Category Archives: military news

Mr. POTUS, your service now isn’t the same as it might have been

I want to visit one more — and I hope final — time the manner in which Donald Trump avoided military service during the Vietnam War.

He received medical deferments related supposedly to bone spurs. Young Donald received several such deferments while young men were dying in Vietnam, a country that was “so far away,” as the president noted recently in an interview with Piers Morgan.

He says that his time now as president is making up for his lack of service when he was of age to wear a military uniform.

I also recall Trump telling us when he was running for president that his military school enrollment passed as more or less the same as serving in the actual military. No … it wasn’t even close to the same as what many of us were enduring in the late 1960s. Really, I know what I went through in the Army and I am quite sure that Donald Trump didn’t experience the things millions of us did during that time.

Trump says now he would have been “honored” to serve. Really? Well, I don’t know how one can refute such a contention, except to remind the president that he could have sucked it up, locked and loaded a weapon and, well, served his country.

He didn’t do it, just as his father didn’t serve during World War II.

Instead, according to congressional committee testimony delivered by his former friend and lawyer Michael Cohen, Trump once said, “Do you think I’m stupid? I wasn’t going to Vietnam!”

Mr. President, I don’t believe my service in Vietnam was a “stupid” act. I also don’t think others of us who did answer our nation’s call believe they were acting stupidly.

We merely did our duty, Mr. President.

OK, on this matter I am out … I hope.

‘OK … we’ll go’

U.S. Army Gen. Dwight Eisenhower had to make the most difficult of decisions on this day 75 years ago.

Does the supreme Allied commander of all forces in Europe send men into a storm, or does he wait for the sky to clear enough for these men to save the world from the tyranny that had conquered much of Europe?

The weather over the English Channel had forced one postponement of the launch of an invasion. The general waited and waited. Then Ike told his high command, “OK, we’ll go.”

On the morning of June 6, 1944, thousands of men from the United States, Great Britain and Canada climbed into landing craft and proceeded to launch an invasion that many historians believe turned the tide toward victory in Europe. Ships from many nations bombarded the shoreline. Warplanes dropped thousands of bombs and strafed the enemy. Paratroopers flew during the night and dropped behind enemy lines to begin the attack.

The main invasion force landed on five beachheads on the coast of France. Normandy became the bloody battleground where those men fought their hearts out to liberate a continent.

Dignitaries from the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada — and many other Allied nations that played a role in that liberation — will gather at Normandy to pay tribute to the men who answered humanity’s call. The president of the United States Donald Trump will be there, along with British Prime Minister Teresa May, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

They will no doubt be joined by a few of the dwindling number of men who are still among us. They are old men now. The next landmark commemoration, in five years, when we mark the 80th year since the D-Day landing, well could occur without any of those brave warriors. They are well into their 90s now and, of course, time is not their friend.

It’s been reported many times that Gen. Eisenhower wrote two statements prior to sending those men into battle. One of the statements referred to a failed mission. Ike was prepared to take full responsibility for that failure.

He didn’t have to read that statement to the anxious world. The mission, which was fraught with error and misjudgment, nevertheless succeeded. The men secured the beachhead, caught their breath, gathered up their equipment and then began the march across Europe.

So, we will honor those men’s untold bravery. We must always honor them for the valor and the righteousness of the cause for which they fought — and died.

Actually, Mr. Acting WH CoS, it is a big deal

The acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, went on the record this morning by declaring that the kerfuffle over the USS John McCain is “much ado about nothing.”

It’s not a big deal, he told “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd.

OK, actually it is a big deal, sir. It’s not the stuff of political cataclysms. But it’s a big enough deal for the Pentagon to implore the White House to stop politicizing the military.

You know the story. Donald Trump traveled to Japan for a state visit. The U.S. Navy, it has been confirmed, issued an order to hide the name of a U.S. destroyer, the USS John McCain, from the president’s view. Trump and the late senator from Arizona, Republican John McCain, were political adversaries. They had said some nasty things about each other. Trump once denigrated McCain’s heroic service as a Vietnam War prisoner by saying he was a hero “only because he was captured.”

