike ride sounds like more fun.
Last book I bought: The Case For Democracy, by Natan Sharansky, purchased for me at my request so I think that counts. He does make an excellent case, although similar to his personal politics, the force of his arguments gets weaker the closer to Israel he gets. Still, an excellent read. I read it upon initial deployment (most of it on planes on the way to Kuwait). I very muich enjoyed the strong reverberations I noted in most of President Bush's major speeches since its publication. Anyone who wants to understand the moral premise behind current American Foreign Policy needs to read this book, if they have not.
Last book I read: (Finished?) The Great Experiment, Faith and Freedom in America by Os Guinness, part of the Trinity Forum from NAVPRESS. A wonderful primer on the bedrock foundational balance of faith and freedom in the establishment of the United States. There is so much precious and of great value in the American Lexicon, once know intimately by schoolchildren, that has fallen almost into complete obscurity. A very important walk back through our legacy.
(Started?) Carl Sandburg's Lincoln, The Prairie Years and The War Years in a combined set. Aside for a striking physical resemblance to my father, I admire Lincoln and his faith more than any other (non-ancient). Lincoln struggled against popular opinion, against evil long accepted, and suffered greatly as he watched his nation suffer greatly. We are in times as momentous and critical to our Nation as the days in which he made his mark. Which reminds me, I need to set aside a little time each day to finish my Lincoln.
Five books that mean a lot to me: The Bible, New King James, both Old and New Testaments. The primary document upon which I try to live my life. A great source of comfort, a trove of wisdom in a foolhardy age, the Word of God, for me more alive and meaningful than any other source. The breathtaking beauty of its English. The greatest book of English poetry ever scribed. Shakespeare comes in a close second.
Shakespeare, Macbeth. Or King Lear. Okay, or Midsummer Night's Dream (go figure). I am a fool for language. I love the power of the aply nestled word. I hear rhythm and feel motion. I understand beyond the idiom, and even when I miss the subtle word play, I can still sway to the melody of his verse. No true poet can dislike Shakespeare, other than out of envy. As a former practitioner of the Dramatic Arts, I may be prejudiced, but I would say profoundly discriminating.
Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath. The first book of moral power I read as a near adult. I will forever remember the images of the dustbowl, the characters of the Preacher, of Tom Joad and his Ma, of men so desperate and women so afraid as to tear their lives up in an instant, enduring prejudice and anger and violence and bigotry as they try to find roots where there are none. Injustice. Hunger. The violence of poverty. All too often forgotten amonst the luxuries taken for granted. Half the states of our Nation -- and many of our forebears -- were raised to adolescence through these agonizing trials. We too soon forgot, and laughed off the stories of our grandparents' deprivations.
Herman Melville, His short stories (really anything). Read the entire catalog of Melville, and you will have learned every conceivable complex sentence structure possible in the English Language. If Hemingway taught us brevity, Melville taught us depth. (Consider Old Man and The Sea versus Moby Dick.) From a practical standpoint, the more exposure one has to the immense variety of forms, the more tools you have from which to craft something unique, and with an interesting mix of rhythm and texture.
The Lord of the Rings. I must have read these 6 or 7 times. As other Christian fans of Tolkien, I note and appreciate the reflections of the story of good versus evil and Messianic vision that Tolkien created. That, and its just brilliantly rich fiction.
I need to tag 5 others. I apologize if any of these fine writers have been tagged previously. They should feel under no obligation whatever to respond. (I really don't care for these things myself, but it was a fun diversion. Thanks, John.)
Chester: If he can take time away from his Campaigns, he's a very fine War Correspondent.
Ella's Dad: Another fine Christian Blogger, check out his True Lies postings.
Mustang 23: if he can take a pause in the Jerky Wars long enough to talk some literature!
Toni at My View: A great supporter of the Military, a terrific blog.
Liberal Avenger: With apologies for not responding to his previous TAG!
Saturday, June 11, 2005
By now, no doubt folks have seen the news reports, that military authorities have opened a criminal investigation into the deaths.
Most of the news reports have been pretty straight up, but it won't be long before the anti-war types are sputtering this kind of garbage.
