Archive for patriots

Freedom

Posted in Awesome, Best, History with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 4, 2013 by BrainRants

Happy Fourth of July.  By now you know this is my favorite holiday of the year, far overshadowing both Christmas and Continue reading

Memorial Day – 2013

Posted in Army, Awesome, Best, History, Home with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 27, 2013 by BrainRants

Last year on Memorial Day I was stuck in Afghanistan, and the year prior I was not blogging yet.  This year I felt compelled to add a more well-written addition to the constellation of posts I like to Continue reading

9/11: Fly The Flag Today

Posted in Best, History with tags , , , , , , , on September 11, 2011 by BrainRants

This post won’t use the ‘humor’ category or tag because there’s nothing funny at all about today.  If you have lived under a rock for the past ten years, you probably still know that this is the tenth anniversary of the terror attack on September 11th, 2001.

Someday reporters will do featurelets about “where were you on 9/11” much like they do for the JFK assasination and well they should.  I remember the day clearly.  It was Tuesday.  I was a captain, and was enjoying a little exercise in the gym at Fort Irwin.  I had just stepped off the treadmill when my First Sergeant (“Rock”) grabbed me and pulled me over to a live CNN broadcast on a TV.  We speculated that perhaps an errant pilot had made a very grave mistake.  I climbed in my Blazer, and by the time I had completed the 3-minute drive back to my room, the United States was clearly headed to war.  As I cleaned up, dressed, and ate, I watched the towers burn, then fall.  Di, at the time my girlfriend, was visiting.  She said perhaps she ought to leave early; I replied that I doubted she’d be going anywhere soon.  I was right: Fort Irwin, like every military base world-wide, shut down and inbound traffic backed up from the gate all the way back to I-15, twenty-eight miles away.  Rumors of a concurrent attack on D.C. turned out to be half-true.  As I was briefed on the events, the Pentagon burned.  Much later, we learned of the selfless, heroic efforts of the Flight 93 passengers, who became the first warriors to strike a blow back for America.  We all spent the night trying to get in touch with military friends – just to make sure.

We have been at the prosecution of the War on Terror now for ten years.  This equates to just under one-quarter of my life, over one-half of my Army career, and a month and a few days longer than my marriage.  Had Di and I been able to have kids together, s/he would be in grade school now and not know any other condition of existence.  We all hear and read a lot of material debating the rightness, wrongness, duration, and direction of the war, and in our Republic, this is good.  I have heard firsthand the inequities dealt our veterans after Viet Nam, and I allow myself to think that perhaps the greatest good we derived from that scarring was the ability, as a people, to condemn the war while simultaneously supporting the Soldier who fights it.

This essay for today is not about rightness or wrongness.  I have a unique perspective on the war by default, and most of that perspective was a front-row seat.  At other times, I was playing the game.  On one hand, it is somewhat sad that barely 3% of the population bears the burden of defending the other 97%.  On the other hand, it gives me a great deal of pride to be part of a military so capable, so powerful, and so lethal that this lopsided condition is possible.  Every coin has two sides.

Today is Sunday, September 11th, 2011.  Set aside your agreements or disagreements and fly our Flag.  Fly it because of what you believe.  Fly it in spite of what you think.

Fly it because some things are worth remembering.

Happy Birthday, America!

Posted in Awesome, History with tags , , , on July 4, 2011 by BrainRants

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Two-hundred and thirty-five years ago, we embarked on a remarkable experiment in government.  A bunch of guys decided that they’d about had it with being a colony and the associated crap that came with it.  It was a bold move, and extremely risky to those directly involved.  Everyone in the Continental Congress who signed the Declaration of Independence did so with great hope for a future of independence, for a government by and of the people.  They also did so keeping one cold fact clearly in mind – that by penning their names, they could ultimately be signing their own death warrants.  They believed in the idea of democracy enough to go through with it.

I can only imagine what those summer months were like.  A few guys – five – in a room wordsmithing a document, ink on parchment.  More guys in a hot, humid room debating it.  Nine of thirteen colonies voted in favor.  Two opposed, one abstained and one declined to vote.  The War for Independence (already underway since Lexington and Concord in 1775) took on a whole new flavor.  This was a whole new game, the Declaration made it more official.  In reality, most of the citizens of the colonies were indifferent to the whole thing, and the revolutionary effort was typically spearheaded by a few idealists.  There was a significant portion of the population who remained sympathetic to the British Crown and Parliament.

From a single spark, a roaring fire may grow.  No one involved could have foreseen what the future held for our country, and some may not have believed it if they could.  Surviving our initial and weak Confederation, we then forged the Constitution, another remarkable document.  From thirteen colonies to fifty states.  From a few million people to over 330 million and growing.  From a poor, weak, but hopful and scrappy newcomer to the guarantor of liberty all over the entire world.

From a single spark, a roaring fire may grow.  The Declaration is not only one of the most famous documents known to Americans but it has served as the basis and inspiration for many more uprisings of freedom.  I’ve read that when the Soviet empire disintegrated and Czechoslovakia broke away, our Declaration was read at some protest in some city as a symbolic gesture of the moment.  Our ally in our War for Independence, France, not long afterward collapsed in a turmoil that ultimately resulted in a democracy.  Western Europe followed in fits and starts.  This century, Eastern Europe did as well.  And our headlines today indicate the process is not even close to complete as the Middle East begins to examine the system we started.

