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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Sleep Well, America

The following speech made a big impression on me. It will make the same kind of impression on every freedom-loving American.

On December 13, Blackfive reported that Lt. General John Kelly, USMC delivered a speech to the Semper Fi Society of St. Louis four days after his son, Lt. Robert Kelly, USMC was killed by an IED on his 3rd Combat tour.

Kelly spoke of the dedication and valor of the young men and women who step forward every day to protect us. He never mentioned the loss of his own son. He closed with the moving account of the last six seconds in the lives of two young Marines who, with rifles blazing, died protecting their brother Marines.

‘On 22nd of April 2008, two Marines, Corporal Jonathan Yale, 22, and Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter, 20, assumed the watch at the entrance gate of an outpost in Ramadi that contained a makeshift barracks housing fifty Marines and a hundred Iraqi police.
‘Yale was a dirt-poor, mixed-race kid from Virginia with a wife and daughter, a mother, and sister he supported as well as he could on a yearly salary of less than $23,000.

‘Haerter was a middle class white kid from Long Island.

‘Two complete different worlds. Had they not joined the Marines they would never have met each other, or understood that multiple Americas exist simultaneously depending on one's race, education level, economic status, and where you might have been born. But they were Marines, forged in the same fiery crucible of Marine training, and because of this eternal bond, they were brothers as close, or closer, than if they were born of the same woman.

‘The mission orders they received from the sergeant squad leader went something like: "Okay you two clowns, stand this post and let no unauthorized personnel or vehicles pass. You clear?"

‘Yale and Haerter probably rolled their eyes and said in unison something like: "Yes, Sergeant," with just enough attitude that made the point without saying the words, "No kidding, sweetheart, we know what we're doing." They then relieved two other Marines on watch and took up their post at the entry control point of Joint Security Station Nasser.

‘Minutes later, a suicide truck with 2,000 pounds of explosives charged the entry point. It failed to penetrate, but it exploded, killing them both, and devastating everything within a hundred yards. But, it did not reach the barracks with their brother Marines and Iraqi police.

‘The two Marines deserved recognition, but there were no American witnesses and the General knew Washington bureaucrats would never accept the testimony of Iraqi policemen.’

In Ramadi, Kelly questioned half-dozen Iraqi police. They told the same story.
‘The blue truck turned down toward the entry point. The Iraqis knew what was going on as soon as the two Marines started firing. Some of them fired, but as the truck grew closer, they ran. The two Marines continued blazing away at the oncoming truck. Remembering their orders, they were determined it would not get past them and kill their brother Marines. The Iraqis also fired, and then to a man, ran for safety just prior to the explosion. All survived.

‘One Iraqi admitted, “We ran like any normal man to save his life. What I did not
know until then was that Marines are not normal. No sane man could have done as they. They saved us all."

‘A security camera supported his revelation. It took exactly six seconds from the time the truck entered the alley until it detonated.

‘Perhaps it took a second for the two Marines to come to the same conclusion about what was going on once the truck came into their view at the far end of the alley.
‘They had no time to talk to anyone, to consult their sergeant, only to act, and only five seconds to live.

‘Another two seconds to present their weapons, take aim, and open up. By this time the truck was half-way down the alley, gaining speed. Here is when the Iraqi police scattered.

‘The two Marines had three seconds to live. The recording shows the Marines' weapons firing non-stop. The truck's windshield exploded into shards of glass as their rounds take it apart and tear into the body of the SOB who was trying to get past them to kill their brothers bedded down in the barracks, totally unaware of the fact that their lives at that moment depended entirely on two Marines standing their ground.

‘If they had been aware, they would have known
they were safe because two Marines stood between them and a crazed suicide bomber.

‘The truck slammed to a halt immediately in front of the two Marines. In all of this instantaneous violence Yale and Haerter never hesitated. By all reports and by the
recording, they never stepped back. They never even started to step aside. They never even shifted their weight. With their feet spread shoulder width apart, they leaned into the danger, firing as fast as they could work their weapons. They had only one second left to live.

‘The truck exploded. The camera went blank. Two young men go to their God. Six seconds. Not enough time to think about their families, their country, their flag, or about their lives or their deaths, but more than enough time for two very brave young men to do their duty into eternity.

