A Modern Woman's Perspective On The Kingdom of God on Earth

Showing posts with label Patriotism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Patriotism. Show all posts

May 25, 2015

Duty, Honor, Country

     Today is the official celebration of Memorial Day, the day that our country honors those men and women who have died in the service of our country.  It is also a day that we honor all veterans who have selflessly contributed to the safety and protection of our nation.
     The Bible is full of stories of warriors ... Samson, David and Joshua are memorialized as valiant protectors of their people.  And from Isaac Davis, the first officer to be killed in the American Revolutionary War to Nathan Chapman, the first American soldier to be killed in combat in the war in Afghanistan, this nation has seen no shortage of men and women who are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for the ideals this country stands for.
     As the daughter of a Navy veteran from the Greatest Generation of WWII, I have always been proud of our U.S. military.  As I grew older, I can remember the first time that the undeserved criticism was launched against our Vietnam Veterans.  So, on this celebrated day, I would like to tell you the story of one special soldier from that era.
     You may be unfamiliar with his name and his story, and this post might appear a little longer than usual.  But I promise you it will be worth your while to learn about him.  His name is Roy Benavidez, and he received the Congressional Medal of Honor from President Ronald Reagan in 1981.  Roy's story is not only remarkable for what he accomplished on the battlefield, but for what he accomplished in his life.
     He was born in South Texas, near where I live today; the son of a sharecropper who was orphaned at the age of 10, and who only received a 7th grade education.  But this is no sad story of missed opportunities and potential.  It is a miraculous story of perseverance and commitment that would serve him in unforgettable circumstances.  When President Reagan reflected on his heroism in battle, he remarked, "If this was a movie script, they would never believe it."
     But I want you to hear the story of Master Sergeant Roy P. Benavidez, and read the official recognition from President Ronald Reagan:  The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, March 3, 1863, has awarded in the name of the Congress the Medal of Honor to Master Sergeant Roy P. Benavidez, United States Army, Retired for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.  (Here is the story of his gallantry and bravery):

On May 2, 1968, Master Sergeant (then Staff Sergeant) Roy P. Benavidez distinguished himself by a series of daring and extremely valorous actions while assigned to Detachment B-56, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces, Republic of Vietnam. On the morning of May 2, 1968, a 12-man Special Forces Reconnaissance Team was inserted by helicopters in a dense jungle area west of Loc Ninh, Vietnam to gather intelligence information about confirmed large-scale enemy activity. This area was controlled and routinely patrolled by the North Vietnamese Army. After a short period of time on the ground, the team met heavy enemy resistance, and requested emergency extraction. Three helicopters attempted extraction, but were unable to land due to intense enemy small arms and antiaircraft fire. Sergeant Benavidez was at the Forward Operating Base in Loc Ninh monitoring the operation by radio when these helicopters returned to off-load wounded crew members and to assess aircraft damage. Sergeant Benavidez voluntarily boarded a returning aircraft to assist in another extraction attempt. Realizing that all the team members were either dead or wounded and unable to move to the pickup zone, he directed the aircraft to a nearby clearing where he jumped from the hovering helicopter, and ran approximately 75 meters under withering small arms fire to the crippled team. Prior to reaching the team's position, he was wounded in his right leg, face, and head. Despite these painful injuries, he took charge, repositioning the team members and directing their fire to facilitate the landing of an extraction aircraft, and the loading of wounded and dead team members. He then threw smoke cannisters to direct the aircraft to the team's position. Despite his severe wounds and under intense enemy fire, he carried and dragged half of the wounded team members to the awaiting aircraft. He then provided protective fire by running alongside the aircraft as it moved to pick up the remaining team members. As the enemy's fire intensified, he hurried to recover the body and the classified documents on the dead team leader. When he reached the team leader's body, Sergeant Benavidez was severely wounded by small arms fire in the abdomen and grenade fragments in his back. At nearly the same moment, the aircraft pilot was mortally wounded, and his helicopter crashed. Although in extremely critical condition due to his multiple wounds, Sergeant Benavidez secured the classified documents and made his way back to the wreckage, where he aided the wounded out of the overturned aircraft, and gathered the stunned survivors into a defensive perimeter. Under increasing enemy automatic weapons and grenade fire, he moved around the perimeter distributing water and ammunition to his weary men, reinstilling in them a will to live and fight. Facing a build-up of enemy opposition with a beleagured team, Sergeant Benavidez mustered his strength, and began calling in tactical air strikes and directing the fire from supporting gunships, to suppress the enemy's fire and so permit another extraction attempt. He was wounded again in his thigh by small arms fire while administering first aid to a wounded team member just before another extraction helicopter was able to land. His indomitable spirit kept him going as he began to ferry his comrades to the craft. On his second trip with the wounded, he was clubbed from behind by an enemy soldier. In the ensuing hand-to-hand combat, he sustained additional wounds to his head and arms before killing his adversary. He then continued under devastating fire to carry the wounded to the helicopter. Upon reaching the aircraft, he spotted and killed two enemy soldiers who were rushing the craft from an angle that prevented the aircraft door gunner from firing upon them. With little strength remaining, he made one last trip to the perimeter to ensure that all classified material had been collected or destroyed, and to bring in the remaining wounded. Only then, in extremely serious condition from numerous wounds and loss of blood, did he allow himself to be pulled into the extraction aircraft. Sergeant Benavidez' gallant choice to join voluntarily his comrades who were in critical straits, to expose himself constantly to withering enemy fire, and his refusal to be stopped despite numerous severe wounds, saved the lives of at least eight men. His fearless personal leadership, tenacious devotion to duty, and extremely valorous actions in the face of overwhelming odds were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service, and reflect the utmost credit on him and the United States Army.

     President Reagan then finished reading the citation, and turned to speak to MSG Benavidez:  "Sergeant Benavidez, a nation grateful to you, and to all your comrades living and dead, awards you its highest symbol of gratitude for service above and beyond the call of duty, the Congressional Medal of Honor."

     But it is the words of the man himself, that best exemplify the duty and commitment that our U.S. military feels towards their comrades.  Here is a speech given by MSG Benavidez, himself, in 1991:

     I come from a little town called Cuero, Texas.  After the death of my mother and father at an early age, my brother and I were adopted by an aunt and uncle, and we moved to El Campo, TX, about an hour and a half southwest of Houston.  I was raised there, and went to school there.  I worked at odd jobs there; I shined shoes, sold newspapers, picked cotton.  And like a fool, I dropped out of school and ran away from home.  I’m not proud of that.
     I needed to learn a skill.  I needed an education.  My adopted father would tell me, “Son, an education and a diploma are the keys to success. Bad habits and bad company will ruin you.”
     I was too old to go back to school, and didn’t want to return there, so I joined the Texas National Guard.  And I liked what I saw in men in uniform.  I qualified to join the regular Army, and was accepted, where I heard about Airborne.  I heard about that extra pay you get for jumping out of airplanes (audience laughter), so I qualified to go to jump school at Fort Benning, Georgia, but the durn recruiters never told me what the training was like.  For every mistake you make, you do push-ups.  And I can honestly tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that I’m one of the guys who helped put Georgia into South Carolina, doing push-ups.
     Well, I finished my training and got assigned to a well-known unit at Fort Bragg, NC, 82nd Airborne Division.  After awhile, I heard about the Special Forces … you know them as the Green Berets.  I qualified.  We in the Special Forces are trained to operate deep behind enemy lines, living on little or no support at all.  We were trained in 5 specialties; I am trained in three.  I’m trained in Operations and Intelligence, where I learned oceanography, meteorology, photography; I’m an interrogator and I’m a linguist.  I’m trained in light and heavy weapons, and cross-trained schematics.
     I’ve been all over the world:  the Far East, Europe, South and Central America, and two tours in Viet Nam.  I was assigned to Berlin, and I declared one time that I was the only Hispanic American who could speak German with a southern accent…
     In 1965, I was sent to Viet Nam as an advisor to a Vietnamese infantry unit.  After a short period of time there, I stepped on a mine.  I woke up in the Philippine Islands.  I was paralyzed from the waist down.  I was declared to never walk again.  I was transferred to Fort Sam Houston in Texas.  The doctors were initiating my medical discharge papers, but at night, I would slip out of bed and crawl to a wall, using my elbows and my chin.  My back would be killing me and I would be crying, but I’d get to the wall and set myself against the wall, and I’d back myself up against the wall and I’d stand there.  Like Kaw-Liga, the Indian.  I’d stand there and move my toes, right and left, right and left – every single chance I got.  I wanted to walk; I wanted to go back to Viet Nam because of what the news media was saying about us; that our presence wasn’t needed there; and they were burning the flag.  And I saw a lot of other patients coming back, with limbs missing … I wanted to go back; I was determined.  Because I remembered what I was taught in jump school.  That old Master Sergeant would tell me, “Benavidez, quitters never win; and winners never quit.  What are you?” … I’d say, “I’m a winner.”
     And I remembered my Special Forces training and one of the training missions I was on.  I remember that my leader would tell me, “Face [it].  Determination.  Determination and Positive Attitude will carry you further than Ability.  You can do it, Benavidez…   You can do it.”  I never forgot those words.
     So there I was.  At night, I’d slip out of bed; the nurses would catch me sometimes and chew me out.  They would give me a sleeping pill to put me asleep.  They would tell the doctors in the morning.  But I was determined to walk.
     Nine months later, here comes my medical discharge papers.  And I told the doctor, “Doctor, look what I can do.”  He said, “Sergeant, I’m sorry.  Even if you can stand up, you’ll never be able to walk.”  I jumped out of bed, and I stood up right before him; my back was aching, I was crying, and I moved just a little bit.  The doctor said, “Benavidez, if you walk out of this room, I’ll tear your papers up.”  I walked out of that ward… I walked out with a limp and went back to Fort Bragg, NC and began running five or ten miles a day; doing 50 to 100 push-ups; and I made three parachute jumps in one day.  I was physically and mentally ready to go back to Viet Nam.  
     My orders were to go to Central America as an Advisor, but as a non-commissioned officer and knowing some of the good officers in the right places (he said with a smile), my orders were diverted, and I went back to Viet Nam in 1968.
     In the latter part of April, my buddy and I began to gather intelligence information behind enemy lines.  After two days on the ground, my buddy was shot in the eye, the back, and the legs.  Our mission was complete, but I didn’t want to leave my buddy behind.  I called for an extraction helicopter to come and get us out.  They dropped a McGuire line … nothing more than a rope … and we hooked on.  As they lifted us up, those two ropes began twisting and rubbing (nylon ropes will burn).  As we ascended above the canopy of the jungle, those ropes were completely entwined and burning.  As we got close to the helicopter, the soldier sitting in the safety seat saw that those ropes were burning, and lowered himself outside that helicopter and separated those ropes.  That’s Dedication … I will never forget that man.  The enemy was still firing at us, but they never shot us.  
     We landed at a safe spot, and my buddy was taken to the hospital, where he expired a short time later.  I was in another staging area, waiting for assignment, when I heard on the radio something like a popcorn machine.  Then I heard a voice … “Get us outta here!  Get us outta here!  Come get us quick!  ASAP!”  
     I asked the radio operator, “Who are those [guys]?”  He said, “I don’t know.  They haven’t given us a call sign.”  Then I saw some helicopter pilots running to the flight line; scrambling.  I ran right behind them.  We saw a helicopter coming in, and the door gunner was slumped over his weapon.  When the helicopter landed, I unstrapped the door gunner… Michael Craig, 19 years old.  I cradled him in my arms, and his last words were, “My God, my mother and father.”  
     I asked the pilot, “Who are the people on the ground?”  He said, “Hey, it’s that non-commissioned officer that saved your life the other day.  Remember?”  I said, “Leroy Wright”.  Leroy always got picked for top-secret assignments … it was an instant reaction.  I saw a bag of medical supplies, picked it up and went over to my helicopter … and they told me, “You can’t go in there; it’s too hot.”  Little did I know that I was going to spend six hours in hell.  
You heard [President Reagan] read the citation of how I earned the Congressional Medal of Honor.  But he didn’t tell you all that I went through when I engaged in the hand-to-hand combat.  I was hit in the mouth with the butt of the weapon; my jaws were locked.  After my last return to the helicopter, when I was boarded on … I was holding my intestines in my hand.  
     We lifted up.  The helicopter was overloaded; blood was flowing on both sides of the helicopter.  When we landed at our staging area, and started unloading and identifying the dead bodies, they found that I had loaded three dead enemy soldiers in that helicopter … I didn’t want to leave anybody behind (to audience laughter and applause).  My mission was to recover the classified material, and anybody [who] had it – he was on the helicopter.  
     They laid the enemy soldiers on the side, and since I look kind of oriental, they laid me alongside them.  They were inserting the dead into body bags, and I can remember my feet being lifted into a body bag and the sound of that zipper coming up, and I was thinking, “Oh, my God, No! No!”  
     My eyes were shut because I had blood all over my face, which had dried.  And I couldn’t talk because my jaws were locked.  One of my buddies was jumping up and down, doing the Mexican hat dance, and shouting, “That’s Roy!  That’s Roy Benavidez!”  And the doctor said, “I’m sorry, there’s nothing I can do for him.”  And that zipper kept coming up!
     I was trying to wiggle around in my own blood, and finally, Jerry made that doctor feel for my heartbeat.  When I felt that hand on my chest, I made the luckiest shot I ever made in my life … I spit in that doctor’s face.  So the doctor said, “I think he’ll make it.”
     I was cleaned up, and put on the helicopter; alongside one of my buddies that I had saved.  We got airborne, and I just said, “Hold on buddy; just hold on.  We’re going to get some medical attention.”  And his grip tightened up on me … and then he let go.
     I said, “Oh, God, why do you put me through this test?  Why?  You have me get these men out, and save that material, and now You take them away from me.  Why?”  And I was crying and moving around so much that the co-pilot thought I was gasping for air.  So he gets out of his seat and grabs his bayonet and is going to do a tracheotomy on me, and I’m about to kick him out of the helicopter … that was just too much for one day!
     We landed at the hospital, and I was wheeled into the operating room.  As I was being lifted to the operating table, I saw this nurse on her hands and knees crying; yelling and asking God, “Why do you do this to these men?  Why?”  I turned just a little bit to my left, and I saw on the other operating table a man who had both legs and both arms missing.  I passed out.  
     I woke up in a ward.  One of my buddies was laying next to me who was so bandaged up, we couldn’t talk.  We used to wiggle our toes to make sure we were still alive.  After a short while, my buddy was transferred from there, and I thought he had died.  I was transferred to Japan. In the medevac plane that I was flying in, we lost two men.  And I remember this nurse kept yelling at me, “Benavidez, you’re not going to die on me.  I’m going to pinch you every time you close your eyes.”
     When I got to Japan and they rolled me into the operating room, the doctor looked at me, and said, “What in the world happened to you?”  I had red and blue spots all over me, and I told him, “That lady kept pinching me up there”.  
     I went back to Fort Sam Houston and I stayed in that hospital for almost a year. I continued with my career and then I was awarded the Congressional Medal.  I was dedicating myself to come and speak to schools and to civic groups; to help anyone that I could help.  My life was spared for a reason, and I hope it has been for a good reason.
     A lot of people call me a hero.  I appreciate that title.  But the real heroes are the ones who gave their lives for this country.  The real heroes are our wives and our mothers.   Above all, the real heroes are the ones who are laying in those hospital beds, disabled for life...
     You know, there is a saying among us veterans … For those who have fought for it, life has a special flavor that the protected will never know.  You have never lived, until you’ve almost died.   And it is us veterans who pray for peace most of all, especially the wounded, because we have to suffer the wounds of war.
     I’m asked hundreds of times, “Would you do it over again?”  (Long pause) … In my 25 years in the military, I feel like I’ve been overpaid for the service to my country.  There will never be enough paper to print the money, or enough gold in Fort Knox, for me to have to keep from doing what I did.  I’m proud to be an American, and even prouder that I’ve been given the privilege to wear the Green Beret.  I live by the motto of Duty, Honor, Country… God Bless America.

