06. March 2024 · Comments Off on Another Visit to the Quadrangle · Categories: Ain't That America?, Critters, Devil Dogs, Domestic, Local

My daughter and I with Wee Jamie had cause to visit Fort Sam Houston this week, to pick up some prescription refills and make a run through the commissary – but before we did, we went by the historic old Quadrangle, so that my grandson could pester the deer and the peacocks and admire the enormous koi goldfish in the little landscaped fishpond. Yes, the historic limestone Quadrangle, the original structure and oldest building at Fort Sam houses a kind of petting zoo in the courtyard in the middle of three block-long ranges of buildings. That is, it would be a petting zoo if the current herd of nine deer were slightly more tame.

The Quadrangle was originally constructed to replace the Alamo, which had been the original military HQ in this part of Texas, serving sequentially the Spanish colonial army, the Mexican army, the Texian militia and army, the US Army, the Confederate Army, and the US Army again over the space of 200 years. (The Quadrangle is now HQ 5th Army, and home to the post’s historical museum.) In it’s last decades as a military installation, the Alamo was basically a central supply depot for the US Army in the Southwest, and the plaza before it a wagon park. When city sprawl swamped it all in the 1870s, the Army took the opportunity of some donated land out north of town to build a brand-new post with plenty of room for quartermastering activities – to park wagons, pasture horses and mules, warehouse supplies, and to establish a proper garrison for training and housing troops and officers.

Originally constructed for defense against attack by hostile Indians, the Quadrangle was first built without doors and windows along the outside walls. This was a somewhat remote reality by the time that the Quadrangle’s cornerstone was laid – but not entirely out of the question, and certainly not outside of living memory by troops and ordinary citizens then. About the only activity in the Quadrangle involving hostile or formerly hostile Indians came in the mid-1880s, when the Apache war leader Geronimo and the survivors of his war band were captured and interned there for a month before being moved to Florida. The legend is that the deer and birds were brought in to serve as meals on the hoof for the Apache prisoners … but that is an oft-debunked legend. According to some accounts, the presence of the deer predated the Apache internees.

Which does bring up the question – why? Why is a herd of semi-tame deer and a flock of peacocks and waterfowl kept on an active military post? They must be maintained at some expense and trouble, after all – there are pens for the deer and sheltered quarters. Presumably deer chow has to be gotten from somewhere, not to mention veterinary care. The first obvious answer is – military tradition! Like the Barbary apes at Gibraltar, and the ravens in the Tower of London. They are there, because they always have been there, and caring for them is enshrined in custom since time immemorial, or at least in this case, since the 1870s. But why – and since when? I began to wonder about this during our visit and did a little research when I got home … and it turns out that … no one really knows for certain. A local historian ventured the supposition that having a few peacocks and tame deer around the place was a popular domestic thing to do in the late 1800s. I have my own theory about the deer herd, though. I suspect that sometime after troops and families came to live at Fort Sam that someone rescued an orphaned deer fawn and made a pet out of it … and the best place to keep it when it was grown was in the confines of the Quadrangle, which seems to have become a park very early on. Could have been an officer’s wife or family member … or equally – a soldier. The deer fawn became a unit mascot – goodness knows that other unlikely animals have since become beloved and honored unit mascots – bears and horses, among them. Within a few years, having the deer at Fort Sam was an established custom, and everyone forgot about who and under what circumstances the deer herd had been established.

Discuss as you will – and share any theories that you might have.

Well, I see from the linked story, that the educational geniuses in Fairfax County have trodden heavily on their essential nether parts, yet again, in their demented crusade to shove critical race theory, or whatever it is called this week to disguise the whole rotten concept, down the throats of hapless students of all colors on the Pantone scale. This time around, they tried to foist off the concept of military dependents being somehow uniquely privileged. More »

I was skimming through the various stories about the late President Bush the First this week, especially one about how he and Barbara were so considerate of and beloved by the Security Service agents who guarded them. It was kind of sweet, the account of a peckish agent going through the White House kitchen in the wee hours, looking for the cookies that he knew that the stewards of the kitchen had baked for the next day … and being joined by Bush the First, in ransacking the kitchen in search of the elusive cookies. That Bush the First and Barbara were loved and respected by the agents whose mission I can attest to at second hand. One of the Air Force security service NCOs I served with in Korea had just come off an assignment at the White House protection detachment. He adored Barbara, BTW – to hear him tell it, he was one of her favorite agents. She called him “Timmy”, which was kind of cute, as he was one of these six-foot-something guys and built like a concrete traffic bollard; probably Barbara was the only one aside from his mother who called him by that name.

