Category Archives: military news

Declaring victory?

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

President George W. Bush responded with strength and resolve nearly 20 years ago when terrorists declared war on this country.

He ordered the military into Afghanistan  to overthrow the government that had given the monsters safe haven. The war against international terror had begun.

I said at the time that I wondered how in the world we could declare victory. How could we ever know when we have defeated this enemy? I likened it a bit to the semi-cavalier approach espoused by the late, great Republican U.S. Sen. George Aiken of Vermont who said during the Vietnam War that we should “just declare victory and go home.”

President Biden has in a sense declared victory against the terrorists. He is bringing home the remaining U.S. troops from Afghanistan no later than Sept. 11, the 20th year since the beginning of the longest war in U.S. history.

We didn’t start this conflict, but today Biden declared that we are about to finish this particular phase of it.

My fervent hope is that we remain on the highest alert possible for any future evil intent. I heard the president say that it is time for us to look forward, that the terrorist movement has “metastasized” and moved into many other areas of the world. It is time, he said, for us to focus our efforts beyond the Afghan battlefield.

Joe Biden is not wild-eyed. He does not strike me as being prone to making decisions based on hunches and gut feelings. The president is a studied creature of the government he now leads.

I do hope with all that I can muster that he can remove the relative handful of troops from the field of battle while ensuring that we can remain focused sharply on danger when it presents itself. That we can take a proactive posture against threats to our nation.

We do possess the nation’s strongest military apparatus. A first-rate intelligence service complements that force with seasoned and dedicated professionals. We also have a commander in chief who listens and acts on the advice and counsel he receives from the pros who are trained to deliver it.

Can we truly declare victory on the Afghan killing fields? I hope that is the case.

Biden: Bring troops home

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

It is with guarded optimism — with the emphasis on “guarded” — that I welcome the pending end of our nation’s longest war as announced today by President Biden.

The president today declared his intention to have all U.S. combat troops removed from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, 20 years after what has been called simply “9/11.”

Terrorists hijacked jetliners and flew them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on that horrific day. A fourth jetliner became the scene of a fight between heroic passengers and terrorists and crashed into a field in Pennsylvania. We went to war that day.

Joe Biden today, in effect, declared a form of “victory” in our fight against international terrorism. He wants to end our combat involvement in Afghanistan, where the Taliban gave safe harbor to al-Qaeda terrorists, enabling them to plot and execute the ghastly terrorist attack that drew us into the longest conflict in our nation’s history.

At roughly the halfway point in that struggle, our special forces killed the 9/11 mastermind, Osama bin Laden.

To be sure, the terror threat cannot possibly be extinguished ever. It was there all along, prior to 9/11 and afterward. Indeed, President Biden today acknowledged that threat and vowed to deploy all available counter- and anti-terrorist strategies to protect us against further attacks.

I hope with all my heart that he succeeds in this effort. I no longer want to send our young men and women into battle. That doesn’t mean, though, that we ever let our guard down against threats such as what befell us on 9/11.

I remain dubious that the Taliban can be trusted as a negotiating partner. Thus, it is imperative that we keep our military on the highest level of preparedness moving past the date set for our withdrawal from the Afghan battlefield.

Joe Biden reminded us that four U.S. presidents — George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Donald Trump and Biden — all have dealt with this conflict. President Biden vowed today he wouldn’t hand it to a fifth commander in chief.

I want to applaud this decision. However, I will hold off on that hand-clapping when we can know for certain that we have ended forever the threats of violence that can come at a moment’s notice.

Blowhard treads where he shouldn’t go

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Tucker Carlson is a right-wing gasbag who quite often bloviates on matters of which he knows nothing.

I’m a bit late entering this kerfuffle, but Carlson has waded into a thicket that has drawn deserved scorn from military veterans.

The Fox News blowhard had the stones to say the other day that women who serve in the military downgrade the quality of the nation’s fighting force. He had the very bad taste to suggest that pregnant women in particular are a detriment to this nation’s readiness.

