Category Archives: Military

Proud To Be An American

I watched the most horrendous (but telling) video on Fox News last week.

The video was taken from one of America’s finest military airplanes, which was getting ready to send a missile to kill terrorists while they were working on planting a roadside bomb.  You can hear the pilots talking about the target and informing the base as to what they were about to do.

All of a sudden, one of them aborts the shoot because a young boy has come on the scene, delivering something, it appears, to the bombers.  Our guys halt their attack, and then watch as the boy moves away.  You hear one of the pilots kind of “cheering” the kid to leave the site, so they can then destroy the terrorists and their bomb. 

Suddenly, there’s a huge explosion.  It appears that the bombers have accidentally blown themselves up, saving us some ordnance.  I don’t know if the casualties included the boy.  I do know that the terrorists’ religious and political commitments to murder include killing their own women and children as part of their world vision.

I was proud for the whole world to see (assuming other news outlets played it) that our commitment was to protect the innocent whenever possible. 

It made me proud to be an American.

The 13 Folds of the American Flag

One of my listeners sent me a story about “Why the American Flag is Folded 13 Times.”  This is another one of those emails that get passed around via the Internet, so we checked out the accuracy of the story.  It turns out that it is NOT true that there was originally a specific meaning to each fold and that’s why there are 13 folds.  The American flag isn’t folded this way because each of the folds has a symbolic meaning; the procedure for folding the flag 13 times was in place long before there was an assigned “meaning” to each fold.  These associations have sprung up over the years, and they have come to mean something to those who participate in the flag folding ceremony, but they are not the reason why a flag is folded 13 times.

Nonetheless, I found the “meanings” that have been attributed to each fold very moving, and I’m posting them here as something to contemplate as we display our flags for the Fourth of July:

The first fold of our flag is a symbol of life.

The second fold is a symbol of our belief in eternal life.

The third fold is made in honor and remembrance of the veterans departing our ranks who gave a portion of their lives for the defense of our country to attain peace throughout the world.

The fourth fold represents our weaker nature; for as American citizens trusting, it is to Him we turn in times of peace as well as in time of war for His divine guidance.

The fifth fold is a tribute to our country, for in the words of Stephen Decatur, ‘Our Country, in dealing with other countries may she always be right; but it is still our country, right or wrong.’

The sixth fold is for where our hearts lie.  It is with our heart that we pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

The seventh fold is a tribute to our Armed Forces, for it is through the Armed Forces that we protect our country and our flag against all her enemies, whether they be found within or without the boundaries of our republic.

The eighth fold is a tribute to the one who entered into the valley of the shadow of death, that we might see the light of day, and to honor mother, for whom it flies on Mother’s Day.

The ninth fold is a tribute to womanhood; for it has been through their faith, their love, loyalty and devotion that the character of the men and women who have made this country great has been molded.

The tenth fold is a tribute to the father, for he, too, has given his sons and daughters for the defense of our country since they were first born.

The eleventh fold, in the eyes of a Hebrew citizen represents the lower portion of the seal of King David and King Solomon, and glorifies in their eyes, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

The twelfth fold, the in the eyes of a Christian citizen, represents an emblem of eternity and glorifies, in their eyes, God the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit.

The thirteenth fold:  when the flag is completely folded, the stars are uppermost reminding us of our nation’s motto:  ‘In God We Trust.’  After the flag is completely folded and tucked in, it takes on the appearance of a cocked hat, ever reminding us of the soldiers who served under General George Washington, and the Sailors and Marines who served under Captain John Paul Jones, who were followed by their comrades and shipmates in the Armed Forces of the United States, preserving for us the rights, privileges and freedoms we enjoy today.

The next time you see a flag ceremony honoring someone that has served our country, either in the Armed Forces or in our civilian services such as the police force or Fire Department, keep in mind all the important reasons behind each and every movement.  They have paid the ultimate sacrifice for all of us by honoring our flag and our country.

Air Force Jets Honor Slain Officer

This story is actually four years old, but many people seem to have discovered it only recently, so I did a little investigating, and thought it was worth sharing with you.  Because this has made its way around the Internet, like the game of “Telephone,” new things have been added and some things have changed as it’s been forwarded.  My staff went back to the original story to verify the facts, and that’s the one I’m posting here. 