The Bushes – the first and second – made a point of staying in Washington over Christmas Eve, so that their staff and security teams could spend Christmas with their families. Think on that – as I have. More than times I have to count, I spent holidays on duty – many of them having to listen to news and feature stories about how the day was a time to celebrate with family and loved ones, enjoying a lavish meal and relaxing; this when I was alone at midnight in a dark building, ripping teletype copy off the machine, re-shelving records in the library, and wondering if I would have time to eat a ham sandwich while I typed up spots for the reader book with one hand. That the Bushes held off on traveling out of town in order that their staffs could have a nice Christmas at home with their families, instead of jetting off for two or three weeks over the holidays, bag, baggage, staff and security to … someplace else; that was considerate, above and beyond.

I saw this as an acknowledgement that other people, especially those lower on the power totem pole – their private lives, their families and all, had purpose and value, to which decent folk in a position of power, ought to acknowledge. It was very old-school of the senior Bushes; and quite a contrast to the Obamas, who went swanning off to Hawaii for their Christmas holidays, and having a meet-n-greet for Marines and their families on Christmas morning. I suppose that the Marines and their families may have been flattered and thrilled to be so honored … but still. Christmas morning, having to be on hand hours before, the active duty troops likely having been up to all hours ensuring that everything was ship-shape. Spouses and small children taken from their family time and space on a holiday morning. My daughter still wonders how many of those appearing in the pictures taken of those various events were “volentold” : Their presence was required. For the photo-op. On Christmas morning.

I suppose that some of those present would have been OK, would have been there; because, President of the USA! Personal appearance, deigning to appear among the working stiffs, at the pointy end of the spear … but still. Christmas morning. Military – but can’t there be private time with the family carved out? So, I felt kind of sorry for the troops and their families, put on the spot during what should have been private, family, at-home time.

That led tangentially to another thought – about how certain politicians and activists, who make a big show about how much they care for humanity, or the downtrodden minorities, or women – or whomever – are in their personal sphere rude and abusive to their families, employees, or even just those casually encountered. Ted Kennedy, after all – was the darling of Establishment Feminists. In real life he was a drunken an abusive pig towards say, ordinary working-class women like waitresses. Yet someone like Mitt Romney – who likely hasn’t been impolite to a woman of any class in his entire adult life – had the same Feminists raining scorn and outright hatred down upon him. Even though these very same Establishment Feminists have been insisting for decades that the personal is political. How very fortunate that those who talk a good talk and garner credit for having the correct opinions and political stances in the abstract seem to be allowed all kinds of latitude in their real-life conduct … while those who are the epitome of grace and good manners in personal conduct are damned as racists and misogynist haters for not toeing the politically-correct line. Are we, at this late date, effectively calling out any of these hypocrites? Discuss as you will.

(The historic WWI Battle of Belleau Wood is a part of the background in A Half Dozen of Luna City … and for your edification – an essay on it, which will feature in the latest Luna City chronicle.)

1918 was not the year that the 19th century died; died in all of its boundless optimisms and earnest faith in advancement of the human condition. For Europe – cynical, cultured, hyper-superior old Europe – that could be said to happened two years earlier, along the Somme, at Verdun, in the tangled hell of barbed wire, poisoned gas and toxic, clay-like mud, the burnt ruins of the centuries-old Louvain university and it’s priceless library, destroyed by German ‘frightfulness’ tactics in the heat of their first offensive. Perhaps the 19th century died as early as 1915. It depended on which front, of course, and the combatants involved, still standing on their feet, but wavering like punch-drunken, exhausted pugilists. One may readily theorize that only blood-drenched enmity kept them propped up, swinging futilely at each other, while the lists of casualties from this or that offensive filled page after page of newsprint; all in miniscule typeface, each single name – so small in print, yet a horrific, tragic loss for a family and community hundreds of miles from the Front.
All this was different for Americans, of course; sitting on the sidelines, gravely concerned, yet publicly dedicated to neutrality, and firmly at first of the conviction that Europe’s affairs were not much of Americas’ business. But softly, slowly, slowly, softly – American sympathies swung towards the Allies, even though there were enough first- and second-generation Americans among German and Irish immigrants to have swung American public opinion among non-Anglo or Francophile elements towards maintaining a continued neutrality. After all, it was a war far, far, away, and nothing much to do with us … at first. But events conspired; the brutality of the Huns in Belgium (documented by American newspapers), unrestricted submarine warfare which extended to American shipping (and, inevitably, American casualties), and finally, the publication of the Zimmerman Telegram – and in the spring of 1917, President Wilson formally requested of Congress that a declaration of war on Imperial Germany be considered and voted upon. Said declaration was passed by an overwhelming margin, and by summer of that year, American troops were arriving in France – first in a trickle, then a flood.
The Belleau Wood was a forested tract thirty or so miles northeast of Paris; a hunting preserve in a stand of old-growth European forest, the refuge of wildlife, and for those whose favored recreation was hunting them. At the northern edge of the forest was two-story octagonal hunting lodge; built of stone, it was a place to shelter hunters for a night, during momentary bad weather, or a hearty meal, mid-hunt. Until the spring of 1918, it had been relatively untouched by a war which had turned acres and acres of French and Belgian farmland into muddy, barbed-wire entangled wastelands – many of which are still poisoned and unsafe, a hundred years after the end of that war. That forest tranquility ended when the expected German spring offensive slammed into the Allied lines – lines which now included the Americans – and punched through to the Marne River. The Germans had hoped to break through before the sufficient of the American Expeditionary Force arrived to make a difference in the wars’ outcome.
Late in May, German forces reached the Paris-Metz main road – and if they managed to break across the Marne and reach Paris, that one last throw of the dice would pay off for Germany; perhaps in victory, or perhaps in a negotiated and face-saving settlement with the equally exhausted and embittered French and British.

