Sunday, November 25, 2007 and This I Believe

One of my assignments for the last English class (Writing II) I hope I ever have to take is to submit an essay to This I Believe, a long-running program of National Public Radio. The idea is to construct a short (350 to 500 words; a page and a half to two pages) essay that describe a core belief. There have been some celebrities that have participated, as well as mush headed teens and seasoned citizens, with everyone else in between. If you've read anything on my blog, you know I don't have much use for NPR in general, but since this was assigned, and I'm somewhat happy with the results I attained (I still ran a little over 500 words; couldn't help it), I thought I might save my essay here.

Even if its a little long-33 words over, even with editing-there's still some truth to be gleaned from it. I'd also like to encourage the couple people that read my blog to consider submitting an essay or two to NPR. It won't hurt, and it might even help. Give it a shot! At any rate, here's my essay:

                    This I Believe: America's Fighting Men and Women

I grew up thinking I understood the military, and thought I knew what it was all about. My father was a career officer, and I was an Army brat. Because my Dad was one of the most honorable, patriotic people I knew (he passed away in 1993), I thought I understood what it meant to be in the military. It took a relocating of my life to learn what I didn't know.

I was living and working in San Diego, paycheck to paycheck and generally just getting by. Through an online friend, I was offered an opportunity to go take a job in the tactical equipment industry. Besides the interest I have in the products, I was able to cut my cost of living and had an increase in pay. The store is based outside of Fort Campbell, Kentucky; home of the 101st Air Assault Division, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, and the 5th Special Forces Group.

When I started, my boss, a former serviceman, told me that our customers “are the real deal heroes. Don't ever forget it”. I thought I understood what that meant. At that time, I didn't. Over time, I came to figure out what it was he was telling me. My first realization was when a soldier came in with his battle buddy in a wheelchair. He had an arm in a cast. and what looked like an Erector Set on his right leg. He obviously lost a rather sizable piece of his leg muscle in that leg. I asked him what had happened. “Got hit by a 105 mm IED”. I asked him what the prognosis was. He said it was a little too early to tell, but the doctors said he'd probably walk again. I didn't know what to say to him then; saying “thank you for your service” seemed hollow and inconsequential. What he said next really blew me away: “It don't mean nothin'; I'm still alive”. I was awed and humbled. This young man might not walk again, and he just considered it the price of doing the job.

I've had the privilege of calling many, many soldiers “friend”. They're amazingly tolerant of civilians like myself asking stupid, often personal, questions. One of my good friends, a recently retired Company First Sergeant in the 101st named Matt E., allowed me the indulgence of recounting his reasons for joining the Service. There was a time when I would have considered his reasons to be the exception rather than the rule. The more soldiers I meet, the more I realize his answer is not atypical. He said “I wanted to be the man on the wall. I wanted to be the one to stand in the breach and do the job. I didn't want someone else to be sent in my place.” The more I ask the question, the more often that is the answer.

Through their sacrifice, I've come to learn what it means to truly serve. I also understand my father better now than when he was alive. I believe in America's fighting men and women.

*Incidentally, Matt E. is the same Top that has had his words of wisdom shared here before. He's an astute, insightful individual, and I am a better man for having him as a friend.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving and the Pilgrims

First, a very Happy Thanksgiving to friends and family around the world. I know that a lot of my friends would rather be here, but they're doing an important job.

My Thanksgiving was devoid of turkey, which was OK with me. I grilled up about a pound of top sirloin, using the classic EVOO/Garlic sea salt/fresh ground pepper method spelled out elsewhere within my blog. Did some more salty corn, cholestertater of death, and some parmesan garlic bread. The breath was awful, but the grub was tasty!

Since I'm taking a required course on early American history, I've been reviewing what I already know about the colonies, and learning a couple new things. One thing that didn't pop out to me until recently is that the Pilgrims had to go to a capitalist system to survive. Interestingly, while the information is more or less all there in the textbook, nobody is coming out and saying it.