Whoa! Dude, you stepped in it.

You see, Carlson never has served a single nanosecond in the nation’s military. Thus, he has no actual knowledge of the military culture, let alone the value that all our men and women bring to the defense of the nation.

Career military officers and non-commissioned officers alike have slammed Carlson for his remarks. I want to join them in that rebuke.

I need to stipulate that I served at a time — from 1968 to 1970 — before women became integrated fully into all the military occupational specialties that the Army offers. However, I do retain some familiarity with the culture that drives the military. I have no doubt as to the readiness of our nation’s armed forces, which are the most formidable on Planet Earth; and, yes, the women who serve contribute to our nation’s readiness.

And I speak with personal knowledge that a dear member of my family, a woman who served with valor and honor in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, is every bit as capable as any man with whom she served in the United States Army.

Tucker Carlson would do well to examine his own qualifications before he pontificates on matters with which he has no experience.

VA deserves shout out

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough has earned a shout out from one of his constituents.

That would be yours truly. Me. Myself.

He said today in the White House press briefing room that more than 1.4 million veterans have received vaccinations to protect them against the COVID-19 coronavirus. Of that total, he said, more than half of us have received both doses of the vaccine, meaning that we’re totally inoculated (or we ought to hope for the best) against a virus that has killed more than 500,000 fellow Americans.

I was able to get vaccinated through the North Texas Veterans Medical Center. The first vaccine required a bit of a wait, but I could spare an hour of my time. The second one was slick and smooth; in and out in 20 minutes.

As a proud Army veteran who signed up with the VA some years ago, I want to thank the Department of Veterans Affairs for the great care it has given me during my enrollment.

I get that Secretary McDonough has been on the job only a short time. He’s the man standing watch now, so he gets the shout out, as do his predecessors.

Thank you.

VA comes through once again

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

I consider it a “pre-paid benefit,” and I use it whenever and wherever possible.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs stands ready to assist 18 million American veterans for whatever needs arise. So with that, I will tell you that I got a phone call the other day from the VA. The automated voice informed me that I could call a number and make an appointment to receive a COVID-19 vaccine at the VA North Texas Medical Center in Dallas. I jumped all over it.

I ended the call, then phoned the number the “voice” gave me. After a lengthy wait, a human being picked up on the other end and she set up an appointment. I could come in the very next day!

And so … the demystifying of this process kicked in.

I received the Pfizer vaccine the next day. My wife and I drove from Princeton all the way through McKinney, Allen, Plano, Richardson and then through Dallas. We navigated our way through the Interstate 30/35E/45 interchange next to downtown Dallas and then arrived at the VA medical center.

We parked in a garage close to the building where I needed to wait for my shot.

I walked in, got my temperature taken and then trekked down the hall to check in with the clerks who were running the inoculation entry station. Here is where my heart began to sink. Why?

Well, when I talked to the lady on the phone the previous day, she told me that a mid-afternoon appointment was likely to mean sparse attendance at the clinic where we reported for our vaccination. What I saw upon arrival, though, was, um, vastly different from what the lady on the phone led me to believe would occur.

I walked down the hall past a long, seemingly interminable line of masked-up veterans. I turned down three more halls and found the end of the line.

My first thought when I got there – which I believe I muttered out loud under my own mask – was “holy crap! I am going to be here forever!” I phoned my wife, who was waiting outside and informed her that I was at the end of a line with at least 300 people in front of me. “I’m going to be here a while,” I told her.

Then a bloody miracle happened! At least it seemed like a miracle. It seemed as though I had been waiting for less than 30 minutes when I found myself suddenly at the desk where I had checked in. I was about to enter the room where 24 inoculation stations were set up.

Jeff Clapper, public affairs officer for the North Texas VA Health Care System, suggests it’s all according to plan. The system, he said in a statement, “has been remarkably effective at immunizing VA North Texas staff and patients, successfully delivering 11,600 doses of the Pfizer vaccine to date, with wait times consistently below 45 minutes.”

