Friday, December 25, 2015

An unexpected Christmas gift




I head down below the tree line and into the deeper snow. I’m not really a snow type person, loving the sunshine of the Gulf Coast of Texas, but up here the wind keeps it to a minimum. The old stone-strewn trail is barely visible and the snowshoe rabbit tracks are the only indication that anything can live in this wasteland.

It was decided last night that seeing I have the lowest position, I would be the one to find a Christmas tree. I chuckle to myself wondering if this country has anything resembling a real “Christmas” type tree. My heavy coat soon becomes almost too hot and I unzip it to let some sub-zero dry air inside. To sweat out here could be fatal, or so I have been warned.

It’s my first Christmas away from my home town and my forgiving family. I chuckle again looking at my gloved hands. 3 years ago, no one at home would believe that the town hellion would be so far from his home town. 3 years ago, most everyone thought I would be in prison.

“I need to find a Christmas tree,” I mumble and shift my burden to my shoulders. It is bitterly cold and they said there wasn’t much chance I would encounter trouble, but they are back at base camp and safe and I am out here by myself.

It’s one thing to talk tough on the street, but when it is for real and the bad guy would just as soon hang your head on a trophy pole, it brings it into perspective. I hear a stick crack and at this altitude it sounds like a gunshot. I drop down on one knee and feel the adrenaline shoot through me like a hemi-powered hotrod. Totally unaware of my presence a white fox dashes out from under a scrub bush and chases a white rabbit past me.

I slowly exhale, not realizing I was holding my breath. Yea, my homies should see me now. Out here thousands of miles from home looking for a Christmas tree has a whole new meaning to being tough.  I’m not tough – I’m scared. I was tough, or thought I was, but I really had no clue. Being tough has nothing to do with a person’s ability to fight. Being tough is more of a spiritual battle than what can be done with your fists.

That’s really why I am out here by myself. Because of my faith in God, I wanted a tree to express his birthday and finally I was granted my wish. “If you want one so bad young fella, go out and get one.” The guys are all seasoned men and I guess, religious to an extent and what he said wasn’t a command. I know that. One by one they nod at me and I realize they too would like to see a tree. They just don’t want to possibly risk their life or go out in the cold to get one.

We’ve been on this lonely mountain for 3 long weeks and the weather has us socked in or we would have been extracted by now. We are simply waiting it out. I read the small Bible each night and our team leader ignores me, as we are under strict guidelines to not have one in-country. I just couldn’t live without it and I guess he knows that.

I chuckle again thinking about what the judge told me 3 years ago. “Son, you better turn your life around, because the next time you are here will be the last time I am lenient.” I was 17 and soon to have a birthday. Becoming 18 years old makes me accountable and the 11 times I have been arrested already made me known to every cop in town. Now I am getting colder by the minute and every little noise has me almost jumping out of my skin.

Who knew being with this outfit would mean I would be on a mountaintop thousands of miles from home on Christmas looking for a tree? There! I see it! I work my way over a small ridge to a copse of boulders. There in the middle is a small evergreen type bush about 3 feet tall. Removing my gloves, I extract my serrated blade and begin to saw at the base. As I work on it, I spy a slight movement across the narrow gorge.

There, seated by a very small fire is a foreign soldier with his rifle pointed directly at me. I freeze, as my rifle is on the ground beside me. The young man is about my age and his beard is scraggly and bare, as is mine. Being in Special Forces allows me the privilege of not shaving – just like this guy. I’d be lying if I said I’m not scared, but the look on his face is the same as the one on mine.

He stares at me and I at him. We are not more than a hundred feet apart and then – he smiles. He leans forward setting the rifle down and holds a skewer of meat over his small fire and I ever so slowly return to getting my small tree cut down. He points at the sky and then at me and I nod. I stand very slowly letting out my breath and carefully sling my rifle over my shoulder. Grabbing my tree, I take one last look at the young enemy soldier and pointing at the sky, I point at him. Seeing him nod, I head back to camp to observe the birth of the Christ child with my fellow Christian soldiers.

 .

Friday, December 18, 2015

Please show me a real hero




When my son was about 16 he put up a poster of Che Guevara on his bedroom wall. Being a cold warrior who served 4 years in the Strategic Air Command, I was naturally alarmed, but hid it to inquire about his reason for this objectionable show of admiration.

