Tagged: military veterans
Even the best-made plans can go awry, and even the most organized of us can sometimes be caught by surprise. Some people are motivated by challenges – so when things are running smoothly, they are easily distracted. Others, when faced with obstacles, need a little support to get over the bumps in the road.
The great industrialist and automobile pioneer Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you are right.” The difference maker that can change your attitude is gut-strength.
In their book Heart, Smarts, Guts, & Luck, authors Anthony K. Tjan, Richard J. Harrington and Tsun-Yan Hsieh define one of the characteristics of successful businesspeople or entrepreneurs as “guts-dominant.” Guts–dominant people are not only the people who have an idea, but they’re willing to take action on it, endure trials and tribulations to keep it alive, and evolve as necessary to see that idea come to life.
When you have guts, you take action. You are resilient. You are accountable. And you get things done. This is a concept our military students and veterans know quite well; they are people who have a vision, make a plan, take action, measure results and adjust accordingly.
How can you tell if you are gut-strong?
When you encounter an obstacle, do you stop in your tracks, unable to fully function because you are analyzing every possible outcome (repeatedly)? Or do you briefly consider your options then take a decisive action? Gut strong people take action.
Are you willing to make tough decisions and accept the outcome? Notice this is not the same thing as blindly forging ahead and damning the torpedoes – that isn’t strength, that’s carelessness. Gut-strong people accept responsibility and consequences for their actions.
If you’re saying to yourself, “But I don’t have any of these qualities,” think again.
You’ve already made a tough decision: You’ve decided to earn your degree. The responsibilities attached to this are substantial – you’ve got to do the work to gain the prize. If you have a family, work, or other commitments as well, you must work out a way to honor those too. That takes resilience and – you guessed it – gut strength.
You can bet that the ride won’t be smooth. But it will be worth it. The experience and knowledge you gain will propel you toward your goals, and the sense of achievement and confidence you earn will stay with you throughout your life.
Ms. Shelly has spent more than a decade working in higher education. She currently serves as executive vice president for Grantham Education Corporation. Ms. Shelly is passionate about changing lives – about making college education accessible and affordable to more people and preparing students and graduates for success.
When John McCain was shot down, grievously injured and bayonetted by his North Vietnamese captors, they didn’t expect him to survive for long. And they didn’t care… until they realized who he was. Lieutenant John McCain was the son of a prominent U.S. Navy Admiral. As such, John McCain was possibly a valuable asset to the communist regime – and so they made sure he got enough medical care to pull through.
Once he did, the North Vietnamese were ferocious in their attempts to use him to score a propaganda coup. They beat and tortured him severely in an attempt to get him to sign a confession of war crimes (they succeeded, on one occasion – an incident which McCain regretted for the rest of his life). They also tried to get McCain to accept an early release, despite a longstanding code that the first prisoners captured would be the first released in any prisoner swap or furlough. The North Vietnamese knew that if McCain took an early release, they could use the fact that McCain was the son of one of the most powerful admirals in the Navy to undermine morale among military troops.
Propaganda was important to the North Vietnamese, as it was to fascist and communist forebears in Nazi Germany, Maoist China and the Stalinist USSR. Communist officials in North Vietnam were happy to have Jane Fonda, the young daughter of an American movie icon – as an honored guest and willing stooge for their own propaganda ministries. They even gave Fonda a chance to read a radio propaganda address for U.S. troops in 1972.
I visited the (Dam Xuac) agricultural coop, where the silk worms are also raised and thread is made. I visited a textile factory, a kindergarten in Hanoi. The beautiful Temple of Literature was where I saw traditional dances and heard songs of resistance. I also saw unforgettable ballet about the guerrillas training bees in the south to attack enemy soldiers. The bees were danced by women, and they did their job well.
In the shadow of the Temple of Literature I saw Vietnamese actors and actresses perform the second act of Arthur Miller’s play All My Sons, and this was very moving to me- the fact that artists here are translating and performing American plays while US imperialists are bombing their country.
I cherish the memory of the blushing militia girls on the roof of their factory, encouraging one of their sisters as she sang a song praising the blue sky of Vietnam- these women, who are so gentle and poetic, whose voices are so beautiful, but who, when American planes are bombing their city, become such good fighters.
Fast forward to 2013. The producers of CBS’s The Amazing Race have issued an apology to veterans’ groups for offending them with a recent broadcast. Amazing Race is a reality television show in which teams of two competitors race through the streets of foreign cities searching for clues to bring them toward the finish line, decided to produce a segment in Vietnam. The country is still run by a communist totalitarian regime – and like their forebears in 1972, they were quick to seize the opportunity. Race competitors and camera crews were forced to sit through the same kind of pro-communist dog-and-pony musical revues that so captivated Jane Fonda four decades ago.