The idea that the Navy — where McCain served with distinction until he entered politics in the early 1980s — would be used as a cudgel to beat on the namesake of a warship is an act of cheap politics. It has no place in the military.

The White House has said that Trump played no role in the shielding of the name. The president has said he “wouldn’t do that.” I’ll accept the denials of direct presidential involvement.

However, the matter is a big deal insofar as it dragged the military into a political dispute.

Once more, with extreme vigor: The men and women who serve in all branches of the military do not act as tools in political struggles; they take an oath to protect the rest of us from foreign adversaries.

Thus, the political directive that drags the military into the midst of a domestic dispute is a big deal.

Do not politicize the military … ever!

I feel the need to weigh in one more — and likely final — time on this dust-up over the USS John McCain.

It is simply this: The U.S. military never should get caught in the middle of a political dispute.

At issue is the order that reportedly was issued directing Navy personnel to hide the name of the USS John McCain from the view of the president of the United States. Donald Trump reportedly was “spared” having to see the name of his political rival, the late Arizona Republican U.S. senator.

The president denies issuing the order. Indeed, the world does not yet know who issued it and whether, as Trump described it, the order was “well-meaning.”

For the record, the destroyer was named after Sen. McCain’s father and grandfather. Sen. McCain’s name was added after the ship went on active duty.

The idea that the U.S. Navy — or any branch of the military — would be drawn into some form of political dispute is reprehensible on its face.

The officers and enlisted personnel who serve on the USS John McCain are proud of their ship, proud of their service to the country and proud to wear their nation’s uniform. They are not politicians and should never be dragged into a dispute of this sort … not ever!

Did POTUS issue this order?

Talk about a murky story.

I didn’t want to believe it when it first came to light. I now tend to believe at least part of it, maybe even most of it. The story is disturbing in the extreme.

It goes like this: U.S. Navy officials sent messages out that ordered that the name of a battle destroyer, the USS John McCain, be kept out of Donald Trump’s view when he arrived in Japan for a state visit.

This is about as disgusting as it gets.

The ship was named after the father and grandfather of the late U.S. senator, who became a consistent foe of the president before he died of brain cancer in August 2018.

What I cannot grasp is this: Who issued the order? Did it come from the commander in chief? Did it come from senior naval officers who sought to make the boss happy? And why would an officer actually carry out such a preposterous order?

The White House staff insists that Trump played no role in the order. That insistence is reason enough for me to look with dubiousness at the denial, given the lack of truth-telling that emanates with stunning regularity from the White House.

But we don’t know about the source of the order.

Trump said he’d never do such a thing. Really, Mr. President?

The USS John McCain was commissioned in honor of two admirals. The late senator’s name was added after the ship went on active duty.

If it’s true, that the order came down and that it was presented as has been reported — that the ship’s crew was ordered to shroud the name so that Trump didn’t see the name while touring the area — then we might have entered a brand new era of petulance.

According to CBS News, which has confirmed the existence of the order: “I would not have done that. I was not a big fan of John McCain in any way shape or form. To me John McCain, I wasn’t a fan. But I would never do such a thing like that. Now, someone did it because they thought I didn’t like him. They were well-meaning, I will say. But I wouldn’t have,” Mr. Trump said.

I want to believe him. Then again, it comes from the liar in chief.

AEDC scores big with Bell Helicopter project

The Texas Legislature took a moment before adjourning this week to offer a well-deserved salute to a company that took a gamble that has paid off in a major way.

The company was Bell/Textron, which once used to assemble aircraft in the Fort Worth area. Then in the late 1990s, the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation dangled a significant financial incentive package to lure Bell/Textron away from the Metroplex to the Texas Panhandle.

That was 20 years ago. The Legislature approved a resolution saluting AEDC and Bell/Textron for the decision to relocate to Amarillo. Man, this investment has paid off handsomely.