As this is now an active investigation for CID, I am no longer at liberty to comment further on details that might pertain to the investigation. I have no doubt the Army will get the bottom of this tragic mystery. Perhaps its not too optimistic to hope that the media will be as interested in the whole truth when the investigation is completed, rather than just those bits that diminish or tarnish our Division, the rest of our patriots in Iraq, or our broader Global War on Terror.
(Linked at Basil's Blog)
Thursday, June 09, 2005
Grief and Anger
Grief Comes Home
Our FOB had a very tragic loss last Tuesday night. At just after 10:00 p.m., a very short barrage of 4 rockets came in, all clustered in a tight area within the FOB. Less knowledgeable soldiers suggest that the rockets were “walked in,” which is a term describing the gunnery procedure of adjusting fire slightly with each fire so as to “walk the rounds in” to the desired target. The rocket attacks we sustain here generally do not include such a precise targeting capability, and I personally believe the attack was “effective” from the enemy’s point of view only by tragic accident.
One of the 4 rockets flew over buildings and berms, past all manner of potential obstructions and barricades, right down into a very small opening to strike the window of one of the living quarters. It's like the Death Star target in the original Star Wars. And this for an unguided munition.
The blast sent a hail of glass cascading through the rooms adjacent to the window, within which two of the Division officers happened to be playing chess. We spend a great deal of effort boarding up windows and eliminating any plate glass from our living and working areas. I do not know why this particular window was left exposed, although it was small, down within a very recessed area, and part of a very ornate structure.
The men were medically evacuated (MEDEVAC) to the next FOB over with more extensive medical facilities, but both Soldiers died of their wounds. One died of injuries relating to flying glass, the other from shrapnel.
The senior officer of the two had just managed to convince his friend to transfer into theater. The new officer had only been in country 5 days, and the two of them evidently decided to play chess as another dust storm started up last night, though not as bad as the previous night.
I think a lot of people are still in shock. This hits pretty close to home, and underscores for everyone how random death and injury can be in this environment. One of the men leaves behind three small children and a wife. I’m not sure about the other, but if he has family, this must be a heavy blow given his willingness to volunteer to join his friend.
There is no explaining the will of God in this circumstance, at least, not in the sense of what His will would be for this man’s death. Many of my men remark that, “when it’s your time it’s your time.” That’s what many of us say. But I wonder what really goes on in our hearts when we say that.
I am, if not numb, somehow buffered from any feelings at all about this event. I think what it would have been like if my Commander, my partner in all things in running this Company, were to be struck down in this way while we’re here. I wonder what the officers' soldiers are thinking or feeling. But I’m not concerned for myself, I don’t feel fear, I don’t have any sense of dread or even anger. Maybe this is God’s providence, but I’m not so sure. I think it more likely it’s a defense mechanism, something more primal, something unique to a combat environment, though perhaps permitted by God as a helping effect.
By all means, if such a practice has meaning for you, pray about the health and well-being of our Soldiers, for peace and comfort for the grieving survivors of these men, and for direction for me and the other leaders to model appropriate grief, while at the same time offer encouragement. Such a meaningful word, as I think on it. En-courage. To create or establish or generate courage, which after all is really a confidence of purpose.
"Do You Know How Crazy Things Were Here?"
The second story has no meaning but for the first. (This story originally appeared at Debate Space, my joint blog with The Liberal Avenger, who just happened to ask a question about internet censorship on military bases just as the blackout was lifted at our FOB.
As is the practice here in Iraq, the Command shuts down phone and internet connections for 24-48 hours, long enough for the Military to contact affected families.
Let me tell you why that is so important.
One of the idiots here who doesn't understand the very good reasons for the blackout, placed an anonymous call just before the blackout was imposed, saying 4 soldiers of our Division were killed, maybe more injured.
An equally idiotic (no, make that even more idiotic) news editor or reporter called Mrs. Dadmanly at home, told her about the anonymous tip, and asked her if she had heard any news? The reporters involved apparently contacted several family members.
Needless to say, with the rest of us on blackout, my wife was a basket case, as were many other family members and friends. Since the news (based on this anonymous tip) was immediately reported on local news and amplified by CNN, the military authorities in our Rear Detachment were forced to send out an email confirming that soldiers were injured, but that no further information could be made available until families had been notified. Which just scared and upset more families and friends of Soldiers in our Division, because (thanks to HIPAA restrictions), the Army can't reveal any medical information without patient consent.