You can see a minute-long segment from the show here. In fact, I insist that you see it… and pay attention to the young contestants’ grinning reaction to it.
The result was a PR and propaganda coup for the communist North Vietnamese regime and the Ho Chi Minh personality cult – and our 20-something contestants – some of them may have been in their 30s but not much older than that – were apparently wholly unaware of what was happening.
How could this have happened?
Consider: Some of these contestants in their mid-20s today were not even born until the mid-1980s. They were well under 10 years old when the Berlin Wall fell, and the Soviet Union collapsed. They have no personal memory of Flight 007 being downed by a Russian fighter jet over Sakhalin Island. They have no memory of the collapse of the Ceausescu government in Romania, nor any knowledge of the hatred the people had for his corrupt, totalitarian regime. They may have heard of My Lai, but not of the Hue massacres committed by Viet Cong and North Vietnamese regulars. They have no memory of the wanton slaughter of the Khmer Rouge killing fields in Cambodia. They have no memory of nuclear blast drills in school. All of this knowledge would have had to come from their parents (who themselves were probably too young to have fought in Viet Nam).
Where people in their 40s (like me) saw Red Dawn in theaters when it came out, and at least recognized the Russians and Red Chinese and their satellite states as the most existential threat to America in generations (even if we didn’t quite buy the jingoism in the movie’s premise), we could at least figure out who the bad guys were.
They certainly weren’t getting anything approaching Cold War history in school, though. History teachers tend to struggle to get through World War Two before the school year ends. If the Cold War is covered at all, it’s a May and June afterthought, with childrens’ thoughts already turning to signing each others’ yearbooks in class and comparing summer vacation plans.
Educators today, meanwhile, are actually quoting Mao approvingly in Government publications. There were Mao Tse Tung Christmas ornaments hung on the White House Christmas tree in 2009. The President also appointed a Green Energy Czar, Van Jones, who was a member, in the 1990s, of a socialist collective called STORM, short for Standing Together to Organize a Revolutionary Movement.
Most people in Middle America are able to get some Cold War history around the dinner table in their childhoods from older relatives. But remember where our media is headquartered: New York City – in a state that’s dead last in the number of military veterans per capita.
The fact is that few of the 20- and 30-something production assistance that actually put these shows together day-to-day have any educational or cultural frame of reference to grasp the significance of Communist iconography or recognize its propaganda. This is true enough today across the country – but it’s especially true among the generally affluent Northeastern kids who self-select to become CBS production employees.
Well, we expect that of very young people. That is why we have older, more experienced executives around who can take a broader view of activities going on in their organizations. You would think the show’s executive producer, Jerry Bruckheimer, would have flagged the program and at least re-edited it to omit the offensive stage show and the trip to the B-52 memorial, or make some insertion to recognize what had happened in Hanoi. He himself is the son of German-Jewish immigrants – so you would think he would have some cultural sensitivity to the idea that people are sensitive to careless portrayals of history.
He also lives in West Los Angeles, now, with his family – which has a lot of Russian immigrants and until time took them from us, a large number of Jewish holocaust survivors.
Furthermore, Bruckheimer is also the executive producer who gave us the excellent movie Blackhawk Down.
Les Moonves, the head of CBS, has no military experience. He’s New York media, all the way.
So CBS was in the wrong, yes. But they didn’t cause this offense on purpose. Nor did the young contestants grooving and laughing at the stage production – sung in a language they couldn’t understand. This happened because younger Americans have a historical blind spot. And we have tolerated it. We tolerate it every time we see evidence of Red chic on college campuses. We tolerate it every time we let Che Guevara t-shirts go unremarked upon and unchallenged.
So what are your thoughts on the actions of the Amazing Race and CBS? Were these intentional insults or a result of the education our younger generation has received? Tell us your thoughts below.
White House to GOP: Let us increase the debt or the troops get it.
That’s the message Obama had for Congress during a press conference last week, in which reporters asked about the ongoing negotiations over the debt ceiling – a Congressionally-imposed cap on the amount of debt the federal government is authorized.
“If congressional Republicans refuse to pay Americans bills on time, Social Security benefits and veterans’ checks will be delayed,” stated President Obama. “We might not be able to pay our troops or honor our contract for small business owners.”