Luke Air Force Base is a little west of Phoenix, and it’s surrounded by residential developments.  People have complained about the noise from the base and its planes.  One day in June, 2005, an individual who lives somewhere near the base wrote the local paper complaining about the group of F-16s that disturbed his day.  Here’s his Letter to the Editor of The Arizona Republic newspaper:
 
“Question of the day for Luke Air Force Base:  Whom do we thank for the morning air show? 

Last Wednesday, at precisely 9:11AM, a tight formation of four F-16 jets made a low pass over Arrowhead Mall, continuing west over Bell Road at approximately 500 feet.  Imagine our good fortune!

Do the Tom Cruise-wannabes feel we need this wake-up call, or were they trying to impress the cashiers at Mervyns’ early-bird special?

Any response would be appreciated.

Tom MacRae”

Mr. MacRae received a response from a commander at Luke Air Force Base which was published in the newspaper the following day, but it’s the response from Lt. Col. Scott Pleus, commander of the 63rd Fighter Squadron at Luke Air Force Base that caught the attention of everyone.  This letter was also published in The Arizona Republic, four days after Mr. MacRae’s initial complaint:

“Regarding “A wake-up call from Luke’s jets”:

On June 15, at precisely 9:12 a.m., a perfectly timed four-ship of F-16s from the 63rd Fighter Squadron at Luke Air Force Base flew over the grave of Capt. Jeremy Fresques.

Capt. Fresques was an Air Force officer who was previously stationed at Luke Air Force Base and was killed in Iraq on May 30, Memorial Day.

At 9 a.m., on June 15, his family and friends gathered at Sunland Memorial Park in Sun City to mourn the loss of a husband, son and friend.

Based on the letter writer’s recount of the flyby, and because of the jet noise, I’m sure you didn’t hear the 21-gun salute, the playing of taps, or my words to the widow and parents of Capt. Fresques as I gave them their son’s flag on behalf of the president of the United States and all those veterans and servicemen and women who understand the sacrifices they have endured.

A four-ship flyby is a display of respect the Air Force pays to those who gave their lives in defense of freedom.  We are professional aviators and take our jobs seriously, and on June 15 what the letter writer witnessed was four officers lining up to pay their ultimate respects. 

The letter writer asks, ‘Whom do we thank for the morning air show?’

The 56th Fighter Wing will call for you, and forward your thanks to the widow and parents of Capt. Fresques, and thank them for you, for it was in their honor that my pilots flew the most honorable formation of their lives.

Lt. Col. Scott Pleus
Luke Air Force Base”

The postscript to all of this is that Mr. MacRae, to his credit, wrote an apology that was published in The Arizona Republic on July 9:

“Regarding ‘Flyby honoring fallen comrade’

I read with increasing embarrassment and humility the response to my unfortunate letter to The Republic concerning an Air Force flyby.

I had no idea of the significance of the flyby, and would never have insulted such a fine and respectful display had I known.

I have received many calls from the fine airmen who are serving or have served at Luke, and I have attempted to explain my side and apologized for any discomfort my letter has caused.

This was simply an uninformed citizen complaining about noise.

I have been made aware in both written and verbal communications of the four-ship flyby, and my heart goes out to each and every lost serviceman and woman in this war in which we are engaged.

I have been called un-American by an unknown caller and I feel that I must address that.  I served in the U.S. Navy and am a Vietnam veteran.  I love my country and respect the jobs that the service organizations are doing.

Please accept my heartfelt apologies.

Tom MacRae”

What It Means To Be A Warrior

This Saturday is Armed Forces Day, and this month is Military Appreciation Month.  When I got this email, I knew this was the week to share it with all of you:

Dr. Laura:
My 15 year old son belongs to the Civil Air Patrol, which is an offshoot of the Air Force.  We had been talking recently about what it means for him to be in the military, the good, the bad, and the sometimes ugly that goes with it.  I just received this email from one of our deployed members that sums up what it means to be a warrior, and thought I would share it with you. 