My wife had to wait until the blackout was lifted to find out if I had been injured. Or if others in my unit had been hurt or killed.
During the blackout Soldiers in our unit had no idea the attack had been reported back home. When the blackout was lifted, I quickly emailed my wife at work, sending a bland "How are you today? I'm fine," just in case she hadn;t heard anything, but letting her know I was okay if she had.
Her first response was, "Do You Know How Crazy Things Were Here?!"
Friends and family were frantic. Reports were all over the place, and there were all these calls from the press. Neighborhood new press. Neighbors from in town. Emails and calls. No solid information, no "Your Soldier is safe and sound," but more like "You will be contacted if your Soldier has been injured."
I said the second story was one of outrage, and I guess that's what I consider these calls to family members, outrageous. The likelihood of them knowing anything substantive is remote. That a reporter might thereby elicit footage or recordings or juicy quotes full of fear, hysteria, grief, or anger would be quite probable. And who does that serve? It's like those horrible pseudo-reality shows that try to generate raw emotional reactions from participants. And on the "use discretion" side of their considerations, what would be the likelihood that these family members don't know anything, and they're first hearing fearful news from the reporter intruding on their privacy?
Freedom of the press is a right that bears an attendant responsibility. Sometimes that responsibility is gravely important.
It isn't exactly "First, do no harm," but that wouldn't be a bad place to start. Some news can wait a day or two. Unless of course you're the unfortunate family that gets the personal visit to your home. The rest of you can wait.
(Posted as Luncheon Covered Dish at Basil's Blog.)
Wednesday, June 08, 2005
Tuesday, June 07, 2005
In "Good Intentions Gone Bad," Rod Nordland, "NEWSWEEK's Baghdad bureau chief, departing after two years of war and American occupation, has a few final thoughts."
Error in logic right at the start.
What went wrong? A lot, but the biggest turning point was the Abu Ghraib scandal. Since April 2004 the liberation of Iraq has become a desperate exercise in damage control. The abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib alienated a broad swath of the Iraqi public. On top of that, it didn't work. There is no evidence that all the mistreatment and humiliation saved a single American life or led to the capture of any major terrorist, despite claims by the military that the prison produced "actionable intelligence."You can accurately report on the effect Abu Ghraib has had on Iraqi public opinion. You can talk about the damage it’s done. But to use it to explain absolutely that Abu Ghraib “didn’t work?” That’s just stupid, there’s no other way to put it. No small wonder Newsweek is a failing enterprise, with Bureau Chiefs like these.
Abu Ghraib is a detention facility. How on earth would Nordland know whether or to what extent Abu Ghraib has or hasn’t “worked.” No evidence that it led to any captures or saved a single American life? And note the paragraph construction, quite clever really, and how Nordland sets up an entirely senseless false comparison to emphasize his point: mistreatment and humiliation contrasted against military claims that “actionable intelligence” was produced. What on earth does one have to do with the other?
If Nordland’s point is, because these abuses cause the U.S. Military to engage in damage control (and who’s causing the damage, one might ask), and a “broad swath of the Iraqi public” is alienated, our intelligence efforts are fighting an uphill battle, that’s no doubt true, but it doesn’t answer the question he pretends to pose at all, whether Abu Ghraib is fulfilling its purpose in the interrogation and disposition of detainees. Nordland neither refers to any evidence on this point, nor would he likely have any, given its classification level.
The only other way to interpret Nordland’s non-sequiter of a contrast is if the actual purpose of AG were to use mistreatment and abuse as a means to extract intelligence. But even if this is what he implies, the result he notes still doesn’t fit with his statement, “it didn’t work.” This is another Eason Jordan, Linda Foley moment. Nordland, on his way out the door, and determined to kick at the goads on the way out, appears to allege that the actions of these Detention miscreants, despite repeated findings to the contrary, were in fact fall guys and patsies for a failed military policy. You can imagine those devious Pentagon Planners, “Gosh,” they reflect, “We really thought stripping them naked, stacking them in pyramids, and having trailer trash corrections officers snap trophy pictures of their genitals would break their will. And now Muslims are mad. Darn that Rumsfield. He told us it would work!”