A Republican representative and War on Terror veteran Duncan Hunter of San Diego, California, has introduced legislation that authorizes the federal government to pay military salaries regardless of the debt limit.
“America’s military men and women fight to defend our freedom without asking for much in return,” said Hunter, a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. “Whether they are fighting in Afghanistan or supporting operations elsewhere, servicemembers deserve assurance that they will not be denied a paycheck. And if paychecks are withheld, it’s because the President, as commander in chief, made a decision not to pay them.
“Especially for those who are serving overseas while their families are at home, the threat of not getting paid can create unnecessary distractions. Removing the threat that paychecks might be withheld or delayed will provide a sense of relief and allow our servicemembers to stay focused on their duties.”
Duncan is currently a major in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve.
About the Debt Ceiling
The Constitution of the United States gives Congress overall responsibility for determining the fiscal policy of the United States. That is, it is Congress, not the President, who primarily decides major tax and spending issues. Constitutionally, the President cannot direct the government to borrow without the approval of Congress.
At the same time, the President cannot refuse to spend money as directed by Congress. He must, by law, operate all the departments and programs he is directed to by Congress – which puts the President on the horns of a dilemma: For years, the amount of money Congress has ordered the government to spend has been greater than the amount coming in. The U.S. government has been forced to borrow the difference by selling bonds, which the government must eventually repay, with interest. The total amount financed by borrowing increases every year.
Meanwhile, though, Congress has also established an overall cap on borrowing, beyond which the President cannot go without getting further authorization from Congress.
This discussion is separate from the “sequestration” cuts that will slash about 10 percent from federal department funding across the board. Military pay and VA benefits will generally continue under sequestration, should it come to pass. The debt ceiling, on the other hand, is a separate argument.
Currently, the Congressional Budget Office projects that we will hit the borrowing limit next month – currently set at $16.4 trillion. Divided equally among every resident of the United States, the per capita national debt is over $52,000 for every man, woman and child.
Once that happens, the President must cease borrowing. The government must then, technically, limit its spending to current revenues coming in, minus those committed to paying existing interest payments. When that happens, the government will begin bouncing checks.
Congress has been extending the debt limit to allow Presidents to finance the operation of government routinely since WWII, including 18 times under President Reagan.
In recent years, however, under pressure from fiscal conservatives and Tea Party representatives in Congress, the legislative branch has been driving a harder bargain. The government almost came to a halt in 2011, for example, when Democrats and Republicans crafted a deal at the last minute that allowed for the increase of the debt limit to today’s level of $16.4 trillion.
The government also shut down, briefly, from November 13 through November 19, 1995, and from December 15, 1995 through January 5, 1996. This occurred after Republicans swept into power in the 1994 Congressional mid-terms and elected Newt Gingrich, a representative from Georgia, as the Speaker of the House. The GOP Congress and Clinton Administration were unable to come to an agreement on the debt ceiling and forced the government to suspend much of its operations and furlough hundreds of thousands of federal workers. Congress was successful in forcing a balanced budget for four years in a row, though revenues were artificially buoyed in the late 1990s by the Internet revolution and inflated equity prices.
Troops continued to be paid during that 21-day shutdown, though, because the defense spending law had already been passed.
Some Congressional Representatives, including Pat Toomey, have also proposed legislation directing the Treasury Department to keep paying active duty military pay and debt service, which is prioritized to ensure that the full faith and credit of the United States Government shall not be questioned. Failing to do so would potentially result in a default on U.S. bonds, which would cause interest rates to spike and make it much more expensive for the government to raise new debt.
Attempts to direct the Treasury Department to prioritize certain payments over others encounter a significant technical hurdle, however: The Treasury Department’s computer systems just aren’t designed to identify and prioritize millions of separate payments every day. It would take time and money to create a new system to do that.
So even if Congress does pass an eleventh-hour law exempting military pay, VA benefits, or other electoral sacred cows from interruptions as a result of the government hitting the debt ceiling, it is far from clear that the Treasury Department will be able to execute the measure.
This document from the Congressional Research Service details the processes by which some DoD functions can continue and some can be curtailed. Essential functions necessary to protect life and property can likely continue, but the troops and civilian workers actually executing the President’s orders (at Congress’s direction) would not be paid until Congress authorizes new borrowing or otherwise appropriates funds that need not be borrowed.
As a result, military pay, veterans’ benefits and contractual payments to defense contractors are all very much at risk of disruption if Congress and the President do not reach an agreement to lift the debt ceiling.
And each party to the conflict will do its best to blame the other.