What you get is "Captain John Smith told the Pilgrims that if they wanted to live, they had to work". The books generally make it a point to say that they started using a communal system, with everything in a community pot, so to speak. Then the books go on to say "Lots of Pilgrims died that first winter, and then next one". Then they generally make a comment about how it was the leadership of Smith that kept them all together. That's not entirely accurate, though.

What happened was that the level of work that has always been the problem with the communal system was not sufficient to produce enough to keep them alive. We've known since we were kids that Joe isn't gonna bust his butt if Bob and his fat wife aren't going to put out at an equal level. That means that nobody does their best. Nobody excels. This was a big problem for Captain Smith, because lives were on the line. What to do?

Smith changed the entire system. He assigned private plots of land to individual families and told them that if they were gonna live, they were gonna work. That simple change made all the difference in the world. It is not to long a stretch to say that this new concept led to our system of a representative republic.

So what happened with the "everybody works their own plot" system? Some people still died, from disease, exposure, and some other factors. But the long and short of it is, the colony not only survived, but had enough grub to sell a surplus to England and Europe. That simply can't happen any other way. Socialism sounds great on the surface; everbody gets a handout. Everybody is guarranteed a salary, a retirement, and under Hillary's plan, government funded health care. But the same thing happens now as happened then: the more you move to socialism, the less efficient production becomes, and the less people put out to succeed. Once enough people quit putting out, who pays the taxes so the rest can be lazy? Its so rediculously clear that socialism doesn't work. Russia finally subcomed to its system's failure. Cuba is almost sunk. China had to incorporate capitalist priciples to stay competitive, and even they couldn't survive doing that without slave labor. The evidence of failure is all around us...but there is no Democratic candidate for President that doesn't want to run headlong to socialist programs. Do people want hand outs so badly that they will vote for their own ruin? I guess next year's election will show it.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Real Inconvenient Truth: Gore's makin' bank

While listening to an interview of Frank Batten, founder of The Weather Channel, this morning on the Genn Beck radio show, I heard an interesting statement: Al Gore is standing to make $100 million off of An Inconvenient Crock...I Inconvenient Truth. Wow. Half that is a butt load of money. Oddly enough, I haven't heard of Algore donating any of that to environmental groups. Makes ya wonder a little, dunnit?

As this flick took off and gained popularity (read: made money), Al was all over the place promoting it. It has been said that he flew around the country in a G5 corporate jet. Its not known to be the most efficient of jets. One of the places Algore went after his guffaw-inspiring win of the Nobel Peace Prize-now forever relegated to inconsequentiality-was to a fund raiser in Arizona. The menu included such things as lobster medallions, tuna steaks, Kobe beef. If you take a look at all that, you'll notice that none of it is native to Arizona. It all had to be transported in. Additionally, in order to be worth doing, I'm sure there was a decent crowd of people there. And yet there is no outcry over all this from the left. What a surprise.

With Algore flying in and serving a completely imported menu (most of which I can't afford), he just left a carbon footprint larger than my entire family does in a year. Add to that all the jetting around the country, and his carbon footprint becomes larger than my whole family and the company that I work for. At least the company I work for contributes to eliminating terrorists.

What strikes me most is that Algore is making a pile of money. Even if he's making a tenth of what he's reported to be, that's still a metric buttload of money. can be made off the global warming thing? Looks like a lot of money, too. Good thing a politician is the guy making it. If it was a private citizen, rather than a politician, you'd have to wonder if there was an integrity issue there. But as long as its a politician, then you can rest assured that he wouldn't say or do anything that might be a little shady. I mean, he's only making about a hundred million bucks on this deal. He has no vested interest in promoting the idea. It has to be true...right? Must be that he's donating all that money to environmental groups. That has to be it. He's not pocketing all that cash. That'd make it look like he's beholden to the concept to make him rich. But he's a politician! They're known for integrity and inviolable character. I mean, its not like he was VP under an impeached president. He's a rock. Yeah. Mr. Rectitude.

I'm not rolling my eyes. Why would I do that? He's a career politician.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Dang, I'm psychic!

Given that the Pelosi/Reid Congress has set an all time record low for approval rating at about 11%, I look a lot like a modern day Nostradamus with this little gem of a post. What else can I say besides....I told ya so!