As I pointed out in one of my discussions at Debate Space, we have a (much smaller) detention facility in our Area of Operations (AO), for which some of my soldiers perform interrogations and recommend further disposition, either for release or transfer to other facilities such as Abu Ghraib. In my response at Debate Space, I note:
I don't have any first hand information about incidents of the type described in Newsweek, the NY Times, and other publications. I do know that the Army has responded aggressively to any perceived abuses and deprivation of prisoners, and Interrogators complain that many of their best tools (sleep deprivation, long interviews, and other non-physical forms of prisoner handling) are ruled off limits of late. Many of the alleged incidents are exaggerated or exploited by prisoners, or have even been generated by them as a means of dynamically and actively resisting interrogation.That’s a far cry from the story-line upon which Newsweek hangs their abuse memes.
Our Interrogators…are very frank in saying, in the first days of Afghanistan (right after 9/11), and the initial battles in Iraq, tempers and emotions ran very high. There were Soldiers and units that sometimes used excessive force, or treated prisoners more roughly than they would today.
They also express some frustration with what they view as ambivalence or at least a lack of clarity expressed in guidance and directives (or the lack thereof) early on by senior military officials.
Nordland makes another absurd point. (One that the press didn’t acknowledge during the Clinton years, apparently), in blaming all of Abu Ghraib officers as incompetent:
That's why you need competent officers, who know what the men and women under their command are capable of—and make sure it doesn't happen.Any leader will tell you, you had best be prepared fro the possibility that your people will do wrong. But to say that good leaders always prevent wrong-doing, and if wrong-doing occurs the leaders can’t be good is an impossible standard. Again, Nordland is way out of his element. What was he responsible for, a dozen or so reporters? If they got caught drinking alcohol or visiting a brothel, would that be a failure of his leadership?
In one paragraph, he makes two contrary statements. He begins with, “The most powerful army in human history can't even protect a two-mile stretch of road.” And yet he ends with, “Now their primary mission is self-defense at any cost—which only deepens Iraqis' resentment.” Which is it? Are they carelessly not protecting traffic on the road, or is their primary mission “self-defense at any cost?”
Then Nordland reports statistics completely at odds with the most reliable data available:
Basic services like electricity, water and sewers still aren't up to prewar levels. Electricity is especially vital in a country where summer temperatures commonly reach 125 degrees Fahrenheit. Yet only 15 percent of Iraqis have reliable electrical service. In the capital, where it counts most, it's only 4 percent.We surpassed pre-war levels in these categories at least a year ago. Any regular reader of Chrenkoff has seen the figures that refute Nordland’s assessment. There were pockets of privilege for Sunni Baathists, to be sure, and now perhaps the suffer the periodic outage that others less fortunate (read Shia or Kurd) lived with on a permanent basis.
Then, in stunning arrogance of press omnipotence despite available facts, Nordland betrays his prejudices (or ignorance) with the following:
Not that U.S. soldiers in Iraq have much to smile about. They're overworked, much ignored on the home front and widely despised in Iraq, with little to look forward to but the distant end of their tours—and in most cases, another tour soon to follow. Many are reservists who, when they get home, often face the wreckage of careers and family.Where does he get this crap from? Ignored on the home front? Is he insane? My soldiers and I are drowning in support, encouragement, direct and indirect support from home, from family, from friends, even from strangers. Packages, letters, emails, blog posts, applause in airports, three deep on highway overpasses, free 1st class airline seats, gifts, free stuff, offers, it goes on and on. I am embarrassed and deeply humbled by the overwhelming outpouring of support we’ve received.
Wreckage of career and family? No doubt in a few cases. Many soldiers are making the best money of their lives, paying off bills, and even those of us who left very lucrative careers are finding that the New Army goes a long way towards making good on our losses.
No, this doesn’t reflect reality, at least not any semblance of an objective one, but rather represents another instance of the mental dishonesty of yet another supplicant of the Newsroom Religion. Nordland can only view this conflict through the Vietnam Template, itself part of the Watergate mythology, and all data points are somehow squished in to support that aging world view. You see, only by the unfailing heroes and heroines of the press, struggling valiantly against all the forces of government stacked up against them, would wrong-doing be brought to light, evil exposed, and rightful (progressive) order restored. No matter that the Army does all the revealing, and dozens of years of sentences imposed and careers ended, it is the credo of the Journalist to reveal the ugly truth behind what we are told by our government.