If you are a big-shot journalist and liberal-leaning TV personality, the District of Attorney issues you a get-out-of-jail free card. If you’re a wounded warrior or veteran, not so much.
David Gregory hosts Meet the Press, a Sunday news and issues talk show that airs on NBC. In the wake of the Newtown school massacre last month, Gregory interviewed Wayne LaPierre, the head of the National Rifle Association, on camera. During the course of the interview, in which Gregory attacked LaPierre’s suggestion that we take steps to provide schools with armed security or allow teachers to carry weapons, Gregory produced a 30 round AR-15 or M-16 magazine and waived it around on camera.
In so doing, Gregory, whose own children attend a Quaker school protected by armed guards, was committing a crime: The mere possession of high-capacity magazines within the District of Columbia is a misdemeanor, punishable by a $1,000 fine, or up to 1 year in prison.
The Washington D.C. Metro Police Department investigated the alleged violation, and found that the violation of the law was clear. They then referred the matter to Washington D.C.’s Attorney General, Irvin B. Nathan – who evoked prosecutorial discretion and declined to take Gregory to court.
Nathan’s opinion: Gregory didn’t really pose a threat.
Here is the statement, issued at close of business on a Friday, from the Office of the Attorney General:
“OAG has made this determination, despite the clarity of the violation of this important law, because under all of the circumstances here a prosecution would not promote public safety in the District of Columbia nor serve the best interests of the people of the District to whom this office owes its trust.”
Unfortunately for the rest of us, people who don’t have high-profile TV shows and don’t send their kids to school with the President don’t get the same leeway from the District of Columbia.
David Gregory’s wife Beth Wilkinson poses with family friend D.C. Attorney General Irvin Nathan at a theater fundraiser in 2011.
SPC Adam Meckler
SPC Adam Meckler, an Army medic, hadn’t been off of active duty for a month when he was handcuffed, arrested, and frogmarched off to jail by Washington D.C. police. Why? He was going through a security checkpoint at the VFW, according to the Washington Times, and the X-Ray identified a few forgotten rounds of ammunition in his medic bag he had used on countless shooting ranges.
No weapon – just the ammunition.
The Washington D.C. Attorney General considers a medic and veteran a threat, and is vigorously prosecuting him, but not David Gregory.
From the Washington Times story:
The federal police officer asked Spc. Meckler if he knew that ammunition was illegal in the District. He said he did not. The officer replied that it was and began to read his Miranda Rights. Spc. Meckler said he interrupted to ask, “Am I really going to be arrested for this?’” The officer confirmed he was.
The D.C. attorney general’s spokesman, Ted Gest, told me that prosecution for unregistered ammunition is “common.”
Ultimately, Meckler – who didn’t have money or connections like David Gregory, pled guilty to one count of possession of unregistered ammunition. He got 30 days unsupervised probation, paid a $100 fine and was forced to make another $100 “donation” to a fund for victims of violent crime.
According to the Washington Times reporting, Meckler’s case wasn’t unusual: “There were 594 arrests for unregistered ammunition in 2011, according to MPD, but of those, only 64 of those were the top charge.”
The “top charge” means that the possession of the unregistered ammunition was the most serious offense these citizens were accused of.
That’s 64 Americans that didn’t receive the benefit of prosecutorial discretion from the AG.
Only one of them sends his kids to school with the President’s to our knowledge: David Gregory.
Additionally, at least 115 people were arrested in Washington D.C. for possession of an unregistered magazine. The Attorney General prosecuted 15 of them.
The Attorney General’s office even brags that they have a history of “aggressively prosecuting” the possession of magazines with capacities greater than ten rounds when circumstances warrant.
Lt. Augustine Kim
Augustine Kim, a lieutenant in the South Carolina National Guard is another veteran who was prosecuted for violating gun laws in Washington, D.C. He also doesn’t send his children to school with the Obamas. He was wounded in combat while serving as a tank platoon leader, and had to spend weeks at Landstuhl and at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, D.C. for reconstructive surgery on his face.
In the summer of 2010, after getting discharged from Walter Reed, he wanted to pick up some of his personally-owned weapons at his parents’ home in New Jersey and take them back to Charleston, South Carolina.
On the way back south, he wanted to stop at Walter Reed again to visit some of his wounded buddies. His firearms were stowed in the trunk, inaccessible, in accordance with federal firearms transportation guidelines.
Washington D.C. Metro Police officers stopped him and asked to search his vehicle. Kim consented to the search, thinking he was innocent. The District of Columbia sees this wounded warrior as a criminal. Not David Gregory. Lieutenant Kim. And treated him as such.