An experienced career soldier, General John J. “Black Jack” Pershing commanded the US. Expeditionary Force. He had rejected British and French demands that the Americans be parceled out piecemeal among Allied units, and essentially fight under the command of French and British officers. This would not do – likely Black Jack was polite yet forceful about it. (His nic came from him having commanded a troop of black cavalry early in his career as a young officer.) The AEF’s 3rd Division went into the line to counter the German advance at Chateau Thierry – the 3rd Division, which included a brigade of Marines, had initially been held in reserve – was brought forward in a hurry. The Marines were pretty much seen as a second-class by the Army brass, according to some accounts: good enough to do rear-guard and support duty, and only thrown into what was expected to be a quiet sector because every able-bodied American serviceman was needed, in the face of the German spring offensive. Checked by stiff resistance at Chateau Thierry, the German advance poured into the woods, where the 3rd Division had just arrived. Retreating French troops, exhausted from the fight to keep from being overrun, urged the Americans to do likewise, whereupon one of their officers is supposed to have riposted, “Retreat, Hell – we just got here!”
Of course, the newly-arrived American troops were keen as mustard; champing at the bit, as it were – especially the Marines, few of whom were of the career old breed. Many were recent volunteers. Up until that moment, the Marines had been a rather small, and somewhat specialized service; more inclined to security on board naval ships and at US embassies abroad, perhaps a small punitive expedition where American interests were concerned in South America and the Caribbean; a military constabulary, rather than hard-charging infantry. Still, it was a service that took pride in having been founded by an act of the Continental Congress in 1775, recruiting at the Tun Tavern in Philadelphia, beating the official establishment of the US Army by more than a decade. (Yes, there was a Continental Army during the Revolution, but it was more like state militias seconded for service in the colonies’ united cause. The US Army wasn’t quote-unquote officially established until the 1780s. Upon this kind of minutia are friendly service rivalries built.)