The General continued. “That is the kind of people who are on watch all over the world tonight - for you. We Marines believe that God gave America the greatest gift He could bestow to man while he lived on this earth - freedom. We also believe He gave us another gift nearly as precious - our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Coast Guardsmen, and Marines - to safeguard that gift and guarantee no force on this earth can ever steal it away.”

General Kelly concluded by saying, “Rest assured our America, this experiment in a democracy started over two centuries ago, will forever remain the "land of the free and home of the brave" so long as we never run out of tough young Americans who are willing to look beyond their own self-interest and comfortable lives, and go into the darkest and most dangerous places on earth to hunt down, and kill, those who would do us harm. God Bless America, and...SEMPER FIDELIS!"

After reading his speech, all I can say is “Sleep well tonight, America. Your military is looking over us.”

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

So, What''s Your Resolution?

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions.

Why? Truth is, I never kept any that I made, so I figured, ‘what the heck’. Just a waste of time on my part. On most peoples’ part.

Case in point. Forty years back, a friend of mine tried to stop smoking. That year, he resolved to stop cold turkey. The next year, he resolved to smoke no more than a pack a day; the next, smoke no more than a carton a week; the following year, it was no more than two cartons, and the next year, it was to purchase a small cart to carry the oxygen tank that helped him breathe.

And then there is this friend of mine who in 1991 resolved to give up his girl friend and stop cheating on his wife.

In 1992, he resolved to take his illicit liaisons out of town.

In 1993, he resolved to buy his wife a four-carat diamond ring in an effort to reconcile.

In 1994, he resolved to limit his gifts to his girl friend so he could pay alimony.

Now, having said all of that, I’ll admit that if someone is going to make changes in his life, the first of the year is the time. New Years signifies a new beginning—maybe not new or a beginning, because in reality you’re still stuck with the problems you had on December 31.

But, I suppose it is as good a time as any to begin.

New Years originated in 46 B.C. with Roman emperor Julius Caesar who established January 1 as New Year’s Day. Janus, the Roman god of doors and gates, had two faces, one looking forward and one back. Caesar felt that the month named after this god, January, would be the appropriate “gate” for the past year and the “door” to the new year.

How did he celebrate that first New Years? Why by ordering the violent routing of revolutionary Jewish forces in Galilee. Eyewitnesses said blood flowed in the streets.

In later years, Roman pagans observed the New Year by engaging in drunken orgies—a ritual they believed constituted a re-enacting of the chaotic world that existed before the cosmos was put in order by the gods.

Leave it to the human psyche to recognize a good thing. That same celebration has survived down through two thousand years. Mark my words, come December 31, there will be thousands of Bacchanalian celebrations around the world.

And if you’d seen some of the parties I have, you’d realize we are still re-enacting the chaotic world that existed before the cosmos was put in order by the gods.

Still, the fact that probably three quarters of the world will make an effort to alter their lifestyles does offer a psychological boost to one’s psyche if he is considering change. In other words, you’re not alone in your wishful thinking.

And if it will make you feel better when you break your resolution by the middle of January, three quarters of the world has probably already broken its resolution.

Once during a discussion on the pros and cons of resolutions, a friend asked what mine was. I told him I didn’t make them any longer, but if I did, it would to be a better father and husband.

His response? “You mean you aren’t a good one now?”

His reply reminded me of the old ‘have you stopped beating your wife yet’ question. I ignored him.

Some people go for resolutions in a big way.

The guy who blogs “Weird Meat” resolved this year to eat as many weird meats as he could. According to the Courier Mail, that includes raw yak, crickets, ostrich sandwich, and deer heart wine.

Personally, I think he wrote that for its shock value and the possibility of gaining more followers for his blog. Nobody could be serious about a concoction called deer heart wine.

On another blog, “Gala Darling” made one resolution, to learn a party trick such as weird stomach contortions or learning to belch the alphabet. If not those, then learn to do hand-stand pushups. Now, that’s something worth knowing.

But, back to you and your resolutions. You know why most of us don’t keep them?

Because we don’t think them out.

They are usually knee jerk decisions, right?

It has been my experience that to make a major change, it must come about in your lifestyle. In other words, ‘keep doing what you’re doing, then you’ll keep getting what you got.’

Resolutions are tough to keep. Like the comedian once said, ‘I dieted for a month, and all I lost was a month.’

But, give it shot. And good luck.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Shootout at the Sam Holley Corral

I was probably twelve before I learned that sleeping on the floor and riding bucking calves was not part of the Christmas celebration. That was also the Christmas of the Shootout at the Sam Holley Corral.