“Che was cool!” was his retort and he punched the stapler in the bottom left corner to finish the installation. I was careful to inquire how much he knew about the man and of course it was very little and honestly, he thought the guy simply looked cool with his wavy black hair.

I gave him a piece of advice I picked up somewhere and it has been a mantra of mine for years. “Be careful who you make into a hero.” In wartime, the difference between a hero and a coward is one solitary action and it may swap the very next day. On top of that, hero status can change drastically.

Take the modern day hero Ronald Reagan for instance. Reagan is often cited as an example of what a real president should be, but I well remember back 30 years ago, people hated that guy. I hated him.  I was laid off from Arco Chemical because of him and I had a “for life” job. Over the years he has become a symbol of doing everything right.

Mahatma Gandhi is another person people love to sing his laurels, but according to the Bible, he was worse than an infidel because he would not care for his own family. His wife would beg him to keep just enough donations that they could eat, but he gave it all away and refused his own children an education. Please don’t take my word for it.  Research it for yourself.

Al Gore was lauded as a hero for bringing to light global warming and Barack Obama for giving the world hope to the point that they were both awarded Nobel Peace prizes.  Both were major failures on nearly everything they promised.

I am not insinuating that there are not real heroes. We are surrounded by them and don’t realize it. No, they don’t sell millions of records, play professional sports, or win Academy Awards. They are those of us that awaken to an alarm clock and get up and go to work every day when we hate every second of it.

It is that mom or dad that corrects their kids when they do wrong and teach them how to behave properly in society. They parent their children by “imposing restrictions” so their kid isn’t a jailbird by the time they can drive. Heroes sacrifice their own lives so others may succeed. If you get nothing more out of this column than that last statement, I have made my point.

Men and women who work 60 plus hours a week so their family can have a few extras and do it year after year are real heroes to me. They change stinky poopie diapers, or tend the sick, or “drag them kids” to the dentist on a regular basis. They dog their children at school and refuse to let them drop out. They set standards and enforce them.

No, a hero isn’t that big guy that can bench press 500 pounds or the woman who wins a national title in a bathing suit. It isn’t the comedian who can make millions laugh or the musical artist with the raunchiest lyrics. Its guys like my friend Don Cunningham who puts his heart into writing daily parables to lift up those around him. It’s Ken Pridgeon who paints with a labor of love all those military heroes who paid the ultimate sacrifice.

Unfortunately it has become politically correct to erase the history of some heroes of our country and it is a scary path I hope we do not continue to go down.  A hero of mine is Ben Franklin and in a lot of ways, old Ben was not a hero, but we live a better life because of his scientific experiments.  Did you know Ben Franklin is regarded as the greatest scientist of the 18th century?

Ren Fitts is a hero to me. He is an advocate for Veterans and an unselfish one too. Although battling 100% disability from the things he suffered in Vietnam, he is quick to help any veteran obtain their benefits. He has enough ailments for ten people due to the war, but is so encouraging that I see him as an example of how people should be.

I recently had construction work done at my house by Duane Peterson and his crew. This is the second time I’ve hired him and his attention to detail in a time when no one wants to give you a smidgeon of service bumps him up to near hero status. Is it just me or does anyone else want at least what we are paying for?

Be careful who you elevate to hero status especially in front of your kiddos. Some of these folks stink worse than poopie diapers. It just takes time for them to ferment.
.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Goodbye Concealed Handgun Permit



Come January 1st, anyone with a concealed handgun permit can walk down the street with the holstered weapon in plain sight. This sounds like the Wild West, right? Visions of wild-eyed Tea party radicals swaggering around daring anyone to challenge them is one image that some may conjure up. Another is a mom grabbing her child up by the arm and running from the store because “that man has a gun, mommy”.

I will share my thoughts on the first scenario. It’s scary and I hope I don’t see that fellar.  No one wants to see someone walking around with a gun on their hip acting like an ego starving lunatic. I know a whole slew of people who legally carry and I don’t think any of us plan on carrying any differently that we are right now.

Over many years I have repeated that no time in my history have I seen a time of turmoil to match the 1960’s… until now. In case you are unsure of what I am referring to, I’ll point it out in easy to understand terms and I am not inferring you are incapable of understanding big words like verisimilitude.