Throughout the month of June 1918, the Marines fought with bitter tenacity through the deathly woods; sharpshooting at first, with deadly effect, and eventually to point-blank, then with bayonet, knives, and hand-to-hand. They kept the Germans from moving out of the wood, and then fought them back, yard by yard, trench by trench. The trees in the forest, the boulders at their feet were shattered by artillery and machine-gun fire. The stench from the bodies of the dead – too many to bury, under the existing conditions in the early summer heat – revolted the living to an unimaginable degree. And still – they went on, clawing back the wood to Allied control. More Marines were killed in that single month than had been killed in action since their founding in 1775. The Corps would not face another butcher’s bill to equal it until the taking of Tarawa, a quarter of a century later, and half the world away. It was a special kind of hell, this fight in a 200-acre French woodland, fought by relatively untried young troops, motivated by pride in service, by devotion to comrades, and by the leadership – which in many instances devolved onto NCOs, and even individual Marines, like Sergeant Dan Daly, a scrappy Irish-American career Marine (who had been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor – twice, for actions in the Boxer Rebellion, and then again in Haiti). In legend he is said to have rallied the troops with a shout of “For Chrissake, men, come on; do you want to live forever?!” (Or similar phrasing. The war correspondent Floyd Gibbons later wrote that he had heard a similar expression shouted by a senior NCO, and the legend attached itself to Dan Daly.)
In the end, the Germans were driven from the woods, at a horrific cost; 10,000 casualties among the Marines, including nearly 2,000 dead. There is no definitive record of German dead, although there were around 1,600 Germans taken prisoner. But the Marines had clawed back the deathly woods, blunted the last-ditch German offensive … and in November of that year, Germany threw in the towel. By agreement, it all came to a temporary end on the eleventh hour, the eleventh day, the eleventh month. Such were the enmities and resulting bitterness that the armistice held only for the time that it took for a baby boy born in that year to grow up and serve in his turn. The shattered forest was christened anew after the battle; since then it is called the Wood of the Marine Brigade and an adjunct to a American war cemetery. The American 4th Brigade was recognized by the French government by the award of a military honor, the Croix de Guerre. To this day, active-duty Marines serving in the 5th and 6th Marine Regiments are authorized to wear the French fourragere – an elaborate garnishment of looped and braided cords – on their left shoulder as part of their dress uniform, in honor of that unit’s service in the Deathly Wood, a hundred years ago. And to this day, successfully completing Marine Corps basic training means completing the “Crucible” – a 54-hour marathon march on short rations and little sleep, featuring grueling marches, obstacle course and team-driven combat-problem-solving exercise – some of which was drawn on the experience of the fighting in the deathly woods, a hundred years ago.

11. November 2015 · Comments Off on Veteran’s Day in Luna City · Categories: Ain't That America?, Devil Dogs, Literary Good Stuff, Local, Luna, Military

(This is another short essay about the mostly mythical South Texas town of Luna City … which Blondie and I have created together. We have a website for Luna City — here, and the first book about it is upon Amazon, here. Official release date is November 12. This is my tenth book in ten years. Yay, me! And WHERE has the time gone?)

Luna City is well-equipped with military veterans, as are many small towns in fly-over country – especially the old South. The draft is only somewhat responsible for this. After all, it was ended formally more than four decades past. But the habit and tradition of volunteering for military service continues down to this very day, with the result that veterans of various services and eras are thick on the ground in Luna City – while a good few continue as reservists. There are not very many pensioned retirees, though; Clovis Walcott is one of those few, having made a solid career in the Army in the Corps of Engineers, and then in the same capacity as a Reservist. But he is the exception; mostly, Lunaites have served a single hitch, or for the duration of a wartime mobilization. They come home, pick up those threads of the life they put aside, or weave together the tapestry of a new one. What they did when they were in the military most usually lies lightly on them, sometimes only as skin-deep as a tattoo … and sometimes as deep as a scar.
The oldest veterans among present-day Lunaites are from the Big One – World War Two, although that number has diminished to a handful in recent years. Doc Wyler, who served in the Army Air Corps is the most notable representative of that cohort. Miss Letty’s late brother Douglas McAllister, the eminent historian, was also in the Army Air Corps, and Miss Letty herself served in the European theater as a Red Cross volunteer. The greater portion of the Luna City VFW post, though, are of Vietnam and Vietnam-era veterans, with a younger cohort – including Joe Vaughn and Chris Mayall – having served in various capacities in more recent operations in the Middle East.
There is not much need in Luna City for very elaborate observances of Veteran’s Day; flowers and wreaths appear on the steps of the pale obelisk in Town Square which is the war memorial. The Abernathys’ display window has a pair of American flags with the staffs crossed, over a large vase of red, white, and blue artificial flowers, and a fan of those magnets shaped like loops of yellow ribbon with various patriotic and veteran-supporting mottoes on them. The notice boards outside of the various churches make respectful note of the day … but in the main, the most notable civic event marking the eleventh day of the eleventh month is the late afternoon BBQ at the VFW post. This is more of an open pot-luck; the VFW members pass the hat for the purchase of brisket, pork roasts, sausages and chicken quarters … and everyone else brings salads, bread, chips, and relishes. The bar has been well-stocked with beer and soft drinks for weeks. The weather is usually mild – neither hot or cold, although rain has threatened in some years – so the party spills out from the clubhouse, out onto the paved patio under the trees which line the riverbank. The air is rich with the good smells of roasting meats slathered with the spicy sauce provided by Pryor’s Good Meats BBQ. The veterans and their families nibble on a bit of this and that, as they reminisce and gossip. Sometimes someone works up an impromptu flag football game, played on the mown grass out in back of the Tip Top which sometimes serves as an overflow parking lot during Founder’s Day, six weeks before.
The only thing which might strike a casual visitor as curious is that table set up in the corner with a plate and silverware for one, a beer mug empty and turned upside down, even as unopened bottles of beer accumulate during the afternoon and evening. There is a small square of black fabric draping this table, which is centered underneath the POW/MIA banner which hangs on the wall – the table set for those who are not able to return to Luna City for the Veteran’s Day BBQ at the VFW. Their friends buy them a beer, though. By unspoken understanding, the money paid for those beers goes into a gallon glass jar which once contained pickle relish … and at the end of the evening the cans and bottles lined up on the black-draped table are put back into the storeroom. The day after the BBQ, the money in the pickle relish jar is forwarded to a military charity which sends comforts to those troops deployed overseas.
And that is Veteran’s Day in Luna City.