Clapper added, “The Dallas (point of distribution) is currently vaccinating both eligible veterans and VA North Texas employees by appointment only; no walk-ins allowed.” He said the North Texas VA office “contacted over 25,000 priority eligible enrolled outpatients via phone call.” He said the Dallas POD is now booking new vaccination appointments for not earlier than the first week of March.”

I have been enrolled in the Department of Veterans Affairs medical program for just a few years. I signed up when I was living in Amarillo and have found the VA level of service to be exemplary. I had nothing but smooth sailing at the Thomas Creek VA Medical Center in Amarillo. The level of service remains high at the Sam Rayburn Medical Center in Bonham, where I go these days for my regular wellness visits. That brings me to another point: I have suffered no medical emergencies, but at my age I am aware that my luck is likely to run out … eventually.

The Dallas visit to obtain my first Pfizer vaccine shot to prevent me from catching the COVID virus only enhances my good feelings toward the Department of Veterans Affairs.

I am sure I can speak for many veterans who appreciate the care they get. I understand that no massive government system is perfect. For me, though, it’s been pretty close to perfection.

For now, at least.

NOTE: This blog post was published initially on KETR-FM’s website.

He was truly ‘unforgettable’

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Reader’s Digest magazine has a regular feature that tells of the “most unforgettable characters” in people’s lives.

Many of us have met people who fit into that category.

Well, the most unforgettable character in my life has passed on. I got word of his death tonight and I want to share a tale or two with you about him.

His name was Henry L. Quisenberry, a retired Army lieutenant colonel. He was my commanding officer for a time while I served in Vietnam. He died Jan. 31 at his home in Enterprise, Ala.

I reported for duty in Vietnam in the spring of 1969. I was assigned to the 245th Army Surveillance Aircraft Company at Marble Mountain, Da Nang, with orders to report for duty on a crew assigned to service an OV-1 Mohawk.

Col. Quisenberry showed up eventually to assume interim command of the 212th Aviation Battalion. As I recall, our CO was on R&R and Col. Quisenberry was filling in. While he was there, he called me to his office. I had no clue what he wanted.

He was sitting behind a desk. He offered me a cigar and invited me to sit down. “I see here that you’re a Mohawk repairman,” he said. “Well, I am a Mohawk driver.” He told me the Mohawk is a reliable bird and he enjoyed flying it.

He then told me he needed me to report on a temporary duty assignment with what was called the Army Aviation Element, based at the I Corps Tactical Operations Center in Da Nang. My duties would include running a radio, and clearing aircraft to land at a helipad nearby. We scheduled flights for officers and scrambled troop lift and fire support missions for Army helicopter units based at Marble Mountain.

Col. Quisenberry was a fantastic officer. He was loyal to his men and always had our backs. He was serving his third tour of duty in Vietnam and he confided in me that it would be his last tour, that he intended to retire as soon as he returned home. He was a great story teller

An incident occurred that illustrates how reliable he could be in a pinch. A pilot sought to land on our helipad. I was on the radio at the time. I couldn’t quite give him clearance to land; I cannot remember the circumstance. We began arguing over the air about my reluctance to clear him to park his bird. I mentioned Col. Quisenberry over the air, referring to his call sign. The pilot then said, “You better tell Check Pull Alpha Six to get his sh** together,” at which time Col. Quisenberry — who was standing behind me and overheard the entire exchange — grabbed the radio receiver and said, “This is Check Pull Alpha Six. Park your bird and report to me … pahdnuh.

The colonel then chewed the pilot out royally and told him to apologize to me for being an ass over the air.

There you have it. Col. Quiz embedded himself at that moment as the most unforgettable character I ever met.

Always revere the office

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

It’s no secret that I am delighted beyond measure to be rid of Donald Trump and I welcome a new president of the United States.

President Biden has taken a firm grip on the levers of power and for that I am grateful. However, I want to share a brief story that involves in a tangential way the man Biden succeeded as president.

