Tag Archives: Navy SEALs

Now they’re offering salutes

AMARILLO, Texas — There’s a first time for everything, as in everything.

Those of us who saw duty in Vietnam have been receiving belated — but still quite welcome — greetings from our fellow travelers.

Today, while walking through a grocery story in west Amarillo, a gentleman saw the “Vietnam Veteran” cap on my noggin and snapped a salute, while thanking me for my service.

My thought in the moment? Oh, my. Moreover, the nature of the salute this fellow snapped told me he, too, once served in the military. I returned his salute and thanked him.

Those of us of a certain age know how it used to be in this country. We didn’t the kind of homecoming that vets are getting these days, and deservedly so!

I actually remember the first time anyone said, “Welcome home” to me after learning I had served for a time in Vietnam. That “welcome” came from a former Vietnam War SEAL and a Medal of Honor recipient. It has stayed with me.

But … that’s ancient history. The nation has rediscovered its respect for veterans.

For that, this veteran will be forever grateful.

Twitter becomes a disgusting weapon

This is one of the things I hate about Twitter.

It can be used for disgraceful purposes, such as what a Chicago man did the other day. Fortunately, it cost him his job.

Daniel Grilo went on Twitter to make a disgusting commentary on the widow of a Navy SEAL who (a) had been killed in combat and (b) had been invited to hear Donald Trump’s speech to a joint session of Congress.

The president called attention to Carryn Owens, wife of slain SEAL William “Ryan” Owens. She stood and cried while the audience cheered for her. I guess Grilo didn’t like it. So he posted something utterly distasteful about what he had witnessed on television. He tweeted: “Sorry Owens’ wife, you’re not helping yourself or your husband’s memory by standing there and clapping like an idiot. Trump just used you.”

That’s the bad news. The good news — from my standpoint — is that the financial firm for which he was set to start work dismissed him.

I hate a lot of things about Twitter … although I do use it myself. I have fired off more than 14,600 tweets over the years, but I have sought to avoid the kind of personal insults that we too often read on this social medium.

We all get 140 characters to say whatever it is we want to say. I try to be more discreet than the idiocy fired into cyberspace by the likes of Daniel Grilo.

Grilo did apologize to Mrs. Owens and to the president in subsequent tweets. I’m sorry to inform you, dude, the damage was done and as an old friend once told me, “You cannot unhonk a horn.”

In Trump World: Buck stops … somewhere else

Commanders in chief are supposed to know a fundamental truth about sitting atop a large and complex military chain of command.

They are allowed to take some of the credit for success, but they also must take responsibility when missions don’t go according to plan.

Donald J. Trump signed off on a mission to kill or capture some top al-Qaeda leaders, to collect some intelligence on the terror network and, presumably, to return all the men assigned to carry out the mission back home.

The mission that occurred in Yemen in late January. A Navy SEAL, Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens died in the fire fight. A state-of-the-art Osprey V-22 tiltrotor aircraft was lost. Some al-Qaeda leaders died in the battle. So did some civilians, including at least one child.

Military and national security officials are still trying to assess the value of the intelligence collected. We keep hearing conflicting assessments. The president, of course, says it is of high value.

But the current commander in chief has done something that is quite extraordinary — and inexcusable. He is laying the blame for Petty Officer Owens’ death on the military planners. “They” lost the SEAL, Trump has said.

Wait a flippin’ minute, Mr. President! The buck is supposed to stop at your desk. One of your predecessors, President Truman, famously posted the sign on his Oval Office desk that said “The Buck Stops Here.” President Kennedy once declared that “victory has a thousand fathers, while defeat is an orphan” after the failed Bay of Pigs operation shortly after he became president.

Trump’s response? He has declared that the planning for the Yemen raid was done by President Obama’s national security team. They crafted the plan that failed, Trump has implied. It’s their fault, too!

This is not what commanders in chief do. Under any other circumstance, presidents stand up and take the heat when things go badly. They do not blame others — namely the military brass or their predecessors. JFK’s failed mission in Cuba was actually conceived by his predecessor, President Eisenhower, but the new guy took the hickey, accepted full responsibility for the mission’s failure.