The Vietnam War, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy, and Martin Luther King Jr., the emerging drug culture, race riots, the Yuppie movement, and the list goes on. I was a kid who witnessed the racial tension and the war on the nightly news. I was soon to enter the fray upon graduation from high school and I should have been carefree.

The truth is I felt the anxiety many years before I graduated, but being an optimistic kid, I knew I would get through it. Many years have passed between 1970 and 2015 and that old anxiety has came back. I think it slowly began to slip back in about 3 years ago.  Before I write anything else, I want to make it very clear I am not trying specifically to target and bash Obama, even though I think many of his decisions are taking us dangerously close to anarchy, but it is what it is.

I think our government has lost contact with the very people who voted them into a position of choosing what we need. They are no longer a group who is doing the will of the people. The partisan squabbling and resistance to work things out has led us to a President who appears to do whatever he wants and a Secretary of State who is above the law… and no one can or will do anything about it.

I’m not 100% sure here, but I think a great many Vietnam Veterans cringe when they think about John Kerry as the chief foreign affairs adviser. The Obama’s administrations total focus on climate change while ignoring domestic terrorism is a perfect example of the cat chasing its own tail while ignoring the rats creeping in through open holes.

Mr. Obama is predictably going after the guns while him and his family are guarded and will be guarded for the rest of their lives by men with guns. His life matters, but yours evidently does not. It is the most preposterous paradox I have ever seen. Why is it that they cannot see this? They are surrounded by people with guns protecting them, but Mr. Obama and all his cronies want us to give up our right to carry a firearm and protect our families. The bad guys have machine guns and travel in packs and we can only have a long gun that shoots 5 bullets? What? The President’s guys have machine guns and 30 round magazines under their coats. Our lives don’t matter.

It reminds me of the English officer in Last of the Mohicans wondering why Hawkeye can call himself a loyal subject of England and not fight for the king. Hawkeye flat told the officer he didn’t see himself as a subject to any man and that is the direction we are heading. Obama and Hillary are above the very laws they expect us to obey and I am far from being alone in this observation.  Hillary should be in jail right now.

As head of the CIA, General David Petraeus was having an affair. This, as far as I know is not a crime. His crime was that he didn’t tell anyone and this put him in a position of compromise and possibly being blackmailed. For this he was bounced out and disgraced.  “Eventually, he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of mishandling classified information Petraeus allegedly provided to his mistress and biographer.”

On the other hand, righteous Hillary has violated so many laws concerning classified material and yet is a front runner for President of the United Sates? Really? Seriously?  As an ex-First Lady, she is protected by Secret Service agents for the rest of her life and she’s going after the guns also? The idiocy of her hypocrisy is only hidden to those who blindly disregard her illegal transgressions and will giddily punch her ticket at the voting booth. I swear, the woman could come out saying she killed and ate a baby seal every morning for breakfast and folks would excuse her.

One reason the Second Amendment keeps getting so much attention is veterans of foreign wars know that arming ourselves is no fantasy strategy. War and terrorism on our soil is not only a possibility, but probably coming to our streets. Burying our heads in the sand is not only unrealistic, but living a Utopian dream. No, I will not open carry, but I won’t go out without my usual.
.




Friday, December 04, 2015

Geocachers, The New Outdoorsmen



Geocachers on the Lone Star Trail

When I was a kid living in Michigan, my dad always had a copy of Herter’s catalog.  Inside it was every kind of outdoor gear you can imagine.  If you fished, there was every kind of lure made and components to build your own.  I looked at as much as I looked at the Sears & Roebuck catalog.

By the way, as a young farm boy, the Sears catalog was of special interest due to the fact that it had grown women posing in under clothes, but it also had a huge Christmas section at the end of the year.  I can’t really recall which was more interesting, but I digress.

My dad was in my eyes a true hunter who was woods savvy.  I saw him shoot a flying crow with a .22 rifle one time and he was at home when in the woods.  He never got lost and would often trick my brothers and I by quizzing us about where we were or what we were looking at.  I’ve written about this before, so I will not weary you by repeating.