You’re probably thinking, now what’s the idiot talking about?

You see, I was one of the fortunate youngsters who was surrounded by a large, and I mean large family. How large, you ask? When we got together, we took up two zip codes. And this family gathered every Christmas.

Mama and Papa Holley had eight children. Now you give each of those children a spouse and kids, and the numbers explode exponentially to the fifties and sixties.
During his seventy-odd years, Papa Holley had four farms. The two farms I remember most were near Littlefield, some thirty miles or so north of Lubbock where the country is flatter than a wet saddle blanket.

The one out near Hart Camp had two family homes, one a three-room, the other, two. The next farm, back south of Littlefield, had four rooms. When the clan gathered, people slept everywhere, and in the middle of the night, if someone unfortunately felt nature’s calling, they had to tiptoe and stumble over dozens of bodies to get outside.

Oh yeah, this was way back in the days of outdoor facilities.

It was a joyous time for me and my cousins. Gifts back then were spare, but a cap pistol, a couple boxes of caps and being with each other more than satisfied us.
And that’s what brought about the ‘Shootout at the Sam Holley Corral’ on the farm near Hart Camp.

Papa’s barn with its loft and stalls and surrounding corrals made an excellent playground for cowboys and Indians—or marines and Nazis or good guys and bad guys.
Riding our stick horses, Ed and I climbed and rode through every inch of the barn, planting bad men in the ground with our trusty cop pistols(not to mention spooking Papa’s cows).

Our older cousin, Dooley, was always picking on us, and as I remember one particular day, Ed and I had grown tired of shooting imaginary outlaws, so we holstered our sixguns and took up bronc busting. Of course, having no wild horses around, we had to settle for Papa’s calves.

Ed, having lived on the farm, could stay on the bucking calves longer than I. Of course, if you know anything about corrals, the animals that inhabit them leave behind copious evidence of their presence.

Now, one of the natural laws of Nature is that when you are thrown from a bucking calf, odds are astronomical against your missing any of the numerous deposits the animals have left behind. And believe me, we didn’t beat the odds at all. Never came close.

Once, when I was trying to scrape some of the deposit from my shirt, a marble-sized rock slammed into the dirt at our feet. We looked around and spotted Dooley on top of the pole shed attached to the barn. He was drawing back on his slingshot.

We broke in different directions while he laughed maniacally and continued shooting at us. Now, we were just kids, but we weren’t stupid. Cap pistols couldn’t compete with his slingshot.

Darting under the shed, I grabbed a broken plank about two feet long. At first I didn’t know what to do with it, and then my feeble little brain gave birth to a brilliant idea. I scooped up a load of manure with one end, raced back into the corral, and slung it at Dooley.

The plank was just like a catapult. We could hurl that stuff almost fifty feet. My first shot, I missed by a mile, but now, we had a means to fight back.

Dooley was good with the slingshot, but it’s hard to hit a nine-year-old boy darting about like a crazed banshee. He did connect a couple times, but so did we.

When Ed caught him in the side of the head and Dooley started gagging, we figured flight was the better part of valor and raced for the house and the protection of the grown-ups.

Mama Holley ran us all out of the house to clean up. That’s when Dooley caught up with us. You don’t want to know what happened then.

Looking back, I was one lucky kid. It’s a shame they don’t make Christmases like that any more.






rconwell@gt.rr.com
www.kentconwell.blogspot.com

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Too Much Transparency?

Most of us have heard about Wikileaks dumping all sorts of classified documents out into cyberspace for everyone to read.

The furor over the dumping exploded like a runaway forest fire. Congressmen shouted ‘terrorism’ at the top of their lungs. Representatives screamed the action was treasonous. Others want to try him for espionage.

In fact, the outrage has been so forthcoming that around the first of December, Wikileaks was taken off numerous sites or servers through which it could be accessed. Paypal even stopped the company’s capability of receiving donations.

I can’t help wondering if a great deal of the protestations might not be more in line with Shakespeare’s “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” Could it be that old husband defense, ‘deny, deny, deny, deny,’ is coming into play?

When a senator calls it a disaster, how much is he referring to the country and how much to himself? How much does he have to hide? Probably a lot more than he wants known.

With all the corporate sleeze; government lies and waste; nosy technology baring all secrets; and hundreds of other scams and swindles swirling about us everyday, no wonder there is so much protesting and posturing.

