Tag Archives: U.S. Army

‘Wall That Heals’ comes to Amarillo

They call it “The Wall That Heals.”

It has been brought to Amarillo, Texas. It has been placed at John Stiff Memorial Park in the southwest corner of the city. It is a replica of one of the most powerful memorials ever built: The Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

I intend to visit this wall. Maybe it’ll be Friday. Maybe on Saturday. Maybe both days.

Allow me this bit of candor. It won’t “heal” me. It won’t bind any emotional wounds. It won’t bring me peace that was lost long ago.

But I want to see it. I want to visit with some brethren who’ll be there to pay their respects, perhaps to one or more of the men and women whose names are etched on that wall. It contains the names of more than 58,000 mostly young Americans who died during the Vietnam War.

I’ve had the extreme pleasure of seeing the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. I’ve seen it three times. The first time was in 1990; the second in 1996; the third time just this past June.

But here’s the thing: My healing, my emotional reckoning occurred the year prior to visiting The Wall in 1990. It arrived in November 1989, while visiting Vietnam two decades after being deployed there as a young soldier.

The moment of healing occurred while I and two friends were walking along the sandy soil at Marble Mountain, just south of Da Nang, where I served as an Army aircraft mechanic during the Vietnam War. I served in a secure area. It bristled with Army, Marine Corps and Navy equipment and personnel. We shared an airfield with the Marines. The Navy had a big logistics base across the highway from our battalion.

Our guide was walking with us that day in November 1989. She told us how the Vietnamese swallowed up all that we left behind when our military involvement in Vietnam ended in 1973.

That’s when it overcame me. I started sobbing. I cried hard, man! It lasted about two, maybe three minutes. Then it was over. I wiped the tears off my face. I took a deep breath.

Then I realized it: The war is over!

That was my healing moment.

I hope this weekend to share that experience with fellow vets who haven’t had the honor I received when I returned to that beautiful land. I also hope the wall will heal them them, too.

Three great Americans


I’ve written already about my immigrant grandparents.

And I’ve told you how they loved their country — the United States of America — more than I can possibly measure.

This picture is of three of them.

The lady on the left is Katina Kanelis, my dad’s mother. The gentleman is George Filipu and the other lady is his wife,Ā Diamondoula Filipu; they were my mom’s parents.

I want to share one quick anecdote about my grandfather. He came to this country during World War I. He had settled in Portland, Ore. He wanted to get into the fight, serving the United States.

So, he enlisted in the Army. But before he couldĀ join the fight against the Germans, the war ended in November 1918. But a quirk in U.S. immigration law at the time granted him immediate citizenship upon enlistment in the military.

None of them ever looked back.




Texas government is a monstrous entity


I posted a blog recently that was critical of an appointment to the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick selected a former Florida congressman, fellow Republican Allen West, to the panel. Its job is critical to assuring that Texans are being well-served by their state government agencies.

I feel a need to flesh out just a bit why I object to West’s appointment.

I’ll get right to the point: Allen West likely knows next to nothing about how our state’s government functions and how its myriad agencies work.

The Texas Sunset Commission recommends which agencies should continue and which should bit the dust. It conducts serious business. It reviews agencies’ efficiency and whether they’re giving Texans the biggest and best bang for the big bucks Texans spend on their state government.

West’s credentials? His expertise?

Well, he’s a fiery conservative, just like the man who picked him for the post. Dan Patrick earned his own political stripes first as a radio talk show host and then as a state senator from Houston. West’s record contains a couple of significant chapters: He was an Army officer who lost his battalion command during the Iraq War in 2003 after he admitted to assaulting an Iraqi detainee; he then was elected to Congress in 2010, but lost his re-election bid two years later.

Then the former congressman moved to Texas a year ago to begin a new job.

This job shouldn’t go to someone who’s a political celebrity. It ought to go to individuals who have a sufficient knowledge of how to make Texas massive government machinery work well for the folks who pay the bills.

I believe it isĀ fair to ask Lt. Gov. Patrick: Weren’t there a sufficient number of individuals who (a) share your political philosophy and (b) understand the complexities of our state’s enormous bureaucracy?


Bergdahl may be POTUS’s most stinging embarrassment


Barack Obama’s presidency is just about set to headĀ into the home stretch.

I believe history over time will judge the Obama presidency well, even as many Americans now worry about the terror threat that, frankly, has been with us all along.

There likely will be a singular embarrassment, though, for the president that he might have to explain.