AEDC lured Bell/Textron to Amarillo with an incentive totaling around $45 million. It included tax abatements and free land next to Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport. Bell/Textron took the bait and built a plant where it assembles V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft, which at the time — and it still is! — was considered a state-of-the-art airplane that can take off like a helicopter and fly like a fixed-wing airplane.

The V-22 has endured some controversy and some tragedy. Planes have crashed, killing service personnel who were aboard. Bell grounded the aircraft while it worked on the issues that caused a particular crash that killed 19 Marines. It fixed the issue.

The plane has been deployed to battlefields in Afghanistan and Iraq, where it ferries troops and supplies to and away from the field of combat. It has worked well.

The AEDC incentive that lured Bell to Amarillo drew plenty of criticism, particularly from the Fort Worth area that lost the corporate neighbor. Metroplex media bitched about how Amarillo was essentially bribing companies to relocate to the region.

Well, I believe they were suffering from sour-grape indigestion.

AEDC collects a half-cent on every dollar in sales tax revenue in Amarillo. It banks that money and then uses it for purposes such as the one that brought Bell/Textron to the Panhandle. AEDC sees the money as an investment on job creation. So it has worked. Some projects have paid off better than others. AEDC has had some misfires along the way, to be sure.

However, the Bell/Textron investment has paid off well for the company, as well as for Amarillo and the rest of the Texas Panhandle.

The Marines are still flying the V-22; the Air Force and Army have signed on as well.

There are time when you need to take a gamble in search of a big return. Amarillo’s economic development planners saw the potential of such a gamble . . . and have reaped the reward.

Our heroic warriors do not ‘die in vain’

A social media acquaintance of mine tells me that Memorial Day is a holiday he wishes “we didn’t need.”

Amen to that.

I want to offer a point of view, though, that might puzzle some readers of this blog. If it does, I will try my best to explain.

My belief is that service personnel who die in conflicts that are deemed to be “politically unpopular” do not “die in vain.” I hear that kind of criticism leveled at our politicians and, to be candid, it makes my hair stand up; I bristle badly at the accusation.

Yes, this nation has been involved in armed conflict that has sparked ferocious political debate here at home.

In my lifetime, I suppose you could go back to the Korean War, which began just five years after the Japanese surrendered to end World War II, arguably the nation’s last truly righteous war.

The fighting ended in Korea in 1953 but to this very moment, South and North Korea remain in a state of war; they only signed a cease-fire to stop the bloodshed.

Vietnam ratcheted the political debate to new levels, beginning around 1966. The Vietnam War did not end well for this country. We pulled our troops off the battlefield in early 1973, only to watch as North Vietnamese troops stormed into Saigon two years later, capturing the South Vietnamese capital city, renaming it after Ho Chi Minh and sending thousands of enemy sympathizers off to what they called “re-education camps.”

The Persian Gulf War was brief and proved to be successful. Then came 9/11 and we went to war again in Afghanistan and less than two years later in Iraq.

We have lost tens of thousands of young Americans in all those politically volatile conflicts since Korea. Yes, there have been accusations that those warriors “died in vain.”

They did not! They died while answering their nation’s call to duty. They might have been politically unpopular conflicts — but the orders that came down to our young citizens were lawful.

I will continue to resist mightily the notion that our heroic military personnel died in vain. I know better than that. I only wish the critics of public policy decisions that produce misery and heartache would cease defaming the heroism of those who died in defense of the principle that grants citizens the right to complain about our government.

I join my social media acquaintance in wishing away the need to commemorate Memorial Day. But we cannot … as long as young men and women answer their nation’s call to arms.

Neither rain, nor thunder, nor heavy wind …

The U.S. Postal Service has nothing on at least one soldier with the U.S. Army’s 3rd Infantry Regiment.

With all due respect to the USPS, I have to give a serious shout-out to a soldier for the Old Guard who defied terrible weather today at the Tomb of the Unknown at Arlington National Cemetery.