To be honest, I don’t really know what to think about the whole thing. On the one hand, if people’s lives are placed in jeopardy, then the decision to air the cables was abhorrent. If that’s the case, then charges should be filed.

On the other hand, if they simply relate the gossipy behavior and observations of various individuals, who cares?

Who cares if Silvio Berlusconi, Italy’s PM and most prolific braggart, profited from secret deals’ with Russia’s Vladimir Putin regarding energy contracts? What’s new about any country’s upper administration working out sweet deals among each other? We know ninety percent of them are crooked. That’s why this last election removed so many of the old timers who were on the take.

Then there was the cable revealing that during the Bush administration U.S. officials tried to influence Spanish officials to head off court investigations into Guantanamo Bay torture allegations, secret CIA flights, and the killing of a Spanish journalist by US troops in Iraq.

My one question is, why shouldn’t such behavior be shouted from the rooftops? If someone is guilty, they should pay for their crime. On the other hand, you know as well as I that greasing palms with money, favors, or deals goes on every day, not only in Washington, but Mainstreet, USA.

In another cable, according to Robert Booth and Julian Gordon of ‘The Guardian’, a classified directive which appears to blur the line between diplomacy and spying was issued to US diplomats under Hillary Clinton's name in July 2009, demanding forensic technical details about the communications systems used by top UN officials, including passwords and personal encryption keys used in private and commercial networks for official communication.

Why such underhand duplicity? To give us a leg up on other countries?
Then there were inane reports such as the Afghan corruption is overwhelming (as if that is a surprise); Hillary Clinton questioned the president of Argentina’s mental health(who knows why?); the Bank of England’s president played back room politics; or that often, the US ignores British input.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not going to lose any sleep over stuff like this.
Now I can understand one’s chagrin to learn confidential observations, usually negative, being revealed regarding an individual. Such behavior certainly doesn’t enhance friendship or trust. Perhaps, the individual should have thought twice before putting his comments down on paper.

We’ve all been in that situation, but is it criminal if one repeats lurid gossip?
However, I’m quite sure that somewhere in that humongous batch of cables are some that should not have been revealed, that would indeed compromise the safety of individuals.

So, who do we blame, Wikileaks or the idiot dumb enough to put inflammatory words down on paper?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Where Were You When the Bombs Fell?

I was watching ‘The Wizard of Oz” sixty-nine years ago with my parents at the Rogue Picture Show in Wheeler, Texas, a sleepy little village in the Panhandle. Right in the middle of the show, the lights came on. Mr. Guthrie, the theater owner, climbed up on the stage and announced that Pearl Harbor had been attacked.

Most of the audience just looked at each other, not knowing what he was talking about. What’s a Pearl Harbor, some asked. As he went on to explain what had taken place, their puzzlement turned to disbelief and shock. But, all it meant to a five-year-old boy was that the Dorothy and Toto movie had stopped and the cartoon wouldn’t play.

I had no way of knowing then that date marked the end of U.S. isolationism; that from then on, my world and that of those about me would forever be changed.

Back then, most folks remained in close proximity to the their birthplace, so there was always a family gathering for holidays and other special occasions.
That night, the family gathered at my aunt’s next door.

We kids had no idea of the grownups’ concern.

Over the next few days, I came to realize things had changed. There was a different mood at home, in town, at school.

Then a couple uncles shipped out.

I came in from play a few days later and Mom was crying. I remember how she hugged me and said from then on, I’d have to be the man of the house. I had no idea what she was talking about.

The next day or maybe the next, Papa and Mama Conwell stopped at the house, and we all loaded into his 1940 Chevrolet.

We headed to Shamrock and the train station.

We stayed home while Dad went through boot camp on the east coast, Norfolk, Virginia, if I remember right.

When Dad returned, he then headed for California, and he took us with him. That was the beginning of two or three years of constant moving. From there Albuquerque, then Hutchinson, Kansas, and then overseas.

We stayed in Wheeler.

I don’t figure I’ll ever again witness the degree of dynamic energy created by the unified drive and motivation of the American populace supporting our country in those years. We were a juggernaut of determination and purpose.

Just about everything was rationed. Victory gardens were a way of life. Kids roamed the neighborhoods in paper drives. Farmers hauled in rusted and broken implements that would be melted down into war weapons.