From one warrior-raising mom to another,
Judi

And here’s the email she got:

A few of you have expressed your thanks and feelings regarding my deployment.  Of course, it’s been a resounding “don’t go!”  But I would like you to take the time and ask:  what would happen if I didn’t go?

The simple answer is that someone else would go in my place.  This isn’t an acceptable alternative for me.  How could I expect someone else to go in harm’s way in my place?

Another answer, one I believe more important, is this:  who would protect my fellow brothers and sisters in arms while they do their jobs?  Six years ago, I put up my right hand and swore an oath to defend my country.  And that country includes every airman, sailor, soldier and Marine.  The job that Oscar [his bomb-sniffing dog] and I have is just that:  protecting my brothers and sisters so they might return safely. 

When I returned from my last deployment a year ago, I had the honor of flying with an Angel Flight.  For those of you who don’t know, an Angel Flight is the designation for an aircraft carrying our fallen service members.  It was unfortunate for them to return in such a state.  And I knew, in the back of my mind, that if more people like me (and Oscar) were there, that just maybe, these service members would not have to return like this.

The oath that I took is different from the oath you take as a CAP cadet, in that many others stake their lives in the trust that I will keep my promise.  Sticking to that promise is important to me.  But sticking to your promise is just as important.  It shows how you, as an individual, value your own promise to yourself, your community, state and nation.

I know what my oath means:  that I am prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice if need be to protect my fellow service members and Americans.  I’d like you to take the time to reflect on YOUR promise.  What does your promise mean to YOU?  Can YOU count on your own promise?  Can OTHERS count on it?

Thank you everyone for the gifts, support, and thanks you have given me.  Once I arrive in Iraq and get my mailing address, I’ll forward it on.  Remember, the best gift is “Chocolate Monkey” or “Swiss” trail mix from Archer Farms, available at Target.

Take care, and stay safe.  I’ll see you at the end of my deployment.  I expect to see all of you promoted to Cadet 2nd Lieutenant by my return.  Martinez, give me five push-ups.

Phillip K.
SSgt, USAF

Veterans Day

On this Veterans Day, I want to share with you a little bit of history from CNN Student News:

On November 11, Americans pay tribute to everyone who has served in the U.S. military. But why was this particular date chosen, and how does this holiday differ from Memorial Day?

“World War I, also known as “The Great War,” was fought from 1914 to 1918. During this conflict, Great Britain, France, Russia, Belgium, Italy, Japan, the United States and other countries, which formed the “Allies,” defeated the so-called “Central Powers,” which included Germany, Austria-Hungary, Turkey (then the Ottoman Empire) and Bulgaria. On the “eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month” of 1918, German leaders signed an armistice, or a halt to hostilities, with the Allied powers. On that date, November 11, celebrations were held in New York City, Paris, London, and in other cities around the globe. The following year, President Woodrow Wilson declared November 11 as “Armistice Day,” a day to observe the end of World War I.

On June 4, 1926, the U.S. Congress passed a resolution asking President Calvin Coolidge to call upon officials to “display the flag of the United States on all government buildings on November 11 and inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples.” Twelve years later, on May 13, 1938, Congress passed an Act making the 11th of November Armistice Day, a federal holiday.

Initially, Armistice Day was supposed to honor veterans of World War I. But after the call to arms and human sacrifices during World War II and the Korean conflict, veterans’ groups urged Congress to consider a day to celebrate U.S. veterans of all wars. On June 1, 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower signed a bill changing Armistice Day to Veterans Day.

Difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day

Veterans Day in the United States is a day to honor all Americans who have served in the U.S. military, both during wartime and in peace. Memorial Day is a day for remembering and honoring Americans who have died serving the nation, especially those who died in battle or from wounds received during armed conflicts. On Veterans Day, Americans thank the living veterans for their service to the country and recognize all who have served the country.”

Not forgetting our veterans means more than putting up your flag, getting a day off from work, or even marching in a parade. What more? Those veterans who sacrificed limbs, hearing, and vision are still sacrificing for their country every single day of their lives. Their supportive families are also still sacrificing: keeping the family going while tending to the needs of their injured loved one and offering emotional support, all while holding themselves together.

