Monday, May 30, 2005

Memorial Day 2005

I admit I'm a little cranky this Memorial Day. There has been way too much partying down here on the Gulf. I wonder how many, if any, of those young people have given any thought to what Memorial Day means. There's a time to party and there's a time not to party. This is a time not to party. There are plenty of other weekends to do that. And I don't mean that the young people should walk around with their heads hung -- just that they should show more respect for the occasion.

I'm saddened that they seem to take their freedom for granted, that they seem not to care a hoot in hell that others are fighting and bleeding and dying to preserve that freedom -- that this is a time to honor those who have fallen, who have given their all. I don't think it's asking a lot that they show respect.

I was out doing yardwork Saturday, mowing grass, whacking weeds, spraying for mosquitoes, tending the grave of Murphy the Wonder Dog, my Irish Setter companion for 10 years. Ol' Murph died on his 10th birthday.

I had always wanted an Irish Setter, but kept putting it off. Then I found myself in a place where for the first time in my life, I wasn't real sure I would make it back home. In quiet moments, I would think of home and all the things I missed and all the things I had not done and I would think to myself that if I make it back, finding an Irish Setter would be near the top of my "to do" list.

When I found Murphy Reagan Buchanan, son of Grand National Champion Stormin' Norman and the beautiful Katy of Lake Forest, it was a happy day. And we spent many more happy days together. Murph was not only a best friend, he was a reminder that I made it home. He was a reminder that others did not.

So this morning, I'll sit out near his grave as I have each Memorial Day since he died, and I'll think of him and I'll remember those brave men who died in the Wadi Al Batin during the Battle of Ruqi. And I'll thank God that I served with such men. I will honor them and those who gave their lives in past battles and battles since.


Here dead lie we because we did not choose
To live and shame the land from which we sprung.
Life, to be sure, is nothing much to lose;
But young men think it is, and we were young.

- A.E. Houseman

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And they who for their country die
Shall fill an honored grave,
For glory lights the soldier's tomb,
And beauty weeps the brave.

- Joseph Rodman Drake

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We count it death to falter, not to die.

- Simonides of Cheos

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Give me leave without offense always to live and die in this mind -- that he is not worthy to live at all who in fear of danger or death shunneth his country's service and his own honor; seeing that death is inevitable and the fame of virtue immortal.

- Sir Humphrey Gilbert

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So he passed over, and all the trumpets sounded for him on the other side.

- John Bunyan

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Better like Hector in the field to die.
Than like a perfumed Paris turn and fly.

- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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We who must live salute you who have found strength to die.

- Royal Cortissoz: Inscription in Memorial Hall, Yale University, 1915.

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When a soldier was injured and could not get back to safety, his buddy went out to get him, against his officer's orders. He returned mortally wounded and his friend, whom he had carried back, was dead.

The officer was angry. "I told you not to go," he said. "Now I've lost both of you. It was not worth it."

The dying man replied, "But it was, sir, because when I got to him he said, 'Jim, I knew you'd come.'."

- Leslie D. Weatherhead, On Comradeship

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For even those who come short in other ways may justly plead the valor with which they have fought for their country.

- Thucydides

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Life has a certain flavor for those who have fought and risked all that the sheltered and protected can never experience.

- John Stuart Mill

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When duty whispers low, thou must, -- you must reply, I can.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Nations have passed away and left no traces,
and history gives the naked cause of it
one single, simple reason in all cases
they fell because their people were not fit.

- Rudyard Kipling

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These are the times that try men's souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it Now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.

- Thomas Paine

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For with slight efforts, how should one obtain great results? It is foolish even to desire it.

- Euripides

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To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the Heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

- Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8

Sunday, May 29, 2005

We Need More Killers

I'm gonna say something that I've been holding back for a couple of years. I'm gonna say something that will probably make a lot of you uncomfortable. What I'm gonna say is probably not a topic for polite company. But it needs to be said.

A lot of people in this country are sitting on the sidelines in this War while soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen serve multiple tours in Afghanistan and Iraq and other places.

It's time for more people to step up to the plate.

The Army and Marine Corps are having recruiting problems. Not crisis level yet, but the trends don't look good. At the same time, the Air Force and Navy are turning away potential recruits. They are easily meeting their recruiting goals. No surprise here. The chances of getting wounded or killed are significantly lower in those two services than in the Army or Marine Corps.

The military has been stretched to the breaking point ever since former President Clinton and a compliant Congress (Democrats AND Republicans) slashed the military. For details on the cuts during the 8 years of the Clinton administration, go here.

President Bush and the current Congress have authorized an increase to the Army and Marine Corps endstrength and that plays into the present (and near future) recruiting challenge.

We have had an all-volunteer military for 30 years and it has worked pretty well and will continue to work pretty well ... if enough young Americans AND their parents will answer the call. Few military people I know want a draft. For a lot of different reasons, but to name one: It's a lot better when you have people who WANT to be there.

So this is not about the draft.

This is about a wake-up call to the American people.