31. May 2015 · Comments Off on Phoenix Rising · Categories: Ain't That America?, Devil Dogs, Fun With Islam · Tags:

So a “Draw Mohammed” event staged Friday in front of the Phoenix mosque which was attended by the two semi-literate Muslims who tried to attack the “Draw Mohammed” in Garland, Texas, a few weeks ago drew a large and rowdy crowd of armed motorcycling enthusiasts in full biker regalia and light arms. No question at all that some of the gentlemen in involved are rude, crude, provocative and pretty un-politically correct (scroll down the pictures posted on this story for proof positive) … but dammit didn’t it look like they were having fun, in making a full-throated in-your-face defense of freedom of speech as defined in the first amendment. And one without the monstrously weasel-wording “but” inserted after the statement “Well, yes, I believe in free speech…” This was incredibly refreshing after the temporizing along those lines from the usual proud defenders of the freedom to speak, write, draw, broadcast and otherwise propagate potentially offensive material in the wake of the Garland contest and shoot-out.

Our national media, both print and broadcast paid lip-service to the concept, but generally blacked out the artistic representations of ol’ Mo and chided Pamela Geller for provoking an adverse reaction, usually with the hackneyed simile of shouting fire in a crowded theater, or of classifying her event and many of her public statements as something called ‘hate speech. Our entertainment elite, for the most part has already preemptively surrendered. Academia has also surrendered and abased themselves when it comes to any voicing of an opinion not already agreed to by most everyone in their tight little academic strongholds, most of our elected officials are already cringing and running for cover once the mighty accusation of being that unclean creature – an islamophobe (oh, the horror, the horror!) is unsheathed by the oily activists of CAIR. The slightly permanently tanned golfer in chief of these United States has been distinguished of late by his solicitous and tender care of Muslim sensibilities worldwide while simultaneously blaming the rise of ISIS/ISIL/Daesh/Bearded-Fanatics-of-the-Islamic-Persuasion who are raping, looting and exploding their way across Syria and Iraq, and making an impression in North and Central Africa on his predecessor in office. So having someone – anyone – actually self-organizing and make an unequivocal gesture unadorned by the temporizing “but” is kind of refreshing.

Yes indeed, it is a pure relief to see public a public demonstration of this kind – an in your face, fiercely unapologetic demonstration, only somewhat fazed by death threats from sub-literate Twitter account-holders, but not the least discouraged by the distain of those who represent themselves to be their social bettors. Being polite has not made the point that freedom of thought is an inalienable one, in the eyes of those of us raised in the American tradition. Courtesy in this respect to the Muslim world generally has not been reciprocated in any meaningful way. Indeed, the threats have become ever more menacing, and the fate of the two would-be jihadis in Garland demonstrate that yes, some are willing to back words with deeds, however unsuccessfully. So, when all else has failed, what choice to us is left but to go profane, outrageous, un-nuanced and unencumbered by the fatal footnote of “but”? It seems as if the next round of cowboys and jihadis is about to become a home game, if it hasn’t already begun.

(Crossposted at www.chicagoboyz.net)

22. May 2013 · Comments Off on A Pictoral Diversion · Categories: Devil Dogs, Politics

Obama-the-Marines-and-an-umbrellaAs a palate cleanser, for those who viewed the picture at this post … I present this, courtesy of Bookworm, who found it on Facebook. (Pouts prettily.) I never find good stuff on Facebook.