Suffice it to say, my whole family grew up doing outdoorsy things most people only see on TV or in movies.  We learned more by doing than by actual teaching.  My dad was an awesome man with a lot of book and real life experience, but he was definitely not a teacher in the conventional sense.  He taught by doing and we learned without realizing we were being taught.

Maybe this is the reason I am so passionate about explaining things and this brings me to the subject.  I, as many of my readers know, am a geocacher.  Not to take away from any other hobby especially fishing and hunting, but geocachers are the new outdoors people.  To prove my point, we spend more time in the woods and trails than the other groups combined.  I don’t have hard facts on that, but I’m pretty sure I’m dead on.

Geocachers on Cedar Bayou
The purpose of this argument is not to place one group over the other or to compete, but to make a point.  We have reached an evolution where kids pay more attention to electronic devices than they do the great outdoors.  No wonder so many are overweight and out of shape, right?  Well, guess what?  Geocachers use electronic devices to find hidden geocaches located in city parks, wooded areas, old cemeteries, and hiking trails.

I have a web page set up to explain how it works.  It might be a good idea to stop reading right now and see what this geocaching thingy is before you read further.  I am on the board of the Texas Geocaching Association and represent our area.  I teach free geocaching 101 classes at either the EddieV Gray Wetlands Center or the Baytown Nature Center twice a year.  Everyone is invited to attend and bring your kids. 

It might just save them and you.  You see, there are probably more seniors playing this game than young people and it’s a great way to walk off those holiday pounds.

There are a lot of things vying for our attention and much of it is bad. I can’t think of anything better in the secular world than this game to introduce people to the great big wonderful world out there. I also have a confession here and it’s embarrassing a bit. Geocachers almost to the person are nerdish. I know.  Like I said, it’s embarrassing. We tend to like to read, do math, study statistics, love learning new things – all the things most people hate.  But… there is a treasure hunt here and who doesn’t like to find treasure? 

I know I do and it drives me to go on this geocaching adventure like a person looking for gold.  The gold is nothing more than a piece of paper inside the container that I will sign the date and my geocaching name.  It’s crazy.  Then I will go online to geocaching.com and write a story about the adventure called “a log”. This records my visit and verifies I’ve been to the container. I often post a funny selfie too. 

Register a free account at geocaching.com and download a free App for your phone and you are ready to begin the adventure.  If you get a group together, I will be happy to conduct a free class in how to play the game.
 .




Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Muslim Eye Opener

Peshwar Church bombing by Muslims


Here is a perspective by Dr. Peter Hammond.  He was born in Capetown in 1960, grew up in Rhodesia and converted to Christianity. Adapted from Dr. Peter Hammond's book: Slavery, Terrorism and Islam:

     The Historical Roots and Contemporary Threat:

     Islam is not a religion, nor is it a cult.  In its fullest form, it is a complete,
     total, 100% system of life.

     Islam has religious, legal, political, economic, social, and military components.  The religious component is a beard for all of the other components.

     Islamization begins when there are sufficient Muslims in a country to agitate
     for their religious privileges.  When politically correct, tolerant, and culturally diverse societies agree to Muslim demands for their religious privileges, some of the other components tend to creep in as well..

     Here's how it works:

     As long as the Muslim population remains around or under 2% in any given
     country, they will be for the most part be regarded as a peace-loving minority and not as a threat to other citizens. This is the case in:

     United States -- Muslim 0..6%
     Australia -- Muslim 1.5%
     Canada -- Muslim 1.9%
     China -- Muslim 1.8%
     Italy -- Muslim 1.5%
     Norway -- Muslim 1.8%

     At 2% to 5%, they begin to proselytize from other ethnic minorities and
     disaffected groups, often with major recruiting from the jails and among
     street gangs.  This is happening in:

     Denmark -- Muslim 2%
     Germany -- Muslim 3.7%
     United Kingdom -- Muslim 2.7%
     Spain -- Muslim 4%
     Thailand -- Muslim 4.6%

     From 5% on, they exercise an inordinate influence in proportion to their
     percentage of the population.  For example, they will push for the introduction of halal (clean by Islamic standards) food, thereby securing food preparation jobs for Muslims.