His attorney was able to convince prosecutors to reduce charges, allowing him to plead guilty to one misdemeanor. However, South Carolina congressmen had to browbeat District of Columbia officials for months to get them to return Kim’s firearms to him.
The Washington Times also details the case of James Brinkley, another Army veteran who was arrested and charged in Washington D.C., specifically for possession of high-capacity magazines – the exact same thing Gregory was doing on camera (I keep citing the Washington Times because The Washington Post is AWOL on these stories).
From the Washington Times:
Unlike Mr. Gregory, Mr. Brinkley followed the police orders by placing his Glock 22 in a box with a big padlock in the trunk of his Dodge Charger. The two ordinary, 15-round magazines were not in the gun, and he did not have any ammunition with him.
As he was dropping off his family at 11 a.m. on the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue, Mr. Brinkley stopped to ask a Secret Service officer whether his wife could take the baby’s car seat into the White House. The officer saw Mr. Brinkley had an empty holster, which kicked off a traffic stop that ended in a search of the Charger’s trunk. Mr. Brinkley was booked on two counts of “high capacity” magazine possession (these are ordinary magazines nearly everywhere else in the country) and one count of possessing an unregistered gun.
Despite the evidence Mr. Brinkley had been legally transporting the gun, his attorney Richard Gardiner said the D.C. Office of the Attorney General “wouldn’t drop it.” This is the same office now showing apparent reluctance to charge Mr. Gregory.
No word yet on where Mr. Brinkley’s children go to school. But we’re betting it’s not Sidwell Friends.
Brinkley chose to go to trial – where he won. All the firearms charges were dropped, and all the DC Metro Police had on him at the end of it was a traffic ticket.
Jamison Koehler, a defense attorney who takes firearms cases in the District of Columbia, relates a case here of a severely wounded veteran who was sentenced to six months’ probation for possession of an unregistered firearm and possession of unregistered ammunition in his own home.
Want to sound off on the state of gun owndership and gun control laws? Here’s your chance to give your opinion. Comments are open.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars continues to seek donations to assist members of the military and veterans who were affected by the ravages of Hurricane Sandy at the beginning of this month.
Any surpluses collected will be held in reserve against the next natural disaster severely affecting the veteran or military population.
You can donate online here, or donate by mail to the following address:
406 W 34th St.
Kansas City, MO 64111
You can obtain further information or donate via telephone by dialing (800) 963-3180.
Barack Obama and Mitt Romney went head to head this month on opposing pages in VFW Magazine – the official print magazine of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
The editors of VFW posed the same set of questions to both candidates. Most of the responses from both sides were pretty bland, consisting of nice language but few specifics. However, there were a few salient points, where both men distinguished themselves from one another. Here is a ‘hot wash’ of the candidates’ positions on important issues concerning veterans. You can read the piece in its entirety here.
On partial privatization and vouchers
“There are instances where the targeted use of fee-basis care can be a tool for extending VA’s ability to care for veterans, in remote rural or in hard-to-fill specialties. But our first responsibility should be strengthening VA, and as long as I’m President, I will not allow VA health care to be turned into a voucher system, subject to the whims of the insurance market.”
“Private care may have a role in that the existing network of private providers in the military’s TRICARE system can be an excellent optional supplement to VA, but it cannot be a replacement for the VA program…
…With veteran suicide rates and mental stress soaring, we must consider offering veterans optional access to private providers already available through the TRICARE system to supplement the VA system of care.”
On Increases and Cuts in the Defense Budget
“We need a military that is more agile, with cutting-edge technology and capabilities and we need to focus more on emerging regions like Asia. And my proposed budget grows defense spending every year after 2013 – albeit at a slower rate as we wind down the wars. My balanced plan to get our fiscal house in order over the long run includes less in defense reductions than recommended by the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles Commission.”
“I would increase the naval shipbuilding rate from 9 to 15 per year, improve force structure throughout the services and increase the number of active-duty troops by 100,000… there are savings to be found in the Pentagon’s civilian workforce that can be put toward our fighting men and women and the equipment they need.”
On protecting Retirement Benefits
“I am committed to providing sustainable retiree benefits to our military personnel, and I strongly support protecting the retirement benefits of those who currently serve by grandfathering their benefits.”
“I will not propose TRICARE fee increases or cuts to military benefits especially while the size of the federal budget is exploding. Time and again, we have seen that efforts to balance the budget on the backs of the military end up costing more, not just in treasure, but in blood.”
What do you think? Are they blowing smoke? Sound off in the comment section!