     Roy Benavidez died in 1998.  Yes, he was a hero who performed his duties beyond human imagination.  But everyday, in this country, men and women put on the uniform and go to work for this nation.  They may not all serve in far off locations, and their stories may not be as momentous as the one you read today.  But each of them is a hero in my eyes; a person who believes in something greater than themselves and who is willing to put others first.  That is what people do who share honorable qualities.  That is fulfilling the commandment of our Lord to love others as we love ourselves.
     I cannot finish this post without praying that the forces, both physical and spiritual, who are working to defile the nobility and integrity of our military will be unsuccessful.  This nation has a long history of admiration and support for those who protect us, and may it never be disrupted or corrupted.  And thank you to all veterans -- past, present, and future -- who continue to believe in Duty, Honor, and Country.  May God bless you!

Today I am dedicating this post and blog to the memory of Captain John Hardy, USAF, a pilot who was shot down over North Vietnam.  I wore an MIA bracelet bearing his name for years, and it wasn't until around the year 2000, that I discovered that there was a website where you could find out the status of MIA/POW soldiers in the Viet Nam War, that I learned of his fate.  Throughout the years, I had always prayed for him, and hoped he had made it home.  I was devastated to find out that he died in the jungles of that far-off country.  I never knew him, but he was more than a name on a silver bracelet.  In the year 2004, I had the opportunity to visit the Viet Nam War Memorial in Washington D.C., and the impact of that long black marble wall with all those names on it was overwhelming.  I have a pencil rub of his name in the Bible my grandmother gave me, and I will honor his memory for the rest of my life.  Here is his official status as listed on THE WALL, a website devoted to those who gave their lives in that war:  

Captain John Charles Hardy, USAF
Length of service 8 years
His tour began on Jan 15, 1968
Casualty was on Apr 3, 1968
Hostile, died while missing, FIXED WING - CREW
Body was recovered

Ecclesiastes 3:8     "a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace."

April 10, 2015

What's Missing?

     If you are like me, you eye each new announced candidacy for the President of the United States with suspicion.  The latest self-proclaimed "Savior" of our nation is Kentucky Senator Rand Paul.  There was a time when all that he promised in his announcement speech would have resonated with me ...  He's for a government restrained by the Constitution.  He wants to eliminate the national debt that "threatens not just our economy, but our security".  He employed all the buzz words that used to ignite my patriotic soul ... privacy, opportunity, liberty, justice, and freedom.
     He was bold in his willingness to actually name our foreign enemy as radical Islam; and he is a proponent of a national defense that is "unparalleled, undefeatable, and unencumbered by overseas nation-building" (there's a nod to his Libertarian base).  I am in total agreement with him when he says it angers him "to see mobs burning our flag and chanting 'Death to America' in countries that receive millions of dollars in foreign aid."
     As a patriotic American, I find no fault in any of these statements.  I believe his stance on all these positions to be in alignment with my own.   But the positions that are important to me as a Christian stand above my nationalistic leanings.  I don't know -- maybe it's because I am so ready to be in God's system rather than this world's system ... [but since I am stuck here in the world], there are "issues" that are more important than the success of our economy or national defense.  And, on these positions, I heard nothing from the good Senator.
     At the top of that list, I would like to know what his opinions would be, as President, on such issues as the Sanctity of Life; my freedom to worship my God; the preservation of the Biblical model of marriage and family; how he views the Nation of Israel; and it would have been nice to hear any kind of statement about his personal faith.  The answers to those questions will go a long way in determining if he is the man I wish to govern my nation.  Yet, he was silent on all these issues.  And perhaps, worse still, he is already dodging questions in the media on how he would regard exceptions to abortions.  All the "rah-rah America" speeches in the world amount to nothing if I do not know the man's heart on issues that matter to God.
     In case you can't tell, I am longing more for my heavenly home, and becoming more cynical about this temporary residence on earth.  I see the hand-writing on the wall ... this Age of humanity is declining at a furious pace.  On one hand, we are racing to annihilate each other.  On the other hand, we are recklessly and rapidly seeking to become immortal by integrating what God made in His image with machines.  How can a political election really have any saving grace for us?
     You see, for all the patriotic fervor that we will experience during the next two years, we Americans would be better off to concentrate on where we will spend our eternal citizenship.  Remember, if we call ourselves Christians, we are not of this world.  The problem is that our patriotism can become a pseudo-religion, and takes our eyes off God and our real role on this earth ... to bring others out of this world system and into relationship with Christ.
     Yes, we must live in this world -- but not be "of the world".  And, yes, there will be a man elected to lead our nation in the fall of 2016.  Whether he will be a man that is pleasing to God, remains to be seen.  But I am discovering that my zeal as an American is being replaced with a passion to live my life as a citizen of the Kingdom of God.  Don't get me wrong -- I am still patriotic; I love my country. But in these days, I am more inclined to be a loyal-to-the-death defender of God's traditions and values.  And that is what I would love to see mirrored in my nation's leaders.

John 17:15-17     "I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one.  They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.  Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth."

January 30, 2015

Samuel Adams: Where Are You Today?

     Being a lover of the history of our Founding and the American Revolution, I eagerly awaited The History Channel's miniseries, titled Sons of Liberty.  I had no illusions that history would be presented accurately, but was curious to see how Hollywood would represent the main characters of our nation's early history; especially Samuel Adams, who has always been a favorite of mine.
     My assumptions were correct ... the facts were skewed; the timelines were often off by years; and the circumstances surrounding the colonists' grievances were repeatedly exaggerated.  For instance, General Thomas Gage's appearance on the scene is ten years later than historical fact; there is no evidence of any relationship between Mrs. Gage and Dr. Joseph Warren; and Samuel Adams was not some dashing young hero, free from family obligations, as depicted in the miniseries.  At the opening of the first episode, in 1765, Sam Adams would have been 43, and the father of two surviving children from his first marriage (his wife died young, along with four other children who died in infancy).  He had remarried and was deeply involved in the politics of the day.  These are just a few of the many dramatizations and misrepresentations of the miniseries.
    Furthermore, Sam Adams was far from being the drunk scoundrel, who owned a tavern frequented by misfits, as the History Channel portrays him.  True, he was an inefficient tax collector; but he was quite successful, within political circles, in urging his fellow colonists to oppose the unjust tax measures being enforced by the King of England.  As for the Sons of Liberty, they were more than impoverished hotheads itching for a fight.  They were a secret society of colonial patriots who were committed to protecting the rights of the colonists and to fighting the abuses of taxation by the British government.
     And speaking of unjust taxes, the broadcast missed a huge opportunity to educate any young people who might have been captivated by the dare-devil antics of the Hollywood version of Sam Adams.  There was no real attempt to mention the various Acts imposed by the British Crown to keep the colonists in tow.  As a member of the Caucus Club, one of Boston's local political organizations, Adams was incensed over the 1764 Sugar Act, which imposed a tax on Boston merchants for their purchase of molasses.  He began a writing campaign, attacking the Sugar Act as an unreasonable law. Adams argued that the law violated colonists' rights because it had not been imposed with the approval of an elected representative.  He argued that there should be "no taxation without representation"; a slogan which would become a lightning rod in the colonists' ever-increasing desire for independence.
     For the next decade, Adams continued to write essays concerning the growing divide between England and her colonies.  He condemned the Stamp Act of 1765, which placed a tax on printed materials throughout the American colonies.  During this time he was elected a member of the Massachusetts legislature, and would serve in that capacity until 1774.  In the meantime, he continued his fiery essays against the Townshend Acts of 1767, which placed customs duties on imported goods.  None of this was mentioned in the miniseries; only the celebrated Boston Tea Party, which saw the colonists refusing to pay the taxes levied by the Tea Act of 1773, and subsequently dumping the tea in Boston Harbor.
     (Consider this:  I recently watched a TV survey of college students who could not identify which country we won our independence from.  The History Channel could have served a greater purpose with this fictionalized account of history, don't you think?  Lord knows, I was ashamed at the realization that our youth have lost all interest and knowledge in the narrative of our country.)
     I understand that action sells better than politics, and I am not disputing the role that a passionate and dedicated Samuel Adams played in the years preceding the opening shots at Lexington and Concord.  It is indisputable, as the miniseries portrayed, that he played a dynamic behind-the-scenes role in urging the populace and their colonial leaders towards independence.
    In fact, history has always been fascinated with the part he played in securing our Liberty.  During the 19th Century, when America still clung to her patriotic principles and valued an individual's liberty and right to succeed, Samuel Adams was recognized as a hero of the Revolution.  But the 20th Century saw the genesis of socialism and progressivism taking root in our political consciousness, and Sam Adams gained a negative reputation.  His brilliant essays were viewed as propaganda, and he was painted as an avid promoter of revolution who incited mob violence to push his political agenda.    Today's Progressives would likely call him a "domestic terrorist"; even the modern Tea Party movement, which has become part of his legacy, is disparaged and impugned.
     But whichever version of Samuel Adams you choose to embrace, no one can dispute that he played one of the most important roles in the founding of this nation.  He believed in a "republican" form of government, which advocated that power should be held by the people and their elected representatives, rather than a monarch or dictator.  His writings also show that he believed that force against the government of a nation was only justified when the constitutional rights of the people were threatened, and were so grave that the "body of the people" recognized the danger, and only after "all peaceful means of redress had failed."  Revolution was his last choice.  But shortly after he signed the Declaration of Independence, he delivered these words in a speech at the State House in Philadelphia:

"If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude than the animating contest of freedom, go from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen."
     How we need Sam Adams today!  He was able to see the road to Liberty perhaps clearer than any other patriot of his time.  He was able to speak boldly and plainly to the people, championed public virtue in the culture and politics, and believed strongly in a true representative government.  He continued to serve his country in the First and Second Continental Congresses, and was instrumental in drafting the Bill of Rights.  Although The History Channel dramatized only the early days of his political involvement, and much of their storyline was inflated and blurred the historical facts, I am loathe to completely condemn the presentation.
     I believe the miniseries captured the spirit of those passionate days ... days when God placed the right men, at the right time, in the right place.  God had a plan for this nation, and He raised up men like Samuel Adams and Paul Revere and Dr. Joseph Warren and George Washington to lead mankind into a new era.  These men were able to breed a desire in their fellow countrymen to live their lives as free men; exercising their Natural Rights to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.
     It is my hope that The History Channel's excessive and outrageous version of Samuel Adams's life encourages our citizens of all ages to seek more knowledge about him and the American Revolution.  And I further hope it awakens them to just how glorious and miraculous is our history.  The politics of that day were just as controversial and embattled as they are today.  But there burned a fire in the hearts of men that I fear we've lost.  May God rekindle His Spirit in our nation, and the Spirit of '76!

Psalm 33:12   "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom He has chosen as His heritage!"


June 6, 2014

Have We Lost The Legacy of D-Day?

     It has been 70 years since Allied forces stepped foot on the beaches of Normandy and changed the course of history.  Known as D-Day, this is a generic military term for the day on which a combat attack or operation is to be initiated.  As detailed in The Atlantic, June 6, 1944 is one of the most famous D-Days, and saw the largest amphibious invasion in history take place. Nearly 200,000 Allied troops boarded 7,000 ships and more than 3,000 aircraft and headed toward Normandy, France.  Some 156,000 troops landed on the French beaches; 24,000 by air and the rest by sea, where they met stiff resistance from well-defended German positions across 50 miles of French coastline.
     Frankly, I was amazed to discover that there are no exact figures for casualties on that momentous day.  The numbers vary and are taken from the rough and approximate estimates made on the ground during the battle.  Conservative calculations have put the total figure at 9,000 casualties, with U.S. forces suffering over half of the casualties; the British, nearly a third; and the Canadians experiencing the balance.  British statistics quote a figure closer to 11,000 dead.
      As this historic day begins to fade in the memory of the American experience, it is my fear that this, and future, generations will lose sight of the significance of the great accomplishments by our brave men on those foreign shores.  For those of us who have seen the movie Saving Private Ryan, we have a taste of what it must have been like to storm the beaches under heavy enemy fire.  I have read about survivors who describe the seas that day as "blood-red and full of floating bodies".
     When you read the first-hand accounts of those who assaulted Utah and Omaha Beaches, you are hard-pressed to see how anyone could have survived.  One narrative described it this way:  "As soldiers struggled, one leader told his men that two types of people would stay on the beach--the dead and those going to die."  They had to storm those beaches and push on --- so they did.  And because of their actions that day, brave American soldiers persisted in their mission to halt Nazi Germany's drive for world domination; and the invasion at Normandy was their first step towards victory in Europe.  Without their participation, a free Europe would no longer have been possible.
     Little did these men know that, in essence, they were part of something even bigger.  The part they played in the war would eventually serve to catapult America on her historical path toward an enduring role in global affairs, a prominent presence in post-war Europe, and its first major alliance with world powers.  Their sacrifice on that historic and devastating day was symbolic of the impact America would have on the world for decades.  It was and is an honorable legacy.
     But, as sad as it makes me, I must ask this question .... Have we squandered that glorious legacy? Are we that same America that embodied freedom to millions of Europeans?  History records that one week shy of her 15th birthday, an excited Jewish girl in Amsterdam named Anne Frank described in the June 6th, 1944 entry to her diary how she and her family huddled around a radio in their attic hideaway to hear details of the invasion.  "This is the day," she wrote. " . . . I have the feeling friends are approaching."
     Are we still seen as "friends" by those who believe in freedom and sovereign nations?  Yes, the legacy still existed when this country helped secure the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe a mere 45 years later.  We were still seen as the bastion of hope and promise.  But do our allies still look upon us with that same optimism and trust?  Have we continued the Greatest Generation's legacy of "exceptionalism" over these last 25 years?
     Those white crosses in the American Cemetery and Memorial at Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy, France, are a picture of the real meaning of American "exceptionalism".  Don't be fooled ... It is not what was spoken of recently at West Point:  our willingness to affirm international norms.  Americans do not fit a conventional mold .  We never have and it is my sincere hope that we never will.
     And we must never forget that what those men accomplished on those beaches 70 years ago was not "normal"; it was truly exceptional.  And I am afraid that as the last of them leaves this earth, we will lose another signpost of our remarkable and unparalleled American character.  I pray that we can maintain a remnant of their bequest to us; that as long as we nurture their memory, we stand a chance to reproduce the hope they offered the world.  In many ways, 70 years seems so long ago; literally, a lifetime.  But look how quickly we have wasted what cost them so much.  They deserve our efforts to preserve their legacy, and only with God's help can we repay the price.

Psalm 33:12    "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom He has chosen as His heritage!"

April 8, 2014

Behold A Pale Horse: America Aflame

     It's been over a year and a half since I reviewed an outstanding DVD entitled Behold A Pale Horse, America's Last Chancewhich presented an accurate picture of the dangerous path America was on; a path that veered far from her original course, and one that threatened to be her undoing.
     Nothing has changed in the direction of that course.  If anything, the speed towards destruction has accelerated.  So Heartland Pictures and producer Chuck Untersee have upped the ante, so to speak, and re-edited the original version of this fine movie, adding new and powerful testimonies in the hopes of being able to distribute the new film in nationwide theaters.  
     I was privileged to receive a copy of Behold A Pale Horse, America Aflame to review.  Like its predecessor, America Aflame is hard-hitting and often-times a bitter pill to swallow.  This intense new film opens with a riveting interview with Randy Weaver, who was caught in the deadly confrontation with U.S. federal agents at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, in 1992, in which his 14-year-old son and wife were killed.  It sets the pace for the rest of the film, which chronicles just how much our government is at odds with its citizens.
     Like the first film, I was greatly impressed with the appearance of retired Lt. General Jerry Boykin.  As one of the original members of Delta Force, Boykin served as the Commanding officer during Black Hawk Down and as Commander of the Green Berets.  He also served in the CIA and Deputy Under-Secretary of the Department of Intelligence.  The man has some bragging rights.  But he simply describes himself as "not a Republican or Democrat; but a Conservative and a Christian."  
     So when he speaks, I take notice.  And he certainly got my attention when he said, "America is under judgment.  The Republic is in distress; listen to her cry.  What we are witnessing is spiritual warfare."  He went on to say that what we are seeing is patterns consistent with countries that move towards Marxism.  He then gave the example of nationalizing sectors of the economy; which is what we did with the bailouts of the banking industry.  Then you see a commitment to redistribute the wealth, which is in a nutshell, what the Affordable Care Act is.  This is followed by a discrediting of the opposition and those who would stand up against such policies.
     Lt. General Boykin pointed out that this attempt to harm the reputation of those who disagree has already begun.  "The Department of Homeland Security issued a proclamation to all law enforcement -- federal, state and local -- that future threats to America would come from right-wing Christian groups, Second Amendment groups, pro-life groups, and returning veterans."  He then looks the camera square in the eye, and proclaims, "I'm all four!"  
     Boykin then points out that the next step in the Marxist model is to censor the Pastors.  We've seen a wave of hate crimes legislation that is designed to make it more difficult for pastors to stand up in the pulpit and talk about moral social issues.  And we have already seen efforts to control gun ownership, through the UN Small Arms Treaty.  "They will say it is designed to focus on military weapons.  Do you trust that assessment?", he asks.  As if to underscore his argument, the film presents silent statistics that tell the real story:  

