Tag Archives: US Navy

Eric Greitens: latest casualty in ‘family values’ war

Don’t sit down, Gov. Eric Greitens. I’m going to talk about you for a moment.

This fellow is a Republican governor from Missouri. He’s been in office for only about a year. He also is making quite a name for himself.

He ran for office as a “family values” candidate. He once proclaimed his love for his wife and children and the happiness he feels at being a married man and father.

The former Navy SEAL — who was a Democrat until he switched parties in 2015 — was even discussed as a possible presidential candidate in 2020 or 2024.

Then came this: He fooled around with a woman other than his wife before he was elected governor. What’s even more troubling is that he allegedly threatened her if she blabbed about it.

The woman, who was married at the time, is now divorced from her husband. Greitens remains married to his wife. He admits to the affair, but denies threatening the woman with whom he took the tumble.

Family values …

Wow. What are we to make of political candidates who make such a big show of their marriage? How are we supposed to react when they get caught in the big lie? I take this kind of thing quite badly. It doesn’t go down well. Why? Because of the show politicians such as Greitens make when they actually boast about their marital fidelity on the campaign stump — as if someone keeping a vow he makes before God is worth a boast.

This clown reminds me of so many politicians who’ve proclaimed their love for the spouse only to be revealed to be philanderers.

Does the name John Edwards ring a bell? Edwards was the 2004 Democratic vice-presidential nominee who campaigned across the land declaring his devotion to his late wife, Elizabeth — while he was messing around with a woman who later gave birth to a baby, courtesy of that relationship with Edwards.

This kind of revelation sickens me in the extreme. Gov. Greitens makes me sick, too, given that he made such a phony show of his marital devotion.

Politicians who lie about their faithfulness then deserve all the scorn they receive.

Now … you may sit down, Gov. Greitens. And may you disappear from the national political scene.

Honoring a new ‘Greatest Generation’

I am re-reading a book I’ve owned for a couple of decades.

The great broadcast journalist Tom Brokaw penned “The Greatest Generation” to pay tribute to the men and women who saved the world from tyranny during World War II.

Brokaw’s thesis is one that I still accept, that those 16 million Americans who answered the call to fight a global war on two fronts — in Europe and the Pacific — exhibited unparalleled devotion. They served “for the duration” of the war. They finished the job and came home to start their lives.

I’m reading the book, though, with a slightly different take than I had when I picked it up the first time.

The current generation of fighting men and women is rising to the level of devotion and dedication that my father’s generation did more than 70 years ago.

Under vastly different circumstances, to be sure.

They are fighting an enemy that is every bit as cunning and resourceful as the Nazis were in Europe and the Japanese were in the Pacific. These terrorists against whom we keep sending these young Americans to fight are ruthless and dedicated to the perverted principles they are following.

Today’s generation of young American warriors is facing multiple deployments onto the battlefield in Afghanistan and other places — some of which are undisclosed. Four Army Special Forces troops died recently in Niger, bringing into the open a deployment few Americans knew was under way.

I long have saluted my father for his contribution to fighting tyranny during World War II. I am proud of what he did as a sailor who saw more than his share of combat in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations.

I also want to salute other members of my family who’ve thrust themselves into harm’s way during the current war against international terror. My cousin served multiple Army tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. I have a nephew who drove an Army tank into Iraq when that war broke out in March 2003; he would return to Iraq for a second tour.

The war on terror just might be a conflict that has no end. There might not be any way for the United States to declare total victory as this country was able to do in 1945. The enemy surrendered unconditionally, giving The Greatest Generation of Americans its ticket home.

Can we achieve a similar end to the current war? I am trying to imagine how that gets done.

Meantime, the current generation keeps fighting. These young Americans have earned their status as the newest Greatest Generation.

I am proud of them beyond measure.

Tragedy reveals tale of heroism

The word “hero” arguably is one of the most abused words in the English language. We hang that description on athletes and actors.

Word has come out about the truest form of heroism. It came in the actions of U.S. Navy Fire Controlman First Class Leo Rehm Jr., who saved the lives of 20 of his shipmates before drowning in a tragic collision in the Sea of Japan.

Rehm was one of seven sailors who died when their ship, the destroyer USS Fitzgerald, rammed a merchant ship near the Japanese coast.