23. October 2012 · Comments Off on After Math · Categories: Devil Dogs, Media Matters Not, Military, Politics, Rant, Veteran's Affairs, World

I own to being vaguely disappointed with our man Mittens’ performance in last night’s debate, as I had cherished fond hopes that Mitt Romney would mop the floor with the Obamster, and then clean up those little spills and smudges remaining with the hapless moderator, but then I am a writer and frustrated dramatist. I want the spectacular scene, dammit … but perhaps as other commenters have pointed out, Mittens was playing the long, cool game, and just letting the Obamster have enough rope to hang himself with. Lord knows, his crack about bayonets and horses, and about ships that have aircraft land on them and other ships that go below the surface of the ocean may have just finally and ultimately annoyed veterans and service members. As has been commented in other place, submarines are called boats … ships that go below the surface of the ocean are called ‘sunk’… anyway, my daughter very well recalls being issued a bayonet as a member of the Marine Corps. And milblogger Donald Sensing ran the historical numbers, comparing the present military and that of 1916 vis a vis bayonet possession. Oopsy – the US military does in fact have more bayonets now, than in 1916. As for horses … well, we probably do have fewer horses in inventory now than in 1916. Two out of three ain’t bad.

It’s a moot point as far as Blondie and I are concerned, as we went to vote at the early-voting polling place around midday on Monday, which was the first day of early voting in Texas. Any sort of malevolent October Surprise intended to depress voter turnout and Republican Party spirits on November 6th had better be uncorked real soon if it is to have any effect. The parking lot of the library was jammed, and the line to get into the room set up as the polling place wound halfway through the main library. It moved fast, though. The volunteers were on-point and very, very busy. It had been so, all morning long. Blondie said, “If it’s this way now, how bad is it going to be on Election Day?”

Two weeks today … fourteen more days. I would hate to be proved embarrassingly wrong about all this, especially if I were being paid big bucks to be a mainstream media prognosticator – but I am not. I will go far enough to venture that I do sense a turning of the tide, in favor of Romney/Ryan, and the Tea Party Libertarian/Conservatives generally. I don’t think I am being deluded by wishful thinking, or through being generally in a libertarian/conservative information bubble … or in Texas, which constitutes pretty much the same thing. In the whole of my neighborhood, there are only five or six Obama-Biden yard signs, another seven or eight signs for a Lloyd Doggett, a long-time Democrat Party senatorial candidate who apparently had to go district-shopping after being re-districted. Against that – twenty or more Romney-Ryan signs, and one or two more spotted every day. My gut-feeling is that Obama now has the stink of fear and desperation on him, now that he has a real-life record, rather than just soaring oratory and the slavish devotion of the mainstream media and the Hollywood establishment. There’s only so much that can be covered up, plastered over and excused when voters have their own experience to consult.

Really – who are you going to believe; Chris Matthews, and Eva Longoria, or the evidence of your lying eyes?

It seems that there is a bit of bother on in military circles … or rather in the media circles which concern themselves with the conduct of the military … going on with regard to the Marines who were recorded some years ago pissing upon the bodies of some dead Taliban fighters.

The Taliban, like other gentlemen of similar Islamic persuasion in prosperous and peace-loving locations like Somalia, Chechnya and Iran are, of course, known the world over for their upright moral principles. They are famous for this, as well as their strict adherence to the practices of the Geneva Convention when it comes to captured military and interned civilians like Daniel Pearl, and their gentle and respectful treatment of female and child noncombatants. It seems like every other day or so, the Afghan and Pak Taliban are burning down another school, or throwing acid into the face of another woman whose appreciation of the charms of an individual enthusiast for the Religion of Peace is somewhat lacking.

Gosh, I just don’t know what got into our Marines. I clearly recall seeing WWII-era pictures of the aftermath of fighting in the Pacific, where a truck or half-track hood was adorned with a Japanese skull. Now, that was serious desecration. This? I am reliably informed that there are pervs who will pay good money to be pissed on by a professional. Well, the perv is usually alive and wearing a codpiece, high-heels and a ball-gag, but that’s a small detail.

Anyway – Bad Marines. Don’t let us catch you doing this ever again, or it’s no dessert for you for a week. And if you do, don’t take pictures of it for pete’s sake. And if you do take pictures for you and your buddies to snicker over … don’t show them off in public for about twenty years.

If, on the other hand, you want to piss all over Michael Moore, or that creep at the Daily Kos, or Bill Ayers or someone like that – feel free. Claim they were on fire, and you just wanted to do your duty as a good citizen.