A military man who just a few years later would become commander in chief himself, devised a strategy to liberate Europe from Nazi Germany. Army Gen. Dwight Eisenhower — supreme commander of Allied Forces — launched the D-Day invasion of Normandy, France in June 1944. The mission succeeded, Europe would be liberated.

But Ike had written an alternative announcement he would have read over the radio had the mission failed. In the message that was never broadcast, he took full responsibility for its failure.

That is what leaders do.

I am not going to wander into the muck over whether the Yemen raid was a success or failure. The president’s assertion that the generals were to blame for the death of a brave young SEAL suggests to me that he has doubts about the mission’s overall success.

Whatever the case, the event occurred on the commander in chief’s watch and it is that person — no one else — who should be held fully accountable.

Trump declines to mingle with ‘the enemy’

We might have seen this one coming.

Donald J. Trump announced today he won’t attend the annual White House Correspondents Dinner, an event that attracts noted journalists, assorted celebrities and politicians — and usually features a blistering bit of self-deprecation and jabs at others from the president of the United States.

It’s a whole lot of fun for those who attend. At least it’s supposed to be fun.

Trump, though, will forgo the event. “I will not be attending the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner this year. Please wish everyone well and have a great evening!,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

Is anyone surprised? Really? I didn’t think so. Trump, after all, has labeled the media the “enemy of the people.” Why would he want to mingle with such “dishonest” individuals and organizations?

The president has gone on the warpath against the mainstream media, going so far as to ban certain media organizations from attending routine White House press briefings. He has called them “fake news” outlets. He has accused the media of making stories up, of hiding their sources and attribution.

It is all — if I may borrow a term — “unpresidented” of the president to say these things about the media.

However, the White House Correspondents Dinner has been notable at many levels for many years. Perhaps the most notable event occurred in 2011, when then-President Obama joked about Trump — who was in the audience — concocting all sorts of conspiracy theories, starting with whether the president was born in the U.S. of A. Trump, at the time a mere real estate mogul and reality TV celebrity, took the ribbing stone-faced

What we didn’t know at the time, of course, was that earlier that day Obama had approved the commando mission to kill Osama bin Laden, who was holed up in a Pakistan compound. The president  carried on as if he didn’t have a care in the world.

The dinner, which occurs on April 29, will no doubt include plenty of barbs tossed at the president from the podium.

I’m willing to consider taking bets on whether Trump unloads via Twitter in response when they start flying at him. That shouldn’t surprise anyone, either.

POTUS takes aim at Senate vets; be careful, sir

Donald J. Trump once said his enrollment in a military high school was equivalent to serving in the actual military.

He was wrong. What’s the president doing now? He has decided to attack at least two actual veterans who now serve in the U.S. Senate.

A word of advice, Mr. President: Do not go there.

First case: Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., reported that Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch called Trump’s tweets criticizing federal judges “demoralizing” and “destabilizing.”

Trump’s reaction was to call attention to Blumenthal’s assertion years ago that he once served in the Vietnam War. Blumenthal didn’t go to Vietnam. However, the senator did serve in the military.

Next case: U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., criticized a military mission that Trump ordered that resulted in the loss of an expensive aircraft and the life of a Navy SEAL.

Trump’s press flack said McCain dishonored the memory of the slain SEAL.

Trump treads on tricky ground.

Remember, too, that candidate Trump once said McCain was a Vietnam War hero only because “he was captured. I like people who aren’t captured, OK?” I’ve spoken my piece already on that shameful and ridiculous assertion.

But as a veteran of the Army myself — who served for a time in Vietnam — I take tremendous umbrage at the president going after veterans when he has no knowledge of what they endured.

In the case of McCain in particular, I would caution Trump strongly to avoid launching anything resembling a personal attack on this gallant war hero.

Two sources offer differing versions of same story


Two Internet websites are reporting something about an American war hero that differ in their emphasis.