Can we please grow up now? Will the press ever acknowledge that most Soldiers are decent, law abiding men and women of integrity? They volunteered to serve their country, after all, what kind of person does that? Doesn’t Newsweek (NY Times, LA Times, Washington Post, CBS, ABC, PBS) realize that these volunteer Soldier would be as appalled or aghast at these kinds of systemic, organized crimes, if they in fact existed as reported?
UPDATE: Covered Dish at Basil's Blog, where Basil has several fine posts among his luncheon specials...
Monday, June 06, 2005
Go. Check. It. Out. (Please :)
Iraqi Dust Storm
My clerk had the foresight to cover his workstation with a large sheet, and flip the laptops closed so electronically speaking we came out okay. My Commander wasn’t as fortunate, as he was caught outside coming back from the Gym and had to fight his way through air filled with fine, gritty sand.
One of the cooks got lost walking back from the Dining Facility (DFAC), took a wrong turn and took 30 minutes to get home instead of his usual 10. The DFAC itself shut down the grills and hot tables for the midnight meal, serving only cereal and other packaged foodstuffs.
It was like a snowstorm of silt. Visibility zero. Breathing was difficult.
This morning, the Latrine Trailers looked like beach cabanas, sand and silt covered the floors, the toilets, the sinks, the windows and even the mirrors
I have an interior room, and other than a very light coat (say, a week’s worth of dust in one night) and grit in my teeth, I made out pretty well.
Some of the Air Conditioners have failed already, the filters of all of them will need a good cleaning. I shudder at what this does to our lungs.
One of our officers had just done his laundry last night, and hung damp uniforms on a line in an outer area of his building, open on one side. This morning, he had a couple of sets of gingerbread cookies on the line. (We all remarked, though, that it was amazing they were still on the line.)
The vehicles, some of which are open doored, many have open seams and cracks, but even the Uparmored M1114s, ones that seal up tightly, were no match for the force of the wind, which managed to squeeze this fine silt into and through even the slightest crevice. A lot of sand came down through holes in the ceiling, the Iraqi equivalent I guess of a leaky roof.
We were having our thrice-weekly training meeting, and our Iraqi workers in a whirlwind washed off the big conference table and a room full of leather chairs. The Conference Room is inside the building (my room is just past it), but the door doesn’t latch closed, and all night while the wind raged, the door would push open, then slam shut. At first, I startled enough to check to see if a mortar or rocket had come in, until I figured out what it was. Even early into the storm, looking out, it looked exactly like a brown-tinted version of a Nor’Easter. (For those unfamiliar, that’s a winter storm that moves up the Atlantic Coast in a North-Eastern direction, and usually dumps 1-3 feet of slow along its wake.)
Our Iraqi workers showed us the best way to clean up from these coatings. Out cam ethe hoses, and they sprayed everything with water. Then they grabbed the long-poled squeegees we use to clear water from the showers into the drains (uneven masonry, of course), and pushed all the silty water to out to the road or into the drains.
Looking out this afternoon, everything is brown. One of our soldiers from Buffalo remarked, “It looks like Buffalo in the spring. Only hot.” This has always been a dusty, sandy place. But now, it’s like we’ve all be playing in the sandbox, not the kind with nice clean beach sand, but the kind with the industrial-dirt pile “sand” that always leaves an oily brown stain. Mrs. Dadmanly says, that’s not sand, that’s dirt.”
(Linked as a covered dish Lunch special over at Basil's Blog. Always plenty there.)
Saturday, June 04, 2005
Is there anyone else that found it odd, that with all the wrongdoing and improprieties uncovered at the UN Oil For Food scandals, Kofi Annan's first guy to fire was held culpable in a sweetheart deal for a British Firm? Not a French or Russian one? And with no accusation that the UN Official benefitted financially?
Could it be a pre-emptive strike on Annan's part, trying to lay the groundwork for a "there was plenty of guilt to go around" defense? Tarring the enemy first?
With all the ties to French and Russian firms and officials, I find it highly suspect the first guy ushered out the door is accused of "favoring" a British Firm.
Of course, if it was a French Official, or a French Firm, my guess would be there'd be a payment involved...