22. May 2011 · Comments Off on May Monday Morning Miscellany · Categories: Ain't That America?, Devil Dogs, General, Good God, History, Israel & Palestine, Politics, Rant, World

Paid work is piling up, and neither myself, my creditors or my employers were raptured on Saturday, so . . . hey, buckle down to it and provide that good bloggy ice cream. Top o’ Sgt. Mom’s list of stuff to blog about – the discovery that the Pima County Sheriffs department is about as good at doing no-knock SWAT raids on ordinary citizens as they are when it comes to protecting local politicians doing a meet’n’greet with constituents from an obvious and frequently offending nutcase like Jared Loughner. Which is to say – not very good at all, which accounts for the stonewalling from Sheriff Dupnik’s department. SWAT . . . I’ve always been told it was an acronym for Special Weapons And Tactics. It this case “Special” is more like “Special Ed.” The fact that all this went down early in May and two weeks later, there is nothing much about what the SWAT team was after, or found in the Guerena house only reinforces my suspicion that they had the wrong damn address. It’s not the crime, Sheriff Dupnik – it’s the cover-up.

On a cheerier note, the gourmet foodie suppliers Harry and David are encouraging customers to donate quantities of their Moose Munch chocolate bars to the troops – more here. Note that if you go to the linked Facebook page, they will provide another Moose Munch bar for every ‘favoriting’ of that page. I like Harry and David, by the way. Their fruit basket assortments are to die for.

In a satirical response to President Obama’s speech demanding that Israel return to its’ 1967 borders – Benjamin Netanyahu demanded that the United States return to it’s 1847 borders. The sarcasm, it burns. Finally, courtesy of Weasel Zippers – pictorial comparison of the commando and the hipster – comment is superfluous.

We were off to Fredericksburg on Monday; Fredericksburg, Texas – a medium-sized town large enough to contain two HEB supermarkets, a Walmart, four RV parks and two museums, one of which[ the National Museum of the Pacific War – draws considerable tourist interest and a marvelous kitchenware shop which might very well be the best one in the state of Texas. (It certainly makes Williams  Sonoma look pretty feeble in comparison.) The town has begun to develop a little bit of suburban sprawl, but not excessively so. Most of the town is arranged along the original east-west axis of streets laid out by German immigrant surveyors in the mid-1840s, along a rise of land cradled between two creeks which fed into the Pedernales River. In a hundred and sixty years since then, houses and gardens spilled over Baron’s Creek and Town Creek. Log and fachwork houses were soon replaced by tall L-shaped houses of local stone, trimmed with modest amounts of Victorian fretwork lace, or frame and brick bungalows from every decade since. Main Street – which on either side of town turns into US Highway 290 – is still the main thoroughfare. A good few blocks of Main Street are lined with classic 19th century store-front buildings, or new construction built to match, storefronts with porches which overhang the sidewalk, and adorned with tubs of flowers and hanging baskets, with shops and restaurants and wine-tasting rooms catering to a substantial tourist trade. Fredericksburg is a lively place; and I have been visiting there frequently since I came to live in Texas.

I actually have a curious relationship with the place, having written a series of three historical novels about how it came to be founded and settled. Thanks to intensive research which involved reading practically every available scrap of nonfiction about the Hill Country and Fredericksburg written by historians and memoirists alike, I am in the curious position of knowing Fredericksburg at least as well as many long-time residents with a bent for local history do, and holding my own in discussions of such minutia as to how many people were killed in cold blood on Main Street. (Two, for those who count such things. It happened during the Civil War.) And for another, of having a mental map of 19th-century Fredericksburg laid over the present-day town, which makes for a slightly schizophrenic experience when I walk around the older parts. Eventually, I may have to do a sort of walking guide to significant locations, since so many readers have asked me exactly where did such-and-such an event take place, or where was Vati’s house on Market Square, and where in the valley of the Upper Guadalupe was the Becker ranch house?

Mike, the husband of one of Monday’s book-club members is a fan of the Trilogy, and although he couldn’t come to the meeting (being at work and all) he still wanted to meet me. He had actually contacted me through Facebook a couple of months ago, for a series of searching questions about where I had gotten some of the street names that I had used in the Trilogy; many of them are not the present-day names, but are what the original surveyors of Fredericksburg had laid out. I deduced that being stubborn and set in their ways, the old German residents would have gone on using those names, rather than the newer ones. After all,  when I grew up in LA, there were still old-timers who insisted on referring to MacArthur Park as Westlake Park, even though the name had been changed decades ago. So, the book club organizer gave me Mike’s work number at the Nimitz Foundation (which runs the Museum of the Pacific War) and said we should call and his assistant would get us on the schedule for that afternoon. It was my understanding that this gentleman was a retired general; OK, I thought – eh, another general, met ’em by the bag-full . . . matter of fact, there was a general even carried my B-4 bag, once –  (long story) but anyway, we had a block of time to meet Mike at his office and a lovely discussion we were having, too; he was full of questions over how much research I had done, and terribly complimentary on how well woven into the story.