20th Century Gun Control
Soviet Union (1929) - 20 Million Dissidents Exterminated
Turkey (1915) - 1.5 Million Armenians Exterminated
Germany (1938) - 13 Million Jews/Others Exterminated
China (1935) - 20 Million Dissidents Exterminated
Uganda (1970) - 300,000 Christians Exterminated
Cambodia (1975) - 1 million Dissidents Exterminated

     Add it up.  That is 56 million people murdered after their guns were confiscated by tyrannical governments.  I don't need to say more ... but the film does.  It goes on to introduce such Patriots as Dan Fisher, the leader of the modern-day Black Robe Regiment.  Citing the American Revolution's group of the same name, Dan Fisher saw a present need and filled it.  "Today the church is silent; we have lost sight of our spiritual heritage." Through corrupt politicians like LBJ, we the people, have allowed our government to pass legislation in order to silence the church; to slip into the tax code a restriction that any non-profit organization could not speak out in favor of, or against a candidate.
     Likewise the 1960 secularists twisted Thomas Jefferson's words into the popular "separation of church and state" mantra -- which appears in neither the Bible or the Constitution!  What he did say is as follows:  in a private letter written to a group of Baptists, Jefferson stated there was a wall between government and religion to keep the State from interfering with the affairs of the Church.  The implication was exactly the opposite of what the secularists claim ... the Church is to be protected from an overbearing State -- not the other way around!
     Indeed, the Russian dictator Lenin knew that religion was the opium of the people, and Joseph Stalin once stated, "America is like a healthy body; it's resistance 3-fold:  Patriotism, Morality and its Spiritual Life.  If we can undermine these areas, she will collapse from within."  It would appear as if the objectives of Mr. Stalin have been met; the last two have been successfully impaired, and the first is hanging on by a thread.
     As radio host and pastor, Chuck Baldwin says in the film, "The Church must stand in righteous indignation for the Truth or America is finished."  His thoughts are echoed by famed rock guitarist and Patriot, Ted Nugent:  "Our life is a gift from God and we have the right to defend it.  It is our moral, intellectual and spiritual responsibility to defend it from evil-doers."  
     This fine film goes on to touch on all the issues that contributed to our national decline:  Agenda 21, NAFTA, the Federal Reserve System, Globalization, reducing world population, medical control, National ID and RFID technology, secret societies, the One World Government, False Flags, and the de-evaluation of the Dollar.  This film covers it all and backs it all up with the opinions of knowledgeable experts that aren't afraid to state the truth.  
     And the truth is that we have gone from a nation of merchants, craftsman, entrepreneurs, inventors, manufacturers, and skilled workers to a nation of sales clerks, cashiers, stock persons, and home health aides.  The truth is that America was exceptional because we were built on the foundation of the Law of Nature and Nature's God; but we have now made government our God.  The truth is that there are now one-half the number of ranches that existed in this country 20 years ago; and it is the design of Agenda 21 that every county and state boundary will be extinguished.
     So, I can't say enough about this film.  The only suggestion that I could offer is that the run-time might be a tad too long to keep the full interest of a theater audience.  But the information and motivating commentary provided by the host of authors, legislators, constitutional scholars, military leaders, and pastors will inspire and encourage you to fight for our country, as she deserves. 
     I think that we all can identify with Randy Weaver's simple observation:  "I've always loved this country and still do; but we're in deep, deep trouble."  We may not have experienced the devastation that the Weaver family has sustained; but his dedication to his country, even now, should inspire each of us to do our part.  I hope that this film finds its way into theaters and informs and excites the American people to fight for our future.

Pslm 94:16    "Who will rise up for me against the evildoers? Who will stand up for me against the workers of iniquity?"

September 28, 2013

Watch Out For Granny!

     We are on the waning days of our vacation, but I just have to share a quick story that was told to me during our travels.  We were in the beautiful city of Cody, Wyoming and had the good fortune to see old friends that we hadn't been in touch with for quite awhile.
     Doug was giving us a rendition of quite an interesting episode in his mother's life.  She is 76 years old and a retired school teacher.  She had mentored a young woman who had tried for years to gain acceptance to the Naval Academy.  Well, the young lady finally made it and after completing her stint at the Academy, she really wanted Doug's mother to be there for her at the graduation ceremonies.
     So this feisty 76-year-old buys her airline ticket and flies across country, with several stops at different airports.  At each layover, she has to go through a security line, and each time she gets pulled out of the line and her bags are searched and she is wanded.  She finally reaches her destination and basks in the accomplishment of her former student.
     On her return flight home, she is once again singled out, and pulled out of line, bags searched, wanded, etc.  Not being shy and reserved, she finally gets considerably irritated and not just a little curious as to why she seems to be a favorite target of the TSA.  So she asks the latest of the government employees who is instructed to search her bags, "Tell me, young woman, I seem to be doing something that is marking me as a person of interest.  Can you tell me what that might be?"
     I am actually surprised that the employee told her the truth.  "It's simple, ma'am.  You're wearing an American flag lapel pin.  If you would consent to remove the pin, you would go unnoticed."  Well, let me tell you, that was the wrong thing to say to this senior citizen.
     Doug recounted the indignation with which his mother received this bit of news.  "I am a red-blooded, patriotic American, and I will NEVER compromise my pride in my country."  Apparently, that was just the beginning of her diatribe!  And it's not as if we needed proof that "patriot" is a dirty word, right?  So I just thought you would be interested in hearing first hand, what your government thinks of you.  It's a shameful day in America when proclaiming love of country makes you a potential risk.

2 Timothy 2:2   "And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also." 

September 16, 2013

Letter From A Dying Veteran

     This is a letter written by Bill Schoonover, a 79-year-old Army veteran from Washington State.  He has not been shy about writing letters to his Congressmen in the past, but this letter is different.  Mr. Schoonover is dying of cancer, and that makes this letter to his Senator and Representatives all the more  poignant.  I will let this proud Veteran speak for himself.  It was written April of 2013.

Dear Senator:

    I have tried to live by the rules my entire life. My father was a Command Sergeant Major, U.S. Army, who died of combat related stresses shortly after his retirement. It was he who instilled in me those virtues he felt important – honesty, duty, patriotism and obeying the laws of God and of our various governments. I have served my country, paid my taxes, worked hard, volunteered and donated my fair share of money, time and artifacts.
     Today, as I approach my 79th birthday, I am heart-broken when I look at my country and my government. I shall only point out a very few things abysmally wrong which you can multiply by a thousand fold. I have calculated that all the money I have paid in income taxes my entire life cannot even keep the Senate barbershop open for one year! Only Heaven and a few tight-lipped actuarial types know what the Senate dining room costs the taxpayers. So please, enjoy your haircuts and meals on us.
..... In the middle of the night, you voted in the Affordable Health Care Act, a.k.a. “Obama Care,” a bill which no more than a handful of senators or representatives read more than several paragraphs, crammed it down our throats, and then promptly exempted yourselves from it, substituting your own taxpayer-subsidized golden health care insurance.
     You understand very well the only two rules you need to know – (1) How to get elected, and (2) How to get re-elected. And you do this with the aid of an eagerly willing and partisan press, speeches permeated with a certain economy of truth, and by buying the votes of the greedy, the ill-informed and under-educated citizens (and non-citizens, too, many of whom do vote ) who are looking for a handout rather than a job. Your so-called “safety net” has become a hammock for the lazy. And, what is it now, about 49 or 50 million on food stamps – pretty much all Democrat voters – and the program is absolutely rife with fraud with absolutely no congressional oversight?
     While we middle class people continue to struggle, our government becomes less and less transparent, more and more bureaucratic, and ever so much more dictatorial, using Czars and Secretaries to tell us (just to mention a very few) what kind of light bulbs we must purchase, how much soda or hamburgers we can eat, what cars we can drive, gasoline to use, and what health care we must buy. Countless thousands of pages of regulations strangle our businesses costing the consumer more and more every day.
     As I face my final year, or so, with cancer, my president and my government tell me “You’ll just have to take a pill,” while you, Senator, your colleagues, the president, and other exulted government officials and their families will get the best possible health care on our tax dollars until you are called home by your Creator; while also enjoying a retirement beyond my wildest dreams, which of course, you voted for yourselves and we pay for.
    ..... My final thoughts are that it must take a person who has either lost his or her soul, or conscience, or both, to seek re-election and continue to destroy this country I deeply love and put it so far in debt that we will never pay it off while your lot improves by the minute, because of your power. For you, Senator, will never stand up to the rascals in your House who constantly deceive the American people. And that, my dear Senator, is how power has corrupted you and the entire Congress. The only answer to clean up this cesspool is term limits. This, of course, will kill the goose that lays your golden eggs. And woe be to him (or her) who would dare to bring it up.