The weather had forced senior officers to order the men who were placing flags at the Arlington cemetery graves to stand down. The weather was too horrible; rain, thunder, lightning and heavy wind pounded the D.C. area.

But one soldier wanted to ensure that a flag was placed at the Tomb of the Unknown. The soldier, who was not identified, braved the elements. According to a Facebook post: “As thunder shook the ground, and rains washed down without abandon, the Tomb Sentinel pierced through the elements with breath-taking precision.”

Where I come from, that’s what I call “devotion to duty.”

Well done, soldier.

As the regiment noted in its Facebook post: “Humans have their limits, but the Old Guard has yet to meet theirs.”

Let us commemorate the sacrifices made on our behalf

My life has been filled with good fortune. Sure, there were obstacles to overcome as I came of age, but through it all I have been blessed beyond measure.

One of the blessings of my life has been that — to my knowledge — none of the people with whom I graduated from Parkrose High School in Portland, Ore., were lost on foreign battlefields. No one died during the Vietnam War, which was raging during the Summer of Love, in 1967, when I walked across the stage to receive my diploma.

Many of my classmates certainly could have “bought it.” They endured unimaginable combat hardship. I am thinking at this moment of Jack Estes, a Marine who has written about the terrible loss and post-traumatic stress he endures so many years later. Then there’s Dudley Young, an Army helicopter pilot who I am certain faced death many times during his time in the war zone.

There were others from our class who ventured forth after high school to do their duty for God and country. They all came home and for that I am eternally grateful.

I think, though, today of a young man I met during my own Vietnam War tour. Jose De La Torre hailed from Fullerton, Calif. I didn’t know him well. He extended his tour several times. Then he got his orders to go home. He was excited, thrilled, ready to return to “The World.” He came into our work station to give us the good news. We wished him well.

Fate got in the way.

In the spring of 1969, he scrambled for one final mission aboard his Huey helicopter. He flew into a tragic mistake. The troop lift mission wasn’t supposed to include a “hot” landing — but it did. His flight of “slicks” and gunships was hit by intense enemy fire.

De La Torre died that day.

I’ve had the high honor of seeing his name etched on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall in D.C. I have sought to honor his memory and the memories of all the men and women whose names are on that wall. Fifty-eight thousand-plus of them gave their “last full measure of devotion” to this great nation.

Memorial Day isn’t a holiday to celebrate. It is one in which we commemorate the sacrifices of those who fell in defense of our nation. They go back a long way, to the founding of this republic more than two centuries ago. They’re still falling today.

We should all count our blessings. I know I do. they are rich and plentiful. We also should thank the Americans who died to preserve them for us.

Space Force: It’s back and it’s still a dumb idea

I cannot believe they’re talking yet again about forming another military branch, this one based in outer space.

On second thought, yes I can believe it.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is pitching the goofy idea one more time. He says we need a “space force” to protect us against pirates who’ll attack us from beyond our atmosphere.

Oh, please help me. Give me strength.

How many times must we say this? The United States already has a military branch — several of them, actually — committed to defending us from outer space attack.

The U.S. Air Force has a Space Command led by a four-star general. The U.S. Navy also has dedicated qualified personnel to monitor the great beyond from ships at sea as well as at naval air stations positioned around the world. The U.S. Army has long deployed units committed to high-tech air defenses.

What in the world are talking about here?

The proposed U.S. Space Force is redundant. It is duplicative of tasks already being done.

The Space Force idea does have its fans. Elon Musk, the Tesla and SpaceX guru, is all in. “It’s cool,” he said, to have a Space Force, noting that they scoffed in the 1940s when the Air Force was split off from the Army.

Donald Trump wants to create this force as a national security matter. He signed a directive calling for additional study of the issue.

Whatever. A Space Force is still a nutty notion.

We do not need to form yet another military service branch. I’m tellin’ ya, the military we have on duty at this time — the most potent fighting force in human history — is quite capable of defending us against space pirates.