Mike thought ever so highly about how I had made C.H. Nimitz, the grandfather of Admiral Chester Nimitz into such a strong and engaging character; although we had a discussion over how devoted a Confederate that C.H. Nimitz really was – probably not so much a Unionist as I made him seem to be, but I argued that C.H. was probably a lot more loyal to his local friends and community than he was to the Confederacy; so, nice discussion over that. It seems that the Mike was born and grew up in the area. He and his wife (who was German-born) had read the Trilogy, and loved it very much; they were even recommending it to everyone, and giving sets of it as presents. Well, that is way cool! I’m in regular touch with three or four fans doing just that; talking it up to friends, and giving copies as gifts. Local history buffs, or they know the Hill Country very well, they can’t wait to tell their friends about it; as Blondie says, I am building my fan base. So I had a question-packed half hour and a bit; me, answering the questions mostly, and Blondie backing me up. At the end of it as we were leaving, Blondie casually asked about a few relics on the sideboard, under an old photograph of C.H. Nimitz and Chester Nimitz as a very young junior officer; a very battered pair of glasses, and a covered Japanese rice bowl: they came from the tunnels on Iwo Jima. Blondie said. “Oh?” and raised her eyebrows. Yes, Mike had been allowed into the old Japanese tunnels; Rank hath it’s privileges – and Iwo is a shrine to Marines, after all.

After the book-club meeting – two hours, of talk and questions, and hardly a chance to nibble any of the traditional German finger-foods, an hour-long drive home, which seemed much longer. I fired up the computer and did a google-search, and found out the very coolest part. (Blondie had a suspicion, of course; being a Marine herself.) Mike was not just any general, but a Marine general, and commandant of the Marine Corps. How cool is that? One of my biggest fans is the former commandant of Marines, General Michael Hagee.

I’m actually kind of glad I didn’t know that, going in -“ I think we both would have been at least a little bit intimidated.

10. November 2009 · Comments Off on In Honor of the USMC Birthday – Marine Rules for Gunfights · Categories: Ain't That America?, Devil Dogs, General, History, Military

1. Bring a gun. Preferably two guns. Bring all of your friends who have guns.
2. Anything worth shooting is worth shooting twice. Ammo is cheap. Life is expensive.
3. Only hits count. The only thing worse than a miss is a slow miss.
4. Move away from your attacker. Distance is your friend. (Lateral and diagonal movement are preferred.)
5. If you can choose what to bring to a gunfight, bring a long gun and a friend with a long gun.
6. In ten years nobody will remember the details of caliber or tactics. They will only remember who lived.
7. If you are not shooting, you should be communicating, reloading, and running.
8. Use a gun that works EVERY TIME. “All skill is in vain when an angel pisses in the flintlock of your musket.”
9. Someday someone may kill you with your own gun, but they should have to beat you to death with it because it is empty.
10. Always cheat; always win. The only unfair fight is the one you lose.
11. Have a plan.
12. Have a back-up plan, because the first one won’t work.
13. Use cover or concealment as much as possible.
14. Flank your adversary when possible and always protect yours.
15. Never drop your guard.
16. Always tactical load and threat scan 360 degrees.
17. Watch their hands. Hands kill. (In God we trust…everyone else keep your hands where I can see them).
18. Decide to be aggressive ENOUGH, quickly ENOUGH…hesitation kills.
19. The faster you finish the fight, the less injured you will get.
20. Be polite. Be professional. And have a plan to kill everyone you meet.
21. Be courteous to everyone, friendly to no one.
22. Your number one option for Personal Security is a lifelong commitment to avoidance, deterrence, and de-escalation.
23. Do not attend a gunfight with a handgun the caliber of which does not start with a “4.”

Happy Birthday, Devil-Dogs! And as a bonus – Colonel Jessup’s speech!

10. November 2008 · Comments Off on Happy Birthday Devil Dogs · Categories: Devil Dogs

To Blondie and all other Marines, a very happy 233rd Birthday.  I had the honor of serving in three Joint HQ billets and whenever I worked for a Marine or had Marines working for me it was always a most positive experience.  You always know where you stand when you’re working for a Marine and when you give a Marine a task, you’d better let them know when they can quit or they’ll work all night.