Bill Schoonover

     I think you will agree that not only has Mr. Schoonover expressed the thoughts and feelings of millions of Americans, but he has earned the right to express them, as a proud Army Veteran.  God, Bless you, Bill Schoonover.  You continue to serve your country with your bold and honest voice, and I salute you, Sir.

You can read the letter in its entirety, by clicking here.

August 5, 2013

Now These Are Patriots!

     Just a few days ago, I wrote a post about the unworthy recipient of a big, prestigious award, called the American Patriot Award.  I don't need to rehash all the reasons that this honor was empty, unmerited or a travesty.  Instead, I want to focus on an amazing evening that I was privileged to witness last Friday.
   My husband, his parents, and I drove two hours to sit in a packed auditorium and listen to the words of REAL patriots.  The event was the Patriot Tour, a speaking engagement that was the brainstorm of Retired Navy Seals Marcus Luttrell and Chris Kyle.  In case you don't know who these men are, let me give you a brief synopsis of their reputations.  Marcus will forever be known as "The Lone Survivor" of Operation Redwing, a combined/joint operation, whose goal was the disruption of anti-coalition militia activity in Afghanistan in order to stabilize the region prior to the Afghan National elections.
     Marcus was part of a four-man Navy Seal team tasked with surveillance and reconnaissance of a group of structures known to be used by the local leader of the Taliban.  In his book, Lone Survivor, Marcus details the deaths of his three team-mates and his harrowing rescue by a local Pashtun village, before he was ultimately recovered by a U.S. quick reaction force.  He determined that the lives of his brothers-in-arms would never be forgotten.  He tells their story every chance he gets.
     History will note Navy Seal Chris Kyle as the most lethal sniper in American military history with 160 confirmed kills out of 255 claimed kills.  After retiring from the Navy, Chris made it his life's work to assist our returning veterans.  He continued to serve, until the day his life was taken in a senseless act by one of those veterans he was selflessly trying to help.  He and Marcus are the stuff legends are made of; both proud Texans who were also proud to call themselves Patriots.  
     Like so many of us, they hated that this word ... Patriot ... had become a negative term.  They still believed in love of country, and believed in supporting our nation and its authority.  They were both proud to have fought for her, and thought it would be a great idea to tour the country and reflect on what it means to be a Patriot; to share the experiences of those who fought in uniform, and to let the American public hear from family members who made the ultimate sacrifice.  In the end, they wanted to keep the memories alive of their loved ones and to pay tribute to the courage and sacrifice that allow us to remain free.
     The evening was two hours of non-stop emotion.  It began with the Mistress of Ceremonies, Debbie Lee, who, as a Gold Star Mom, carries on the memory of her son, Marc Alan Lee, the first Navy Seal to die in Iraq.  She is a force to be reckoned with, when it comes to supporting our troops.  She works tirelessly on behalf of all our military and founded the non-profit organization,  America's Mighty Warriors.  In his last letter home, her son challenged her, and the nation, to “pass on the kindness, the love, the precious gift of human life, through random acts of kindness”.  Debbie has pledged to do that for our military personnel and families.  As she spoke from the podium, you could feel her pride in her son, and the devotion she had for each one of the other speakers.  That same allegiance and loyalty contributed to her determination to become the first Gold Star Mother to enter the combat zone and visit the city where her son died.  She has made it her life's mission to stand in the gap for her son and to help other military families any way she can.
     Retired Army Ranger Captain Chad Fleming captivated the audience with his wit and easy charm as he described what it was like to suffer a severe combat injury that resulted in the amputation of his leg.  He made it perfectly clear that it did not change his willingness to serve, nor his ability to enjoy life.  Captain Fleming has run marathons, participated in triathlons, and enjoys cycling.  After undergoing over 23 surgeries to try to save his leg, he realized that his quality of life would be enhanced with a prosthetic, rather than diminished.  He is able to do all that he wants physically, rather than have limited activity from an injured leg.  It was quite clear that nothing was going to stop Chad from enjoying life to the fullest.  And he wasn't bashful about letting the crowd know that he was proud to serve his country.  Yes, a price had been paid, but he would do it again, and gladly.
     The death of Chris Kyle was not the end of his participation in the Patriot Tour.  Chris lives on in the memories of his wife, Taya, who joined the Tour in his stead.  A picture of courage, Taya gave us the human side of Chris.  We all knew his military exploits and the hardcore sniper that appeared in the pages of his bestseller, American Sniper.  But Taya showed us Chris's heart.  She related stories of his desire to meet the needs of his fellow veterans.  And that compassion didn't just settle on soldiers from the recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  He reached out to Vietnam veterans, who had been slighted by America; both their government and fellow citizens had not properly respected them.  Chris wanted to make sure they were recognized for their loyalty and service to the country.
     Although Taya called each of us audience members patriots, just by virtue of us being there to support the Tour and to hear their stories, I felt unworthy of her praise.  She tried to say that we didn't have to wear a uniform to be a patriot.  By holding the beliefs we do, and honoring our flag, and standing for the National Anthem with our hands over our hearts, we showed that we, too, value all that America stands for.  But I must protest.  All we did was buy a ticket and show up.  She and those on the stage that night were the ones who had served.  She and her family had skin in the game and paid with their blood.  I am more than happy to bow down to their superior and selfless sacrifice for me.
     And then came the man that everyone was there to hear.  When Chris Kyle was killed, that didn't deter Marcus Luttrell from their shared goal.  He still wanted to tell his story; how alongside Matt Axelson, Danny Dietz, and Michael Murphy, he fought indescribable odds against the Taliban on that mountain in Afghanistan.  The audience sat spellbound, as he described his youth and the desire he shared with his twin brother, Morgan, to become Navy Seals.  (Morgan is currently on his eleventh tour!)  From the age of 14, they trained to meet their goal.  First, with a curmudgeonly ex-Green Beret named Billy Shelton, who put the young men through excruciatingly painful physical and endurance tests.  By the time Marcus was ready to enter BUDS training to become a Navy Seal, his mind was made up.  "Never quit" was his motto.
     He regaled the audience with the intense training that was designed to harden Seal-wannabes into fighting machines.  You could almost feel the audience wince at some of the training exercises Marcus described.  They seemed beyond the ability of human endurance.  Maybe that's why out of the 164 beginning members of Marcus's training class, only 10 walked across the stage at graduation.  These early years were punctuated with Marcus's unique brand of humor, and lots of moments of laughter on the part of the audience.
     Then came the gut-wrenching details of his fight on that mountain.  I have read his book 3 times and heard him speak on several different occasions.  But this evening seemed different than the rest.  I cannot imagine how difficult it must be to relive each stage of that firefight, and to retell the unimaginable injuries that Axe, Danny and Mikey suffered.  How could they possibly keep fighting with the terminal injuries they suffered?  Both legs shattered, backs broken, faces nearly blown off, thumbs missing, multiple gunshot wounds, sliding and falling off the mountain; still they fought on.  It becomes quite obvious that no one in that audience could have done what they did.  That is why they are the elite of the elite!
     We were taken to a place that most of us will never know.  Marcus took us to where his friends died, and where he continued to fight to live, so that he could tell their stories.  His rescue and recovery is nothing short of a miracle, and a story that every American should hear.  They are why we continue to enjoy the freedom we still possess, and why it is worth fighting for.
     Not a sound was heard in that auditorium as Marcus paid homage to his fellow patriots.  The horrors he described witnessing were almost too much to bear; his voice betrayed the emotional toll it was taking on him.   But we needed to hear it, and he needed to tell us, because we have to know who these men were; these men who were willing to die for us on a remote mountain in a far-off land.  While we were safe and sound and comfortable in our beds, these four men put everything on the line for us.
     Marcus prefers to call himself "a simple guy from a small town in Texas who loves God, his family, and his country."  Yes, he is all those things.  And as he tells his story, and the story of his teammates, it becomes clear that he values hard work, team work and perseverance.  It is those attributes that were instilled in him long ago by Billy Shelton and the U.S. Navy Seals.  But I'm afraid that he will never escape what he means to those of us who have the privilege to hear his story in person.  He represents all those old-fashioned principles and values that we fear are gone forever from America -- faith in God, love of country, and the willingness to lay down your life to secure our freedoms.  Debbie, Chad, Taya, Marcus --- they were all proud to call themselves Americans, and that's a rare commodity these days.  And everyone represented on that stage was a hero, as well as a patriot.  It was an honor to be in their presence, and I only wish they could know how this proud American thanks them for what they've done for me.