We – all of us – need to really show these families how much we appreciate their commitment to every person and family in America by lightening their burden. OPERATION FAMILY FUND – with absolutely no overhead (that is, no monies kept for even a telephone bill) has been helping veteran families with financial support so that they can keep their homes, the family car, have food on the table and clothe their children…maintaining their dignity in the face of potentially life-long physical problems which make wage-earning even more difficult than it is in our current climate.

Our military is all voluntary…so remember that these folks chose to protect their fellow Americans knowing it could mean life and limb. The rest of us should choose to protect our vets and their families.

Go to OPERATIONFAMILYFUND.ORG and make a contribution…yeah, I know…money is tight…but never let that stop you from lightening the load on someone else’s back. OPERATIONFAMILYFUND.ORG.

Army Prep School

As more young males drop out of high school — aimless, and getting into all sorts of trouble – the Army has come up with a plan that solves problems for the youth, as well as for the military:  prep school.

“It’s academic immersion,” explained Col. Jeffrey Sanderson, chief of staff at Fort Jackson, home of the Army’s largest basic training school.  “Our studies show that with only 3 out of 10 people of military age being capable of joining the Army, we are going to have to do something different.” (Associated Press, 8/27/08)

The Army turned six World War II-era buildings at the base into a mini-campus of Spartan classrooms and barracks.  Classes of about 60 soldiers will enter the month-long program every week. 

Their day begins at 5 AM with physical training, eight hours of academic review classes, and homework each night.  It’s a tough and structured day.  Grouped three to four to a class, the students work on GED preparation books.

Recruits must score in the top half of the Army’s aptitude test to qualify for the prep school and they get two tries at a GED certificate.  If they don’t pass on the second try, the Army releases them from their contract.

The Army prefers those who graduate from high school on their own, as it demonstrates tenacity, but that some young men might have quit high school for a wide variety of reasons is a consideration.  “These kids may have quit at some point, but the big thing is, a lot of people have quit on them.  We are not going to allow them to quit,” commented the school’s commander, Captain Brian Gaddis.

Black and White Reigns

Andrew Klavan, an award-winning author of mystery novels, wrote a brilliant op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal (7/25/08) in which he stated exactly what I believe. 

He pointed out that liberal Hollywood films about the war on terror (In the Valley of Elah, Rendition, and Redacted) have all failed, largely because they propose to make the actions and philosophies of terrorists and coalition forces moral “equivalents,” because they disrespect the military, and “seem unable to distinguish the difference between America and Islamo-fascism.”  These films depict “good” guys as indistinguishable from “bad” guys, ultimately “denigrating the very heroes who defend us.”

Klavan points out that the big blockbuster The Dark Knight, is a conservative movie about the war, like 300 before it, and these films value morality, faith, self-sacrifice and the nobility of fighting for the right.  Liberal, ultimately anti-American, films are realistic and direct, while conservative, pro-values films are usually fantasies using comic-inspired heroes (Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, Spiderman 3).

What makes the real world difficult is that “good” guys must defend values in a world that does not universally embrace them, and that puts “good” guys in the awful position of sometimes having to be intolerant, unkind, and brutal in order to ultimately defend the “good” values we love.

As a psychotherapist, I talk to people on the air every day who try to keep out of the way of conflict, confrontation, and judgment, so they will be liked and seen as “good” guys.  I remind them that “good” guys risk, and sometimes cross the line, to stand between evil and the innocent who need protection from the few.

Instead, as Klavan points out, “When heroes arise who take those difficulties on themselves, it is tempting for the rest of us to turn our backs on them, to vilify them in order to protect our own appearance of righteousness.  We prosecute and execute the violent soldier or the cruel interrogator in order to parade ourselves as paragons of the peaceful values they preserve.”

That means that sometimes good men have to kill (“murder” is to kill an innocent) to preserve life; that sometimes they must violate values in order to maintain those values.  That’s just a fact of real life in which good and evil have always co-existed.