My wife and I vacationed in Washington, D.C., during the summer of 2017. We visited our niece and her husband. We spent several days walking around the city with them, enjoying the sights and sounds of our nation’s capital.

We were strolling through Georgetown when I heard a helicopter flying overhead. I looked up. It was Marine One, the military chopper that carries the president of the United States. Donald Trump had traveled somewhere and was returning at that moment aboard the helicopter to the White House.

I must acknowledge a certain thrill at seeing Marine One passing over us, even as it carried the detestable individual who had moved into the White House earlier that year.

This is my way of expressing my reverence for the presidency. I have expressed already in this forum my love of pageantry, of the pomp and circumstance that accompanies the office and the person who occupies it.

True story, but the thrill at seeing Marine One en route to the White House did not diminish one little bit on that lovely summer day.

This is my way of suggesting that the office is far larger and important than any individual who sits behind that big desk in the Oval Office.

Transgender patriots welcomed back into uniform

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

President Biden’s stash of pens is getting a workout as he enters the Oval Office and begins righting some of the decisions delivered by his immediate predecessor.

Biden signed an executive order that restores transgender Americans’ right to serve in the military. Donald Trump nixed that notion with an earlier executive order.

President Biden has realized what we all know, which is that patriotism lives in the hearts of all Americans regardless of their sexual orientation of gender identity.

I am glad to see the president welcome back those who have changed their gender but still want to defend the nation against its enemies and protect our national security.

My own military service occurred long ago, from 1968 to 1970. For the life of me I have no memory of encountering anyone back then during my Army service who were born as someone other than who they were when we served. Then again, such gender-change medical procedures weren’t as refined as they have become in the decades since.

Whatever, my point is that gender identity shouldn’t be an issue for anyone other than the individual who has sought to change his or her gender.

Transgender patriots are every bit as qualified to serve their country in uniform as anyone else.

What would Dad think?

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

You have seen this picture already, but I want to share it again to make a point about what is happening in our deeply divided nation.

The fellow on the left is a British Marine. The sailor is my father. They were standing guard aboard ship in the Mediterranean during World War II.

They joined their nations’ respective militaries to fight tyranny, to defeat the Nazis. I cannot speak for the Marine, but I damn sure can speak for Dad … who I am as certain as I am sitting here today that he would be appalled at the state of affairs in the country he loved dearly.

What would Dad think of the sight of rioters, some of whom were wearing Nazi paraphernalia while storming the Capitol Building in Washington? What would he say to someone who sought to justify such a thing? How might he respond to the sound of a president lie incessantly about an election outcome and, thus, fuel the rage that erupted on Capitol Hill this past week?

Dad wasn’t a particularly political man. He and I didn’t talk much about public policy or the effects of policy on our family. He didn’t identify with either major political party.

However, he was a patriot through and through. He got into fight of his life on the very day that Japan attacked our fleet in Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941. He loved our country and all for which it stood.

I must believe that he would be horrified to see a president desecrate our government in the manner that we have witnessed during the past four years … which he did in spades just the other day when he exhorted the mob to “take back” our government from mysterious, nefarious forces.

What would Dad think? He would be full of rage.

Hey, no military parade for POTUS!

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

A friend of mine posted something on Facebook that reminds me of something: Donald Trump at one time wanted a North Korea/Soviet/communist China-style military parade in Washington, D.C.

Does anyone else remember that one? I don’t believe he got it. He had slathered it in some feel-good rhetoric about wanting to honor our servicemen and women. Good grief. He could have done that simply by visiting them regularly and paying appropriate tribute by saluting their service in a manner befitting the commander in chief.

He always seemed to step on his own lines, though … such as the time he offered a Purple Heart recipient his “congratulations” for, um, being injured in battle! Jeez, Mr. POTUS. The warrior didn’t seek the medal.

I recall in 2018 when Trump visited France to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. He saw the military parade the French staged and, by golly, he wanted to do something like that back home. He got some pushback, not surprisingly.

It didn’t come to pass. Which is just fine with me.

Eighteen days to go … but who’s counting?