The Fitzgerald was struck below the water line. It took on water rapidly. Rehm managed to get 20 of his mates out of danger, and then went back down — only to have the hatch closed behind him as the crew sought to prevent the ship from sinking.

That’s when Rehm died along with the six other sailors.

Rehm was slated to retire soon from the Navy. He would return to his home state of Ohio.

This information is heartbreaking in the extreme.

The Daily Beast wrote extensively about Rehm and his actions aboard the stricken warship. Read the full piece at The Daily Beast.

Heroes are among us. They serve in many capacities. They are first responders. They are Good Samaritans who run to aid others in need. They wear our nation’s military uniforms.

They are men like Leo Rehm Jr.

Enter the USS Carl Vinson

I heard the news of a Navy carrier battle group heading toward the Korean Peninsula and took special note of the aircraft carrier leading the group.

It’s the USS Carl Vinson, a Nimitz-class nuclear-powered beast with which I have some limited familiarity.

I don’t know, of course, what all this means overall. North Korean madman/dictator Kim Jong Un is rattling his sabre yet again. He’s launching missiles into the Sea of Japan and threatening war against South Korea, Japan and maybe even the United States.

So the Carl Vinson battle group is heading toward the peninsula in a show of strength.

I received a marvelous assignment in 1993 at the invitation of the late U.S. Rep. Charles Wilson, an East Texas Democrat who was a huge supporter of military affairs. I was editorial page editor of the Beaumont Enterprise at the time and our paper circulated deeply into Wilson’s 2nd Congressional District.

He invited me to join him on a tour of the Carl Vinson, which at the time was home-ported at San Diego, Calif. The ship was at sea at the time of Wilson’s invitation. I asked my editor if I could go; he said “yes.” The paper purchased my plane ticket and I flew to San Diego to meet with Wilson and his congressional party.

We landed on the Carl Vinson and spent three days and nights aboard ship. Rep. Wilson spent time talking to pilots, deck crew members, machinists, cooks. He told all of them how much he appreciated the work they did and the service they performed in defense of the nation.

By the way, you have not lived until you’ve been through a tailhook landing and a catapult launch off the deck of an aircraft carrier. Believe me, there is nothing in this entire world quite like either experience.

During a tour of the flight deck, the skipper of the ship at the time, Capt. John Payne, told us of the immense firepower contained on the ships comprising the battle group.

He then said something quite astonishing. He said the group — which comprised several warships, including cruisers, destroyers and frigates as well as support craft along with this monstrous carrier — contained more explosive firepower than all the ordnance dropped during World War II.

Of course, that prompted the question from yours truly: “Skipper, does that mean this ship is carrying nukes?” Capt. Payne looked me in the eye and said, “Now you know I can’t answer that question.”

OK. Got it.

Twenty-four years later, the USS Carl Vinson is still on active duty. It’s now heading for a potentially very dangerous zone. I do believe the ship and its massive crew will be ready for whatever occurs.

‘Unpresidented’ isn’t a word, Mr. President-elect


Donald “I’m, Like, a Smart Person” Trump has done it again.

Or maybe someone on the president-elect’s staff has done it.

A tweet went out with Trump’s name that contained a curious non-word. It stated: “China steals United States Navy research drone in international waters — rips it out of water and takes it to China in unpresidented act.”

Unpresidented? Hmmm.

Trump’s tweet referred to the hijacking of a U.S. drone craft by the Chinese navy.

The “unpresidented” reference has drawn plenty of scorn around the social media universe.


Of course, it’s a non-existent word, and that forces me to wonder …

Either the president-elect is decidedly less literate than most of us have believed him to be, or someone on his staff — one of the “best people” he has pledged to hire — fits that description.

Someone has to yank the Twitter gun out of this guy’s hand.

Whoever it is — Trump or someone on his staff — these idiotic messages are not acceptable.

They fought for ‘the duration’


Seventy-five years ago today, Japanese navy pilots swooped in over Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and — perhaps without knowing it at the moment — changed the world forever.

That act dragged the United States of America into the greatest global conflict the world has ever witnessed.

The young men who answered the call from that day forward did so under terms that no longer apply in this day.