From a single spark, a roaring fire may grow.  Enjoy the long weekend, and quite rightly enjoy the barbecues and fireworks we plan to symbolize our time off.  Both capture the essence of our country: born of fire, forged in fire, and still lighting the way for others today.

235 years ago today.

Four Score and Seven

Posted in Army, History with tags , , , on July 1, 2011 by BrainRants

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

87 years after the Declaration of Independence, Abraham Lincoln began what is widely marked as one of the most eloquent examples of oration in the English Language as he added his remarks to the dedication of the National Cemetery at Gettysburg.  It was written and re-written several times.  President Lincoln was, ironically, not even the featured speaker at the dedication.  Recorded as having a high, nasal voice, and without the benefit of modern loudspeakers or broadcast equipment, not many present could well hear him at all.  However, the short, clear remarks he presented are now etched in history.

148 years after Gettysburg we are preparing to celebrate our 235th anneversary this Fourth of July.  Without that key fight, we might not mark the day in quite the same way.  Historians generally concur that the three days of July 1st through the 3rd in 1863 marked the turn of the tide in our Civil War, ultimately preserving our Union.  Interestingly, on the 4th of July that same year, the day after Gettysburg concluded, General Ulysses Grant siezed the Confederate strong point at Vicksburg, Mississippi, adding a nail in the coffin of the Confederacy and yielding the entire Mississippi River over to Union forces.  The four days in July of 1863 were a kind of deadly one-two punch to the South.

The Battle of Gettysburg itself was a fearsome event.  General Robert E. Lee, seeking a strategic victory that would impact Northern anti-war sentiment and a tactical victory that would be a stepping-stone to an invasion of the North, was pulled into the fight before he was ready.  The Union forces as yet had no one key player, and the Army of the Potomac had maneuvered up through Virginia to counter Lee.  Anchored by the efforts of John Buford’s Union cavalry, the battlefield was picked.  Lines shifted back and forth, and the Confederates tried again and again to dislodge the Union forces. 

All told, 94,000 Union and 72,000 Confederate Soldiers walked or rode into the battle.  Three days later, the two opponents moved carefully apart.  Between the combatants, 27,000 wounded were carried from the field of battle.  About 8,000 dead men and 3,000 dead horses never left, lying on the Pennsylvania fields under the warm July skies.  The 2,000 townspeople of Gettysburg needed some quick help with the situation.  Later that November, the National Cemetery there was finally dedicated, and Mr. Lincoln delivered his historic address.

The other point to this somewhat gruesome tale is captured in Lincoln’s final, powerful paragraph:

It is for us, the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they have, thus far, so nobly carried on. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom; and that this government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

The past is past.  We emerged one nation and are still one today.  Not only should we take a moment to remember the sacrifices necessary we should also recognize that in many ways the struggle to preserve ourselves continues even today.

Awesome Stuff: Airport People

Posted in Army, Awesome, Travel with tags , , on June 8, 2011 by BrainRants

I am constantly humbled and amazed by the generosity, kindness, and patriotism of truly random folks you meet in places like airports.  We all know that I was on a trip to Fort Campbell.  This took me from Kansas City to Memphis and then on to Nashville.  In my layover in Memphis coming home, I had the chance to sample the Neely’s barbecue.  Not bad overall, I’ll admit; the pulled pork on a bun with slaw always works.

So as I am placing my order for my sandwich, I have to hunt through my stuff to find my wallet (removed to enable not being tazed going through the TSA obstacle course).  While I was distracted by myself, a very kind woman apparently had already whipped out her credit card and paid for my lunch. 

Now, I’ve had people buy me food before, and it always strikes me deeply.  It is a truly humbling experience.  I do normally travel for the Army in uniform, not to fish for freebies but rather because it is the easiest way to get combat boots and long-sleeve utilities and pants where you’re going easily without too many wrinkles.  Believe me, in summer months my cargo shorts and a plain yet conservative tee shirt (I have two or three) would be far more comfortable (just ask Fred – he goes everywhere sans pants). 

So after thanking the lady several times, I set my stuff down and thought to fire up my BlackBerry and snap her picture and make her famous right here.  Unfortunately, this ninja woman will remain overly-thanked but undocumented: she collected her own lunch, a napkin or two, and vanished into the surge of freaks and geeks trawling the terminal.  I (and you too, dear reader) will never know her motivation or anything else.

If you’ve ever been in a position to do something like this for a Servicemember, thanks.  The lady today, the airline pilot in Dallas who bought my final Big Mac before I went to Afghanistan, the lady who bought me a water seeing me sweaty after hustling through the terminal thinking my flight was about to leave (but was delayed) – and a few others, thank you.  I’d encourage you to either do it again, or go ahead and don’t be shy if you’ve thought of it but hesitated.  Look for the young kids, possibly in street clothes but carrying a telltale camouflage backpack.  The bright-eyed, square-jawed young men and women who walk with shoulders thrown back but have a doubtful look in the eye, uncertain about where their destination will lead them or maybe holding up bravely over someone left behind.

I guess one point of this entry is to thank all the kind and generous people who have insisted on buying my meal, bottle of overpriced airport water, or snack-in-a-bag.  Small kindnesses like these continue to support my belief – and relief – that we may just have matured as a society since the 1970’s, finally understanding that under the system we live in, the Soldier is separated from the responsibility of war other than the gritty prosecution of it itself.  We have finally come to the place where we can demonstrate against a war but thank those that execute the small details of it.  Being a Soldier and somewhat of an amateur consumer of history, I am thankful for that.