Friday, June 03, 2005
An NCO Induction
NCO Inductions have been used for some years now as a kind of fraternal (in the benevolent order but not the collegial, gender specific sense) welcoming ceremony. It is intended to reinforce Army and NCO values, and build a special ‘espirit de corps’ among this special segment of the Army, the NCO Corps.
Which I think also bears some explaining.
A quick explanation of enlisted ranks versus officer ranks for those for whom this stuff doesn’t really make sense.
Enlisted, Officers, and NCOs
NCO: Non-commissioned officer. In the military, there are officers, enlisted, and warrant officers. NCOs are the leaders among the enlisted soldiers, and they pretty much take care of everybody and make sure everybody does what they're supposed to. They train, can order enlisted soldiers to perform duties and such, and they often advise officers and commanders who are wise to take their advice.
When you join the military, you start by "enlisting," which is to voluntarily join. You can stay enlisted, or you can elect to go for officer training, which then prepares you to be an officer (Lieutenant, Captain, Colonel, General, etc.) Officers are senior in rank to all enlisted soldiers.
As you rise through the enlisted ranks from private to Specialist to eventually Sergeant, you take on responsibilities. Once you are an NCO (which starts at Sergeant E-5 or sometimes a Corporal E-4), that implies you have leadership responsibility for other enlisted soldiers, especially for their training. There is a Sergeant, then Staff Sergeant, then Sergeant First Class, then Master Sergeant or First Sergeant (that's me), and then Sergeant Major.
A First Sergeant (1SG) is the senior NCO for a Company of soldiers (40-200 depending on the unit, we have 140 with about 17 officers). A Company is normally commanded by a Captain. From Company, up through Battalion (BN) (several Companies), then Brigade (several Battalions), then Division (several Brigades), at each level there is a Commanding Officer and a companion Senior NCO. At Company level, that's a 1SG. For BN and above, that's a Command Sergeant Major or CSM.
Officers like to say that NCOs are the "backbone of the Army," and that's because we are the trainers, we lead troops, we get everyone going where they are supposed to, we discipline and correct them. (We often do our own jobs and a lot of the officers' jobs too, truth to tell.)
In the old days, officers were the educated elites, gentlemen of property and breeding. Enlistees were your average working men and laborers, with some specialty trades. Over the years, that's changed dramatically. Officers must complete levels of college education to join and advance, enlisted don't have to but are often as well or better educated than most officers. Generally, if enlisted soldiers have college, they were often college educated before they joined, while some officers get theirs done while in service. (To advance beyond Captain they need an advanced degree, and some get them from correspondence or online or other military friendly institutions.) This is true of some enlisted too, but I have found that many college graduates (and even Masters and PhDs) will enlist for some end goal, job training, experience, even a start at a career. Officers often come in with a BA or BS degree and then advance from there.
But officers start out with a pay advantage that gets bigger and bigger as they go along.
Back to the Induction
Our Induction Ceremony was very formal, and centered around a declaration of Values, Army Values, specifically, which revolve around duty, honesty, integrity, and selfless service. The actual Army Values are typically expressed in about 6 or 7 major values (beliefs or leader characteristics), explained in short paragraphs that are meant to underscore what the Army expects from all its soldiers.
The Induction began with the entrance of the Official Party, consisting of the host, our Battalion (BN) CSM, accompanied a Guest CSM, and our two 1SGs, myself and the C Company 1SG. We opened with an Invocation, which I was invited to deliver, as I have been working with the Chaplain, and no officers were invited to this affair (not even the Chaplain):
Almighty God,This was followed by an explanation of what an NCO Induction represents, and tied this to What it Means to be an NCO and a presentation of the Army Values. The Guest CSM spoke, as did our BN CSM. A portion of the ceremony consisted of “A Soldier’s Request,” in which invited lower enlisted Soldiers each took a turn stepping up to one of the new NCOs and speaking a request, such as to make sure they are cared for and fed, or treated with respect, or kept informed, or to be led wisely.
We come to You with thanksgiving tonight, as we assemble to usher into the Noble Corps of Non-Commissioned Officers these seven dedicated leaders. We thank You for their willingness to serve, and we thank You for your divine protection.