Many of them volunteered to get into the fight; others of them were drafted by the government. They all took an oath to defend the nation. Then they signed a paper that committed them to fighting for their nation for as long as it took to finish the fight.

They signed up for “the duration” of the conflict. The war would end in August 1945, but no one who signed up for that battle had a clue as to how long it would last.

Think about that for a moment. As the smoke billowed from the wreckage in Hawaii, did anyone know how long this war would last? It could last for a year, two, three. It could go on for decades.

The young Americans who donned their country’s uniform did so without knowing how long they would be ordered to sacrifice.

My father was one of those young men. He was 20 years and seven months old when we entered World War II. He waited just a few weeks before deciding one day to go to the federal courthouse in downtown Portland, Ore., and enlist in the armed services. His first choice was the Marine Corps. The office was closed. He then walked across the hall and enlisted in the Navy.

He didn’t know when he’d be finished. He didn’t know if he’d ever come home. Dad wanted to fight the enemy.

And he did.

We don’t ask such things of our young men and women these days. We send them off to war for a length of time. They serve and return. Of late — since 9/11 to be exact — we’ve been sending them back into harm’s way repeatedly. That, too, is creating tremendous emotional stress on our young warriors and I wouldn’t for a moment wish to be wearing their boots.

Many of us today, though, will recall the sacrifice made by the young Americans who answered their nation’s call to arms against tyranny.

When we do, think of how they might have felt knowing they might be going into a battle with no end.

That’s what I call “sacrifice.”

Mayor stands for principle in commissioning of ship

USS Portland

This story caught my eye initially because it involved a vessel named after the city of my birth.

Then I learned more about the real story. It’s about principle.

The USS Portland is going to commissioned late next year in Portland, Ore., rather than in Pascagoula, Miss., where it was scheduled to be commissioned.

Why the change? Portland’s lame-duck mayor, Charlie Hales, said he wouldn’t go to Pascagoula to take part in the commissioning because of a Mississippi law he and others say discriminates against gay and transgender people.

You go, Mr. Mayor!

Hales is standing on the principle of non-discrimination and for that he should be applauded.

The USS Portland is an amphibious transport ship that the U.S. Navy has just built. It’s a gleaming vessel of the San Antonio class.

It’s going to be christened in Pascagoula. Hales was going to attend the christening, but backed out because of the discriminatory law.

Portland has some world-class freshwater maritime facilities, as it straddles the Willamette River near where it empties into the mighty Columbia River. According to a report in the Portland Tribune, the commissioning will occur late next year at Terminal 2.

As the Tribune reported: “’The commissioning ceremony of a Navy ship is steeped in a time-honored tradition that places a ship in active service,’ says Mike Hewlett, chair of the Portland Council of he Navy League, an international organization of civilians that supports the maritime services, including the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Marines, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Merchant Marine.”

That “tradition” should not be done in an environment where some Americans face a state-sanctioned discrimination.

Accordingly, Mayor Hales should be applauded for standing firm on his belief that such laws mustn’t be tolerated.

I don’t know Charlie Hales, who has made me proud of my hometown.


Why all this fuss over Gitmo?

Detainees in orange jumpsuits sit in a holding area under the watchful eyes of military police during in-processing to the temporary detention facility at Camp X-Ray of Naval Base Guantanamo Bay in this January 11, 2002 file photograph. A cache of classified U.S. military documents provides intelligence assessments on nearly all of the 779 people who been detained at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba. The secret documents, made available to The New York Times and several other news organizations, reveal that most of the 172 remaining prisoners have been rated as a "high risk" of posing a threat to the United States and its allies if released without adequate rehabilitation and supervision, the newspaper said in its report late on April 24, 2011.  REUTERS/Stringer/Files (CUBA - Tags: CRIME LAW POLITICS) - RTXL0IH

I’ll admit that I’m very late in this discussion, but here goes anyway.

Guantanamo Bay — aka Gitmo — has been the subject of a lot of political discussion since it began housing terror suspects after the 9/11 attacks.

I’ve listened to the back-and-forth on all these years and am left to ponder: Why has this effort been so contentious?

President Obama said today he’s going to “change course” and move to close the detention center on the U.S. Navy base in Cuba before he leaves office. He wants to relocate the detainees to the United States.