     They will increase pressure on supermarket chains to feature halal on their
     shelves -- along with threats for failure to comply.  This is occurring in:

     France -- Muslim 8%
     Philippines -- 5%
     Sweden -- Muslim 5%
     Switzerland -- Muslim 4.3%
     The Netherlands -- Muslim 5.5%
     Trinidad & Tobago -- Muslim 5.8%

     At this point, they will work to get the ruling government to allow them to rule themselves (within their ghettos) under Sharia, the Islamic Law. The ultimate goal of Islamists is to establish Sharia law over the entire world.

     When Muslims approach 10% of the population, they tend to increase
     lawlessness as a means of complaint about their conditions.  In Paris , we are already seeing car-burnings. Any non-Muslim action offends Islam, and results in uprisings and threats, such as in Amsterdam , with opposition to Mohammed cartoons and films about Islam.  Such tensions are seen daily, particularly in Muslim sections, in:

     Guyana -- Muslim 10%
     India -- Muslim 13.4%
     Israel -- Muslim 16%
     Kenya -- Muslim 10%
     Russia -- Muslim 15%

     After reaching 20%, nations can expect hair-trigger rioting, jihad militia formations, sporadic killings, and the burnings of Christian churches and Jewish synagogues, such as in Ethiopia -- Muslim 32.8%

     At 40%, nations experience widespread massacres, chronic terror attacks, and ongoing militia warfare, such as in:

     Bosnia -- Muslim 40%
     Chad -- Muslim 53.1%
     Lebanon -- Muslim 59.7%

     From 60%, nations experience unfettered persecution of non-believers of all other religions (including non-conforming Muslims), sporadic ethnic cleansing (genocide), use of Sharia Law as a weapon, and Jizya, the tax placed on infidels, such as in:

     Albania -- Muslim 70%
     Malaysia -- Muslim 60.4%
     Qatar -- Muslim 77.5%
     Sudan -- Muslim 70%

     After 80%, expect daily intimidation and violent jihad, some State-run ethnic cleansing, and even some genocide, as these nations drive out the infidels, and move toward 100% Muslim, such as has been experienced and in some ways is on-going in:

     Bangladesh -- Muslim 83%
     Egypt -- Muslim 90%
     Gaza -- Muslim 98.7%
     Indonesia -- Muslim 86.1%
     Iran -- Muslim 98%
     Iraq -- Muslim 97%
     Jordan -- Muslim 92%
     Morocco -- Muslim 98.7%
     Pakistan -- Muslim 97%
     Palestine -- Muslim 99%
     Syria -- Muslim 90%
     Tajikistan -- Muslim 90%
     Turkey -- Muslim 99.8%
     United Arab Emirates -- Muslim 96%

     100% will usher in the peace of 'Dar-es-Salaam' -- the Islamic House of peace. Here there's supposed to be peace because everybody is a Muslim, the Madrasses are the only schools, and the Koran is the only word, such as in:

     Afghanistan -- Muslim 100%
     Saudi Arabia -- Muslim 100%
     Somalia -- Muslim 100%
     Yemen -- Muslim 100%

     Unfortunately, peace is never achieved, as in these 100% states the most radical Muslims intimidate and spew hatred, and satisfy their blood lust by killing less radical Muslims, for a variety of reasons.

     'Before I was nine I had learned the basic canon of Arab life. It was me against my brother; me and my brother against our father; my family against my cousins and the clan; the clan against the tribe; the tribe against the world, and all of us against the infidel. -- Leon Uris, 'The Haj'

     It is important to understand that in some countries, with well under 100% Muslim populations, such as France, the minority Muslim populations live in ghettos, within which they are 100% Muslim, and within which they live by Sharia Law.

     The national police do not even enter these ghettos. There are no national courts, nor schools, nor non-Muslim religious facilities.  In such situations, Muslims do not integrate in to the community at large. The children attend madrasses. They learn only the Koran.  To even associate with an infidel is a crime punishable with death.

     Therefore, in some areas of certain nations, Muslim Imams and extremists exercise more power than the national average would indicate.  Today's 1.5 billion Muslims make up 22% of the world's population.  But their birth rates dwarf the birth rates of Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, and all other believers.  Muslims will exceed 50% of the world's population by the end of this century.

     Adapted from Dr. Peter Hammond's book: Slavery, Terrorism and Islam:

What, me read? Isn't that a 4 letter word?

I had an appointment this week at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center to have an echocardiogram, which by the way is an EKG ti...