If you lived back then, you remember how it was. I don’t know what percentage, but I’d guess three-quarters of everything went to support the war.

Soft drinks for example were next to impossible to find.

Once on the way to California, we stopped at a station in the middle of Arizona. My uncle and I went inside and in soft drink box, found a lone Seven-Up.

We drank it. When we went to pay, the owner exploded. He had brought that over forty miles so he could enjoy it himself.

That was how the rationing was.

I’m sure folks complained back then, but can you imagine the tenor of their complaints if called upon for such sacrifices today?

Women were taking over jobs men had once held, doing as competent and often better work.

America buzzed with the ‘can do’ and ‘never quit’ spirit, and that bulldog determination is what brought our country its greatest victory.

Times change. Today we’re facing an enemy we can’t eradicate with an atomic bomb. To me that makes it doubly dangerous, much more costly, and a battle that might never fully be won.

I hate to think the last eight or ten years being perpetuated decades into the life of my children and grandchildren.

Don‘t you?

I might be wrong, but I feel in the years to come 9/11 will prove to be as significant, and maybe arguably more so, than Pearl Harbor.




rconwell@gt.rr.com
www.kentconwell.blogspot.com

Whee

Where Were You When the Bombs Fell?

I was watching ‘The Wizard of Oz” sixty-nine years ago with my parents at the Rogue Picture Show in Wheeler, Texas, a sleepy little village in the Panhandle. Right in the middle of the show, the lights came on. Mr. Guthrie, the theater owner, climbed up on the stage and announced that Pearl Harbor had been attacked.
Most of the audience just looked at each other, not knowing what he was talking about. What’s a Pearl Harbor, some asked. As he went on to explain what had taken place, their puzzlement turned to disbelief and shock. But, all it meant to a five-year-old boy was that the Dorothy and Toto movie had stopped and the cartoon wouldn’t play.
I had no way of knowing then that date marked the end of U.S. isolationism; that from then on, my world and that of those about me would forever be changed.
Back then, most folks remained in close proximity to the their birthplace, so there was always a family gathering for holidays and other special occasions.
That night, the family gathered at my aunt’s next door.
We kids had no idea of the grownups’ concern.
Over the next few days, I came to realize things had changed. There was a different mood at home, in town, at school.
Then a couple uncles shipped out.
I came in from play a few days later and Mom was crying. I remember how she hugged me and said from then on, I’d have to be the man of the house. I had no idea what she was talking about.
The next day or maybe the next, Papa and Mama Conwell stopped at the house, and we all loaded into his 1940 Chevrolet.
We headed to Shamrock and the train station.
We stayed home while Dad went through boot camp on the east coast, Norfolk, Virginia, if I remember right.
When Dad returned, he then headed for California, and he took us with him. That was the beginning of two or three years of constant moving. From there Albuquerque, then Hutchinson, Kansas, and then overseas.
We stayed in Wheeler.
I don’t figure I’ll ever again witness the degree of dynamic energy created by the unified drive and motivation of the American populace supporting our country in those years. We were a juggernaut of determination and purpose.
Just about everything was rationed. Victory gardens were a way of life. Kids roamed the neighborhoods in paper drives. Farmers hauled in rusted and broken implements that would be melted down into war weapons.
If you lived back then, you remember how it was. I don’t know what percentage, but I’d guess three-quarters of everything went to support the war.
Soft drinks for example were next to impossible to find.
Once on the way to California, we stopped at a station in the middle of Arizona. My uncle and I went inside and in soft drink box, found a lone Seven-Up.
We drank it. When we went to pay, the owner exploded. He had brought that over forty miles so he could enjoy it himself.
That was how the rationing was.
I’m sure folks complained back then, but can you imagine the tenor of their complaints if called upon for such sacrifices today?
Women were taking over jobs men had once held, doing as competent and often better work.
America buzzed with the ‘can do’ and ‘never quit’ spirit, and that bulldog determination is what brought our country its greatest victory.
Times change. Today we’re facing an enemy we can’t eradicate with an atomic bomb. To me that makes it doubly dangerous, much more costly, and a battle that might never fully be won.
I hate to think about the last eight or ten years being perpetuated decades into the life of my children and grandchildren.
Don‘t you?
I might be wrong, but I feel in the years to come 9/11 will prove to be as significant, and maybe arguably more so, than Pearl Harbor.




rconwell@gt.rr.com
www.kentconwell.blogspot.com