One of them leans left; the other leans right. The specific subject of their analyses is an essay by former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who’s challenging contentions by yet another source about the veracity of a former Navy SEAL’s account of his battlefield exploits.

Here’s the right-leaning site:


Perry questions doubts raised about the late Chris Kyle’s medals. Kyle, who was shot to death after returning from multiple deployments to Iraq, reportedly fudged the number of Silver and Bronze stars he received for his work as a SEAL sniper.

Breitbart.com sides with Perry’s accusation that the doubts have served to smear the memory of Chris Kyle, whose military career was the subject of an acclaimed film “American Sniper.”

Here’s the left-leaning site:


Deadstate.org says the report reflects journalists doing actual journalism.

Gov. Perry, quite naturally, disputes that side of the story.

Perry said the DD-214 — the Defense Department official record of every person’s military service — is the definitive source for this information.

Here’s my take.

I don’t particularly care whether Kyle received two Silver Stars or “merely” one of them, or that he received six Bronze Stars instead of just four, or five.

The man is a hero, no matter how you slice it.

As for whether the report constitutes a “smear,” and has “libeled” a dead man, I’ll make two quick points.

One is that you cannot libel someone who’s dead. The other is that the truth has yet to be determined. If the reporters who dug up the discrepancy in Kyle’s record have done so accurately, well, you cannot libel anyone by telling the truth.

I’m not going to obsess over the number of medals for valor Kyle earned while doing his duty.

Five years ago, the war on terror shifted


Five years ago, my wife and I were watching TV.

Then we noticed one of those crawls scrolling across the bottom of the screen. It announced that President Obama was going to make a special announcement about a national security issue.

It was a Sunday night. The president never goes on national TV to tell us something about national security unless it was something really, really huge.

I turned to my wife and said, “I think they got bin Laden.” Yes, I said that. You can ask her if you wish.

It was right around midnight when Barack Obama strode to a microphone in the White House to say that U.S. Special Forces had carried out a mission that killed Osama bin Laden.

The forces took bin Laden’s body to an aircraft carrier in the Indian Ocean, where sailors aboard the U.S.S. Carl Vinson “buried him at sea.” I prefer to think they just tossed his corpse into the drink.

Americans cheered. I cheered, too. We all were glad to see the 9/11 mastermind and head of al-Qaeda pay the price for his dastardly history.

Of course, in the days and weeks that followed, Obama’s critics all said much the same thing. The president was taking “too much credit” for issuing the order to take out bin Laden. Big deal, those critics said. He didn’t board the helicopters, fly into Pakistan with no lights at night. All he did was issue the order.

I felt compelled at the time — on May 2, 2011 — to remind those critics that another president once ordered a rescue mission into Iran. It was April 1980 when U.S. Army Special Forces ventured to Desert One and where several of them died in the futile attempt to extract those U.S. hostages from the clutches of the Iranian “students” who captured them at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.

Did President Carter deserve the “blame” for the mission failure? Sure he did. He ordered it, apparently without agreeing to plans for how to deal with the mechanical failures that resulted in the desert tragedy.

Having said that, President Obama deserved “credit” for ordering the hit job that brought down the world’s most notorious terrorist.

Did the death of one man spell the end of the fight? Not in the least.

It redefined the nature of the fight. It made it possible for the current president to rely on finely tuned intelligence gathering to help our forces bring justice to the monsters who seek to do us harm.


Was the bin Laden raid a lead-pipe cinch to succeed? No on that one, too. The president was concerned that the Navy SEAL team and the Army Special Forces pilots would come up empty when they landed in the compound where they believed bin Laden had been “hiding in plain sight.”

The mission proved to be a success.

The fight against international terrorism goes on. I, though, am willing to give the commander in chief for exhibiting a huge measure of courage in issuing the order that brought about a national cheer.

Believe this, too: Had it gone wrong, President Obama surely would have gotten the blame.


ISIS leader becomes new No. 1 target


Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has become a marked man.