Father, we ask that you would be that Rock, that Fortress for these new leaders. Fortify and strengthen them, teach them to be both Your strong hand and caring eye for the soldiers they will lead. Help them honor their oaths, to selflessly serve their Soldiers.
Bless this ceremony tonight, God, and challenge all of the NCOs so assembled, to lift these new leaders up and make them worthy of their charge.
You have called us all to serve, and by Your Grace we do. Amen.
Throughout the presentations, attendees and inducted NCOs were constantly reminded of the history and traditions of the NCO Corps, and the sacred charge that is placed on every NCO to reinforce an Army ethic and uphold our NCO Creed, which begins:
No one is more professional than I. I am a Noncommissioned Officer, a leader of Soldiers. As a Noncommissioned Officer, I realize I am a member of a time honored Corps, which is known as “The Backbone of the Army.”As part of our ceremony, we had each new NCO recite a portion of that Creed. Together, they all spoke its conclusion:
I will not compromise my integrity, nor my moral courage. I will not forget, nor will I allow my comrades to forget that we are professionals, Noncommissioned Officers, leaders!There is not much that I have ever seen to get a tough old CSM get tears in his eyes – short of losing a Soldier – but trust me that if you ever want to see one tear up, catch him in the middle of something like this.
At the pinnacle of the ceremony, we had the new NCOs all line up, and in a single movement step across a line as one, signifying their change in status from enlisted Soldiers to NCOs.
With our Benediction, we concluded the ceremony:
Almighty God, You have commanded that we be strong and of good courage, to not be afraid or dismayed. We can trust in You, oh Lord, to be with us wherever we go, from this place and this day forward. Amen.Some Closing Thoughts
I know there are some who would cynically dismiss such pageantry as dog and pony shows or hollow rhetoric. And it’s true, some of the Joes and Janes roll their eyes when we go through classes or they have to read through (or sit through) explanations or speeches about Army Values. But you know what? Even the most cynical or jaded Soldiers present at our Induction walked out of that Theater that evening just a little different than they walked in. Somehow a little taller, more confident, with a spring in their step, and with a quiet resolve to try a little harder to live up to those ideals.
And when I see them in action? I know that they do, they do, they do.
UPDATE: Served up warm with extras at Basil's Blog.
A Little Manly Essay
Little Manly (aged nine, 3rd grade) was asked to write an essay for the school’s annual Flag Day Essay Contest, and this is what he wrote.
Write what the flag represents and means to you……I especially enjoyed his observation that, until now, the flag has grown stars but "nothin’ else but hardship and war and peace." I'd say that's about right.
There are many different things the flag stands for in my opinion. For instance, blue stands for justice and sincerity to all who inhabit the earth, and red which shows courage and valor. Plus, white that shows we Americans are faithful.
It all began after the revolution…..so up until 1814 there were many different flags, but they all were red, white, and blue. So in 1814 Fort McHenry asked an elderly woman and her daughter to make 2 flags, one regular sized flag plus an extra large sized flag. (both were traditional, you know, stars and stripes.) So because of the flag the government declared “that flag is the only flag of America.”
So that takes us to the civil war….when the flag changed a lot. You know when countries split so did the flag. And that was bad, although the union 27 states and the confederacy had only 14 states. But in the beginning there were only 2 states and that inspired the rest to rise up and fight back. Plus in the beginning the union was losing. But in the end they won.
So until now the flag has gotten more stars but nothin’ else but hardship and war and peace. So let me explain that there’s property of America but they’re not on the flag is because they’re not states they’re territories. And I just wanted to say the stars stand for the states and the stripes stand for the 13 original colonies. So now with my dad in Iraq and my heart towards God all I can say is the flag stands for all.
UPDATE: Now included as a Covered Dish Special at Basil's Blog. Get a pick-me-up from one of Basil's selections, if you wish!
UPDATE: Two for One! John Schroeder from Blogotional links both this and the essay from Little Manly. First time visitors, welcome. If you have the time, this is the place. Enjoy! Thanks, John.
Thursday, June 02, 2005
We Are Not the Same
In thinking about our first year of mobilized active duty, that’s the thought I’ve had, more than any other besides how much I miss being home. We’re not the same individuals who left home, and we’re not the same unit, for a variety of reasons.