Ephesians 6:13    "Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm."

August 2, 2013

A Slap In The Face

     "The American Patriot Award".... what do you think of when you hear that prestigious-sounding accolade?  For me, it would signify someone who exemplifies and understands what it means to uphold  American ideals; as well as someone who has shown vigorous support for their country, and is prepared to defend it against enemies or detractors.  When I think of that term, prominent leaders like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Ronald Reagan come to mind.  Perhaps you think of war heroes like Doris Miller, Audie Murphy, George Patton, Chris Kyle or Marcus Luttrell.  But there are also the countless who remain nameless and faceless; those who answered the call after Lexington and Concord, Fort Sumter, Pearl Harbor, and September 11th.  They are buried in unmarked graves across our countryside; and in foreign graves, strewn across Europe and Southeast Asia.  And they can be seen in wheelchairs and with prosthetic limbs; the casualties of modern warfare's destructive weapon, the IED.
     First, let me tell you a little more about the organization that presents this reputable award. The American Patriot Award is presented by the National Defense University Foundation.  According to their official website, this "is an accredited graduate-level university under the direction of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and is the country’s premier center for Joint Professional Military Education, providing an educational and research environment to prepare current and future leaders for high-level policy, command, and staff responsibilities."

     A majority of the student body is comprised of military representatives from all four branches of the Department of Defense and the Coast Guard, with the remaining consisting of senior civilian leaders from the federal government, industry fellows from the private sector, and international military officers.  The goal of the university is to develop the next generation of ambassadors, national and international military commanders and civilian defense industry leaders – patriots who have committed their lives to furthering the security of our nation and the world.  Some of the available College programs include the National War College, the Dwight D. Eisenhower School for National Security and Resource Strategy, Center for Technology and National Security Policy, and various "think tanks" for a wide spectrum of national security concerns.
     But back to The American Patriot Award .... the annual award recognizes "exceptional Americans who have demonstrated a profound and abiding love of country and whose inspirational leadership and selfless dedication symbolizes our nation's ideas, values and democratic principles."
     I'm all for such an award.  I think that a person who fits that description should receive all the accolades they are due.  EXCEPT .... this year's award is going to Hillary Clinton! 
     Which means that this award has no real merit in my eyes.  I was going to apologize for such a biased statement, but then thought otherwise.  This is a woman who is up to her eyeballs in the Benghazi scandal, and as Secretary of State bears some of the responsibility in the deaths of  REAL PATRIOTS:  Navy Seals Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods.
     The NDU should be ashamed and embarrassed to release the following statement:  “By honoring Secretary Clinton’s exemplary career in public service the NDU Foundation celebrates not only the American spirit of patriotism, but the leadership qualities necessary to preserve and protect that spirit.”
     As far as I can tell, she did no such thing on the night of September 11, 2012.  She neither "preserved" nor "protected" the lives of our Ambassador, embassy staff, or security detail .... all of whom counted on her so-called "leadership" to have their backs.  To overlook her actions that night and in the following days, and then proclaim that she demonstrates a selfless dedication to our nation's ideals is a slap in the face to the men who sacrificed it all for our country.
     Because, you see, Madame Secretary, it does make a difference to me!  All I have to do is compare your actions that night with the courage and dedication of those left to fend for themselves.  It's pretty darn clear who should wear the mantle of Patriot.  And it is a sad commentary on our once proud nation that egocentric politicians receive phony awards based on a false record, while those who quietly defend our freedoms with their lives, are dismissed as irrelevant.  I, for one, choose to recognize the true American patriots.  I honor their memory and their sacrifice.

Proverbs 10:9     "Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out."

July 31, 2013

How Quickly We Forget

     By now, I'm sure you've heard the report that the Creative Director of the 911 Memorial Museum in New York City, actually considered eliminating the famed photo from Ground Zero of three firefighters raising the American flag amidst the rubble of the World Trade Center…because he thought it was too “rah-rah America.”
     That's right --- Michael Shulan is reported as having said, “I really believe that the way America will look best, the way we can really do best, is to not be Americans so vigilantly and so vehemently.”
     Shulan told the New York Post, “My concern, as it always was, is that we not reduce [9/11] down to something that was too simple, and in its simplicity would actually distort the complexity of the event, the meaning of the event.”
     So, my dear Mr. Shulan, exactly what do you think the meaning of the "event" was?  Because to me, the significance of this terrorist attack (a bit more realistic than "event", don't you think?) is that over 3,000 innocent Americans  lost their lives that day.  The significance is that Firefighters were willing to endanger themselves and sacrifice their lives in order to try to save their fellow man.  It may sound like a cliché, but we must never forget that they went up the stairs, as frightened people came down.  That is worthy of our respect; and their courage and sacrifice should be honored.  The significance is that this attack rocked us to our core, and made us examine who we were, and how strong we were -- both spiritually, and as a cohesive nation.
     You see, Mr. Shulan, I don't really care what makes America "look best", because that implies that what other countries or the world, for that matter, thinks of us matters more than the devastation, pain and loss that we suffered that day.  This happened to Americans; and therefore, this is our Museum.  We have a right to be vigilant about protecting our own history; it is our history.  To be less than vigilant would be disrespectful to those who lost their lives that day.  And I emphatically and passionately defend the inclusion of this iconic photo in the Museum.  If that makes me "vehement", then so be it.
     And you say that this photo makes the image of what happened that awful day, "too simple"; that it distorts "the complexity of the event".  Sounds to me, that you want to diminish the emotion this photo evokes; to play down the national pride that joined us all that day.  Perhaps you want to make this about more than the death of 3,000 breathing human beings who didn't return to their families that day.  There is a time and a place for that political discussion, but it is not at the Memorial Museum.  "Memorial" implies a tribute, a testimony to one's actions, and a chronicle of our history.  This photo deserves to be a part of that remembrance.  And I do not think we should have to apologize for an image that celebrated our pride in who we were.

Deuteronomy 31:6     "So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you." 