It’s not that I fear bringing them here. They are being kept under serious lockdown at Gitmo. It’s safe to presume that whatever federal lockup gets them that they will be treated with the same seriousness.

Again, why the consternation over their detention at the military site?

The 9/11 attacks provoked a ferocious initial response from the U.S. military. It embarked on a mission to kill and/or capture as many terrorists as it could. Those who were captured were brought to Gitmo, which existed long before the terrorist attacks on D.C. and New York City.

There reportedly were abuses of prisoners at Gitmo. However, does the location of the alleged abuses matter? What if they had occurred at, say, Fort Leavenworth, Kan., where the military operates another hard-time lockup for military prisoners?

The suggestions by some foes of closing Gitmo that bringing them to the United States somehow puts Americans at increased risk doesn’t wash.

Still, the suggestions that we must close Gitmo because it somehow doesn’t comport with “American values” is equally nonsensical.

The individuals housed at Gitmo are seriously dangerous criminals who’ve been accused of committing acts of war against the United States of America. Whether they’re locked up at the island detention center or somewhere on U.S. soil doesn’t seem to matter one little bit.

Our Navy base is as secure as any of our installations.

Therefore, now that I’m awakened — finally — to this critical issue, someone will have to explain to me why it became so critical in the first place.


Do we need to ID remains from Pearl Harbor?

I’ve been struggling with this story since I first heard about a couple of days ago.

The Pentagon is going to exhume the unidentified remains of more than 400 sailors and Marines who died on Dec. 7, 1941 aboard the USS Oklahoma, one of several warships sunk in the sneak attack that brought the United States into World War II.


Why the struggle?

I cannot decide if it’s totally necessary to use DNA technology that’s now available to identify the remains that have been resting in peace in “unknown” graves since “the date which will live in infamy.”

Their remains were reburied in a Honolulu national cemetery in 1950. Some of the remains reportedly were “co-mingled” with others’ remains. So it’s not clear who’s buried in each of the graves.

I understand that the technology now available will allow — through painstaking work — forensics experts to identify the remains. It will take time, perhaps years, to finish the job. Indeed, the family members deserve some closure and identifying the remains will give it to them.

However, the family members of the 429 sailors and Marines who were lost have known they were lost aboard the Oklahoma when it capsized at its mooring after being hit by enemy bombs and torpedoes.

Does it do any good now to exhume those remains and subject them to meticulous DNA research?

Why not simply let those heroes rest in peace?

I’m open to comments on this one. Your thoughts? Please?


One final trip to Arizona Memorial

Four men ventured to Hawaii this week to pay tribute to more than 1,000 of their shipmates.

They went to the USS Arizona Memorial, which sits proudly in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

They are the last survivors of the crew that was hit on Dec. 7, 1941 by Japanese warplanes. The men who perished on the Arizona are still entombed in the water below the memorial. These four comrades say they won’t go back for future services marking, in President Roosevelt’s words, “the date, which will live in infamy.”


But they came this weekend to honor those who died on the terrible day 73 years ago.

They’re old men now. In their 90s. They’re frail, but as an article noted about their return, it’s as if in their minds that time has stood still since that horrific Sunday morning. Of course, time hasn’t stood still for anyone.


The coverage of today’s event reminds me of a story told to me by a good friend here in Amarillo about a visit he made recently to the memorial. The shortened version is as follows.

My friend, Roy, watched an elderly gentleman struggle to get off the water taxi that ferries visitors from the island to the Arizona memorial. The gentleman finally got off the craft and shuffled toward the exhibit inside the memorial.

It was then that he noticed the gentleman was of Asian descent. A Coast Guardsman on duty at the time told my friend that the fellow was one of the Japanese pilots who inflicted such grievous damage on the U.S. Pacific Fleet that day, and he was coming back to Hawaii to pray for the souls who died that day and to seek forgiveness.

It’s instructive to hear these stories, if only to remind us that the “enemy” comprised young men who were doing their duty, just as our young men — and women — were doing theirs.

Those pilots are now old men. Their ranks are dwindling. Soon they’ll all be gone.

Let us not forget that emotional pain is universal. It follows no ideology. It’s as real to those who fought on the other side as it to our side.