We’re different as individuals, that’s clear to all who know us well, and even true to all our new friends here in Iraq. We know a lot more, mostly about ourselves, but also about the Army, and living the Active Duty (AD) experience as National Guardsmen and women. We’ve learned a lot about Active Duty, in no small measure thanks to the 30% of our unit that came as AD augmentees. These AD Soldiers are often younger than our Guard, but they’ve been AD from the start of their careers, and most have had an assignment or two under their belt. Their Senior NCOs have traveled the world quite a bit, and are often very senior in their career fields, and they’ve taught us much.
We are a more confident bunch. Even our veterans who’ve seen a thing or two, they have a determination about our missions, they are decisive, they don’t let much get in their way. (Not even some of us leaders, sometimes, when a job needs doing they often get it done before we notice the need.)
These Soldiers know how to Soldier, and they’ve done a great job keeping all their difficulties with deployment, their longing for their homes and families and loved ones, in perspective. Nobody wants to be gone a day longer than the job requires, but they won’t feel right if the job doesn’t get done right. And they’re doing that.
Of course, we’ve learned a lot about the U.S. Reserves and the Guard of other states, as well, as we’ve assimilated another 20-30% of our Soldiers from other Guard and Reserves. They hail from New York, New Jersey, New England States, California and Texas, Kansas and even Puerto Rico. Even within New York State, we’ve taken in outstanding Soldiers from Syracuse, Buffalo and Western NY, Downstate NYC, Long Island, and even Fort Drum itself.
We are as close to the “Rainbow” as any of the subordinate commands in the 42nd ID, herself named the Rainbow by GEN McArthur because her original composition when mustered covered 26 states. We’re pretty close to that, and certainly more of us are from somewhere other than the immediate Capital District of NY.
I said we’re different as individuals, but different as a unit, too. We have a bit of each of our individual states (and countries, too, for our several international Soldiers) represented in the way we see things and do things. They used to say, “In the Army we’re all green,” and maybe you could say we’re all sand or tan, but what that really means is we’re all together. We’re a new family. We’ve bonded in this unique experience called combat, by sharing risk and sacrifice, but lots of friendship and laughter and encouragement, too. For the rest of our lives, we will smile or laugh at things we hear or see that remind us of friends we may likely never see again, and experiences we can share with others as great stories, but possibly not again with each other.
When the time we redeploy, we may have about one week left with all these out new friends, before we each go our separate ways. The Active Duty Soldiers will be shipped off to their next duty assignments. Same for the U.S. Army reservists.
The Guardsmen and women of other states will head back to their states, maybe to their old units, maybe to new ones. A few might have gotten so attached to us, they’ll want to stay with us, and hopefully they can, depending on what the future for the Guard in our State. We already know units will be restructured, and those who currently make up those units will be redistributed into new configurations.
So it really will be the end of a remarkable and all too brief history, the first Guard unit of our kind to be sent to an active combat zone. Fully stood up fully in 1996, we’ll have completed a relatively short 10 year history by the time they figure out where the rest of us will all go next.
Maybe that’s the way of the Army, some of our old timers remember how prior to our current unit configuration, some of us were part of an MP Company.
As we assemble at our Demobilization Site for the last time in our current configuration, with all our new friends, true brothers and sisters in arms, it will be hard to say those last goodbyes. We will want to linger, but will long more for our families and homes and a return to our lives before mobilization.
It reminds me of the final scene in Ocean’s Eleven, when the partners in crime go their separate ways. They are satisfied (and rewarded) by their work to be sure, but there is an air about them of that feeling, if not sadness exactly, maybe a warmly felt regret of remembrance. That by going back to our first homes, we have to say goodbye to this home away from home, not buildings, not tents, not FOBs and Palaces, but the home that was the fellowship with our fellow Soldiers.
UPDATE: If you enjoyed this post, why not stop over at Basil's Blog for Lunch? Lots of good things to consume there, I'll bet!
UPDATE: Mustang 23 at Assumption of Command graciously links to this post, and offers his observations as well. Check around and you see lots of heated discussion about Beef Jerky, too!
UPDATE: Two for One! John Schroeder from Blogotional links both this and the essay from Little Manly. First time visitors, welcome. If you have the time, this is the place. Enjoy! Thanks, John.
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