After September 11, 2001, I thought there would be real change. I was not alone. But the ugly truth is that not much has changed. Too many Americans continue to live in a pre-911 world. Too many Americans apparently don't realize that there are savages out there bent on destroying this nation.

Many people talk the talk, but embarrassingly few walk the walk. That any one of our services is having recruiting problems is embarrassing. It is shameful. And it reflects rather poorly on who we are.

The Army and Marine Corps recruiters bust their collective asses day-in, day-out selling the idea of service to country. That idea should sell itself -- especially after 911 -- but it doesn't.

The Army needs about 100,000 recruits a year. The Marine Corps, a much smaller service, needs about 40,000 recruits per year. You may be thinking that's a lot of people -- a lot of treasure. And you would be right.

But let's take a look at some numbers.

There are about 118 million Americans age 18-44.

1.4 million of them are on Active Duty in the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard (about 1%)
1.2 million are in the Guard and Reserve (another 1%)
2.6 million total (2%)

This is not to say 98% of this age group are sitting on their asses. Far from it. But damn, don't those numbers kinda reach out and grab you by the shorthairs? They should.

Now let's look at the recruiting needs of the Army and Marine Corps against the available pool.

Army/Marine Corps recruiting needs: @ 140,000 per year

Americans reaching military age per year: @ 2,000,000

Americans age 18-24*: @ 28,000,000

* the pool would be much larger for 18-29, but I'll just use the younger end.

Just looking at the 18 year olds, the Army and Marines would need about 7% to meet their recruiting needs. 93% of them could go about their merry way.

Now let's expand the pool to 18-24 year olds.

About 1/2 percent would be needed from this pool. And 99.5% could go do what people do that don't serve in the military.

Now let's stop looking at the numbers.

It's gutcheck time.

Let's look inside ourselves.

As we do, let's read this letter from World War II:



27th Infantry Division
Office of the Commanding General
Fort Ord, California

27 February 1942

The Honorable Clinton P. Anderson, M.C.
House Of Representatives

Dear Mr. Anderson:

Your letter of February 17, to the Adjutant General, concerning Private Robert H. Lister, Company A, 165th Infantry, has been sent to me.

You state:

"I am wondering if there has been some mistake in his assignment to Fort Ord."

"Robert Lister has had a fine education, has a Masters Degree, is about ready for a Doctor's Degree, is an expert Spanish student, a skilled archaeologist, and has been an instructor at the University of New Mexico."

In this division of 22,000 men, I receive many letters similar to yours from parents, relatives, friends and sweethearts. They do not understand why the man who had a good law practice at home cannot be in the Judge Advocate Generals Department, why the drug store manager cannot work in the post hospital, why the school teacher cannot be used in educational work. They are all willing for someone else to do the hard, dirty work of the fighting man so long as the one they are interested in can be spared that duty.

If doctors in the future are to have the privilege of practicing their profession, if archeologists are to investigate antiquity, if students are to have the privilege of taking degrees, and professors the privilege of teaching in their own way, somebody must march and fight and bleed and die and I know no reason why students, doctors, professors, and archeologists shouldn't do their share of it.

You say, "It strikes me as too bad to take that type of education and bury it in a rifle squad," as though there were something low or mean or servile being a member of a rifle squad and only morons and ditch diggers should be given such duty. I know of no place red blooded men of intelligence and initiative are more needed than in the rifle or weapons squad.

In this capacity, full recognition is given to the placing of men so that they may do the work most beneficial to the unit of which they are a part. Whenever men are needed for a particular duty, the records of all men having the required skills and qualifications are considered. I have examined the records of Private Lister and it is fairly complete. I know he holds the 100-yard dash and broad jump records in the Border Conference; that he was president of his fraternity; that his mother was born in Alabama and his father in Michigan; that his father lives at the Burlington Hotel in Washington and I suspect asked you to do what you could to get his son on other duty.

It is desirable that all men, regardless of their specialty, shall learn by doing; how hard it is to march with a pack for 20 miles; how to hold their own in bayonet combat; and how to respect the man who really takes it, namely the private in the rifle squad.

If Private Lister has special qualification for intelligence duty, he will be considered when a vacancy occurs in a regimental, brigade, or division intelligence section. You can't keep a good man down in the Army for long. Every commander is anxious to get hold of men with imagination, intelligence, initiative, and drive.

Because you may think I'm a pretty good distance from a rifle squad, I should like to tell you I have a son on Bataan peninsula. All I know of him is that he was wounded on January 19. I hope he is back by now where the rifle squads are taking it, and I wish I were beside him there.

I have written you this long letter because in your high position you exercise a large influence on what people think and the way they regard the Army. It is necessary for them to understand men must do that which best helps to win the war and often that is not the same as what they do best.

Sincerely yours,

RALPH T. McPERNELL
Brig Gen, USA
Commanding



We need more people in the batter's box. We need more people willing to step up to the plate. We can do better than we've been doing. We can do a lot better.

But we're not gonna get there by wishing for "someone else to do the hard, dirty work of the fighting man."

It's time to play ball or get the Islamofascist bat stuck up our asses again.

Next time it might be an American city we lose.

They need to be killed.

We need more killers.