May 27, 2013

The Message of Memorial Day

     Since the Civil War, our country has honored our fallen heroes; the men and women who have died in war in order to preserve the liberty and freedoms that we all share.  We have time-honored observances such as the placing of flags on the 260,000 gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery and the 150,000 graves at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis; plus the placing of candles on the 15,300 Civil War grave sites at the Fredericksburg and Spotsylania National Military Park.
     These are a few of the official ceremonies that often go unnoticed by the majority of American citizens.  Granted, there are those of us who are moved by these nearly sacred rites, but for most people, Memorial Day has become reduced to a three-day Federal holiday, with little individual recognition of its true meaning.
     I can remember, as a child, when communities would gather for parades, replete with American flags, marching bands, and floats --- all with the express purpose of honoring the veterans within our midst.  These men would be saluted and hailed for their bravery and duty to our country;  THEY were the reason for the holiday.  And I instinctively knew that these were special men.  This was their day and we were there to honor them.  All the fun and festivities were a by-product of our country celebrating what they had done for us.
     Yet today, many of our kids just know Memorial Day as the end of the school year; an extra day off from school before graduation; or a time their parents get together for beer and Bar-B-Q.  Even with the  thousands of casualties from ten years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the images of soldiers with missing limbs that are a daily reminder of the sacrifices made on our behalf, I am afraid that Memorial Day is still treated with a degree of irreverence.  It is up to us to change that.
     I urge each of us to do our part in restoring the appreciation and high regard with which we used to celebrate this national holiday.  We can begin by making sure the children within our sphere of influence know the history of why we mark this day.
      Don't just hang a flag outside your door.  Tell them why you are making that statement.  And then make sure they know the cost of their freedoms.  The numbers don't lie.  Historians think that nearly 25,000 Americans died establishing our freedom from Great Britain.  Over 600,000 soldiers died in the Civil War; over half a million in WWI and WWII, with 140,000 buried throughout military cemeteries in Europe.  We lost nearly 68,000 brave Americans in the rice fields and jungles of Viet Nam, and, so far, approximately 4500 in the War on Terror.  
     Make sure they realize that American men and women have sacrificed the most precious thing they own -- their lives -- on behalf of foreign citizens.  Yes, they need to know the truth about the "not so honorable reasons" that wars are fought, but that is a discussion for another day.  This holiday is to commemorate the memories of those who fought for the right reasons.  This is about one person laying down his life for another.  This holiday is about what America stands for.  Let's recapture what America symbolizes.
     As the sun rises on this sobering holiday, I am reminded of a saying by William Gladstone, the leading British statesman of the Victorian era, who served as Britain's Prime Minister four times:

"Show me the manner in which a nation or a community cares for its dead and I will measure with mathematical exactness the tender sympathies of its people, their respect for the laws of the land, and their loyalty to high ideals."

     These are all principles we are in danger of losing.  These are the same principles that motivated our citizens to pick up a gun and fight for freedom, both here and abroad.  And finally, Memorial Day represents those who died protecting these important principles.  The memories of our Fallen Heroes deserve to be recognized.  Today is not about hotdogs, hamburgers and family gatherings.  It's about restoring respect for the sacrifice made for you and me.  Let each of us do our part in restoring the meaning of Memorial Day.  Dedicate one moment out of the day to give thanks to a veteran who did his part for this great country of ours.  We owe them that .... and so much more.

Galations 5:1       Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.

March 7, 2013

This Is Who We Are!

     Last week I received a couple of emails that have been circulating around Texas the last week, because we take these things seriously.  I have related to you how Texas honored its hero, former Navy Seal Chris Kyle, after his unfortunate death.  But there were some important details about how the proud state of Texas took care of its own that you didn't hear about.  And it's time you did.
     One email was from a member of the USO who attended the funeral service at Cowboys Stadium.  As she approached the site for the service, she saw long lines wrapping around the stadium.  The crowds were larger than expected.  But Jerry Jones, the owner of the Cowboys, offered free parking, sodas and water to all in attendance.  She attended the service with a friend of hers who wore his Army uniform, in honor of Chris's military service.  Officials at the stadium advised everyone in military uniform (and there were hundreds!) to join their brothers-in-arms on the field.  As the military service members made their way down on the field, everyone in attendance stood to honor them. It took over 45 minutes for them to be seated and not once did anyone sit down.  The stadium was silent in honor of our veterans.
     Each branch of the military brought in a wreath and placed it in front of the casket, which even included one wreath from the Polish military. As one of Chris's teammates spoke, he asked all Frogmen (past and present) to stand during the reading of the SEAL creed. There must have been over 200 standing.
     But the most moving of the two emails was from the mother of a fellow Navy Seal, one of Chris Kyle's teammates.  Her email was a little more personal and spoke of the love and honor bestowed on Chris's family and teammates during the funeral service.  And through her email, she wanted people to know about all the blessings that were bestowed on those closest to Chris.  This is how Texas honors its heroes:
     Southwest Airlines flew in any SEAL and their family, from any airport they flew into, free of charge. The employees donated buddy passes and one flight attendant worked for 4 days without much of a break to see that it all happened. Volunteers were at both airports in Dallas to drive them to the hotel.
     The Marriott Hotel reduced their rates to $45 a night and cleared the hotel for only SEALs and family.  The Midlothian, Texas Police Department paid the $45 a night for each room.  The Seal mom guessed there were about 200 people staying at the hotel, one hundred of them SEALs.  And the blessings kept coming....
     Two large buses were chartered (an anonymous donor paid the bill) to transport people to the different events.  Rental cars were also donated.
     The State Police and Secret Service were on duty 24 hours while the Seal families stayed at the hotel.  At the Kyle house, the Texas Department of Public Safety parked a large motor home in front to block the view from reporters, giving the family and friends the privacy they deserved.  It remained there the entire five days for the SEALs to congregate in, and allow for use of the restroom, so as not to disturb the family.  Chris Kyle's wife, Taya, their two small children, and both sets of parents were staying in the home.   Each day the home was full of people from the church as well as other family members that would come to help.
     Nolan Ryan sent his cooking team, a huge grill and lots of steaks, chicken and hamburgers. They set up in the front yard and fed the Seals and 200 families all day long.  The next day a local BBQ restaurant set up a buffet in front of the house, and once again everyone was fed and well taken care of.  The family’s church kept those inside the house well fed.
     According to this SEAL's mother, Jerry Jones, the owner of the Cowboys, and the man everyone loves to hate, was a rock star.  He not only donated the parking and cold drinks to the public who attended the funeral service; he donated the use of Cowboy Stadium to the family.  That's who we are in Texas!  But the blessings didn't stop there .....
     The SEAL mom reports that the next day was the 200-mile procession from Midlothian, Texas to Austin for burial in the State Cemetery.  I'll let her own words describe the emotions:  It was a cold, drizzly, windy day, but the people were out. We had dozens of police motorcycles riders, freedom riders, five chartered buses and lots of cars. You had to have a pass to be in the procession, and still it was huge. Two helicopters circled the procession with snipers sitting out the side door for protection. It was the longest funeral procession ever in the state of Texas. People were everywhere. 
     The entire route was shut down ahead of us, the people were lined up on the side of the road the entire way. Firemen down on one knee; police officers holding their hats over their hearts; children waving flags; veterans saluting as we went by... Every bridge had fire trucks with large flags displayed from their tall ladders....people all along the entire 200 miles standing in the cold weather. It was so heartwarming. 
     Each SEAL put his Trident on the top of Chris' casket one at a time. A lot of them hit it in with one blow. Derek (her son) was the only one to take four taps to put his in, and it was almost like he was caressing it as he did it. Another tearful moment.
     After the service the governor's wife, Anita Perry, invited us to the governor's mansion. She stood at the door and greeted each of us individually and gave each of the SEALs a coin of Texas (she was a sincere, compassionate, and gracious hostess). We were able to tour the ground floor and then went into the garden for beverages and BBQ. 
     So many of the team guys said that after they get out they are moving to Texas. They remarked that they had never felt so much love and hospitality. The charter buses then took the guys to the airport to catch their returning flights. Derek just now called and after a 20-hour flight he is back in his spot, in a dangerous land on the other side of the world, protecting America.

     This SEAL mom just wanted to share the emotional and blessed events of a tragic day.  And I wanted to share the heart and soul of Texas.  This is who we are!  We honor those who sacrifice for us and we go out of our way to give all we can.  I am still grieved that Chris Kyle's service and his heart for his fellow brothers-in-arms has not been acknowledged by the White House.  That is shameful!  But we here in Texas don't need an official pat on the back for one of our own.  The honor we paid Chris Kyle and his fellow SEALS was sincere and heartfelt.  The love that those SEALS felt was not a publicity stunt; it was genuine and honest.  In fact, if not for this mother's email, no one would have known of the generosity of so many.
     You see, Chris Kyle was a true Son of Texas and a Child of God.  His faith allowed him to give of himself through his work on behalf of veterans with PTSD.  He did not do it for his own glory or reputation; it was done out of the goodness of his heart.  And the goodness of Texans surrounded his family and teammates during this emotional and heartbreaking time.  That's just who we are!

1 John 4:7    "Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God."