Who is this guy? He is the leader of the Islamic State. He heads the world’s most formidable terrorist organization.

What if we get him? Will it mean the end of the organization. Probably not by itself, but it would cripple the Islamic State in a way that all the bombs and missiles we’re dropping on the terrorists.

This is a big deal at many levels.

According to Bloomberg News Service: “Eliminating Baghdadi is seen as a particularly important goal, the official said, because he holds a unique role in being able to inspire and organize extremists beyond the territory held by the group. While declining to compare the effort to the operation that led to the killing of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in 2011, the official said the U.S. has a proven track record of finding a top target once it sets its sights.”

President Obama and Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced recently the deployment of a special operations team that is set up to help Kurdish and Iraqi forces fighting ISIS units. The team is expected to deploy teams acting on intelligence gathered by CIA operatives, the National Security Agency, the FBI, Navy SEALs and Army Delta Force commandos.

These folks all are quite good at what we ask them to do.

Which is to hunt down and eliminate bad guys.


Where was VPOTUS on the bin Laden raid?

bin laden raid

Vice President Joe Biden is known for a lot of things: authenticity, verbosity, good humor, commitment to public policy.

He’s not known as a prevaricator.

Still, if the vice president is going to run for the top job — and I’m not yet convinced he’s going to do so — he’s got to clear up a serious matter.

What was his view on the raid to kill terrorist leader Osama bin Laden? Was he for it or not?

Biden is sending a mixed message regarding the bin Laden raid, which in May 2011 ended with bin Laden being shot to death by a Navy SEAL commando in Pakistan.

It’s been reported that he wanted to wait “for two more things” to occur before sending in the commandos and that he gave that advice to President Obama. Now he says he was for it all along.

I see some language-parsing on the horizon, which doesn’t answer the question about what he endorsed and when he endorsed it.

If he was in favor of the raid at the beginning, but wanted to wait for further confirmation that bin Laden was holed up in that big house in Pakistan, then it’s OK to say so.

Let’s not play games, Mr. Vice President. Give it to us straight.

Then you can let us all know whether you want to run for president.


Do women belong in combat?

U.S. Army Soldiers conduct combatives training during the Ranger Course on Fort Benning, Ga., April 20, 2015. Soldiers attend Ranger school to learn additional leadership and small unit technical and tactical skills in a physically and mentally demanding, combat simulated environment. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Dacotah Lane/Released Pending Review)

At the risk of being labeled an unreconstructed male chauvinist — and you can add “pig” to it if you wish — I want to offer a view or two about a story that’s been giving me heartburn when I first heard about it.

Two women, both West Point graduates, have completed the U.S. Army’s highly intense Ranger training. Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver went through precisely the same training regimen as their male colleagues.

They deserve high praise and congratulations for completing the course and for earning the admiration of their fellow soldiers, some of whom said the two women rendered critical assistance on the training field.

One of the women is a military police officer; the other flies Apache helicopters. They know the risks associated with the hazardous military duty.

But I keep wondering about this question: Is the percentage of dropout rates among women greater or fewer than it is for men because they cannot meet the strenuous physical requirements of becoming a Ranger?

I am thrilled that these two fine soldiers completed the Ranger training successfully. They now are certified as being among the Army’s elite fighters. But they aren’t going to be assigned front-line combat duty — at least not until the Pentagon decides to deploy women to serve in infantry, armor or artillery units.

There’s been plenty of praise for these two women, who demonstrated that they are as physically capable as their male colleagues to serve as Rangers. I join in praising Capt. Griest and Lt. Haver.

Do they represent the norm among all female soldiers who might want to become Rangers, or Green Berets, or Navy SEALs, Marine commandos, or Air Force special forces?

I keep thinking they’re the exception rather than the rule.

That is what makes me hesitate to endorse the idea of sending women into ground combat.

Heck, women already have engaged in combat operations — flying high-performance aircraft or serving in civil affairs units in hostile territory.

Am I out of step? Maybe. I’ll live with it.