U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is facing a court-martial on two critical counts: desertion and endangering his unit. Bergdahl was the subject of a prisoner exchange in which our side gave up five Taliban fighters in exchange for Bergdahl, who’d been held by the Taliban for about five years.

Once Bergdahl came out, he was honored by Barack Obama in a White House ceremony that included his parents. The president spoke of how the U.S. military “never leaves comrades behind.” He spoke of Bergdahl as a hero.

Well, a military court is going to decide whether Bergdahl abandoned his post in Afghanistan and whether his conduct put his fellow soldiers in danger.

I’ve sought to withhold judgment on Bergdahl, preferring to let the court decide his guilt or innocence.

If the court-martial convicts him, then the president will have to explain to Americans the reason for giving him such a hero’s welcome. And, of course, there’s the issue of negotiating the release of five known Taliban terrorists — which is what they are, no matter that the administration refuses to label the Taliban as a “terrorist organization.”

This court-martial will be worth the nation’s attention.


Daylight to Standard Time? No biggie


Call me “adaptable.”

Indeed, I might be one of Earth’s most adaptable creatures.

Thirty-four years ago my family and I moved from Oregon, where I’d spent my entire life — less two years in the U.S. Army — and settled in Texas. Culture shock? Boy howdy! Did we adapt? You bet.

Three years ago, my 36-plus-year daily print journalism career came to a sudden end. It wasn’t entirely unexpected. Still, it was an unwelcome end to what I thought had been a pretty successful and productive career. Have I moved on? Yes.

Daylight to Standard Time and back again? Hey, no problem.

I’m not one of those who gripes about the switch to Daylight Savings Time. Nor do I bitch when we return to Standard Time.

I just flow with it.

Moreover, I totally get why the federal government set up Daylight Time. One reason toĀ save energy during the late spring, summer and early autumn months. More daylight meant we spent less time burning our lights and using up valuable electricity.

It bothers some of us. That’s their problem. Not mine.

The only noticeable difference I ever find when we make these switches occurs when we go back to Standard Time, such as what happened this morning.

I woke up damn early, which is the way it’s going to be for a good while. I’m looking at the bright side, though. I won’t be late for anything.

Rise and shine, everyone.



Powell endorses Iran nuclear deal


In another era, an endorsement of a controversial foreign policy agreement by Colin Powell might carry some weight among other members of Powell’s political party.

It won’t this time. In fact, and you might have to wait for it, you well could hear someone suggest that Powell’s endorsement doesn’t matter at all because he endorsed Barack Obama’s two successful elections as president of the United States.

Does it matter, though, that the former secretary of state remains a loyal Republican? Oh … maybe. Then again, maybe not.

Powell said today on “Meet the Press”: ā€œThe great concern from the opposition is that weā€™re leaving open a lane for Iran to create a nuclear weapon in 10 to 15 years. The reality is that they have been on a super highway for the last 10 years to create a nuclear weapon ā€¦ with no speed limit.ā€

He said he’s studied the deal in detail, pored over it thoroughly and has concluded that this agreement is better than what we had before, which was nothing.

The retired four-star U.S. Army general and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, calls theĀ agreement brokered by the Obama administration a “pretty good deal.”

It’s not perfect, he said. But he’ll settle gladly for a diplomatic solution over a military one.

Given that he’s endured combat — serving two tours of duty as an infantry officer during the Vietnam War — I’ll accept his endorsement.

Recalling a brief, but life-changing episode


Forty-five years ago today, I piled into my 1961 Plymouth Valiant — the first car I ever owned — and started the drive down Interstate 5 to my hometown of Portland, Ore.

I said “good bye” to the U.S. Army, where I had served precisely two years.

An Army acquaintance who also lived in Portland asked if he could ride along. I agreed, so we took off together from Fort Lewis, Wash.

The drive lasted only about three hours. It was uneventful. I took him to his house and then proceeded to my parents’ house in suburban east Multnomah County.

It was a heck of a two-year hitch. It was my first time away from home; it provided me with my first visit to the East Coast, where I completed my advanced individual training as an OV-1 Mohawk aircraft mechanic.

Then came a trip across the Pacific Ocean to Vietnam, where I participated for a time in a war.

I returned home and was assigned to an armored cavalry unit in Fort Lewis, where I finished my tour.

Two years … to the day!

Any regrets about any of that? No regrets, per se.

I do, though, rue somewhat a missed opportunity to see what I was really made of. I don’t talk much about it in my wife’s presence, because if I had said “yes” to this chance, our paths wouldn’t have crossed upon my return to college in January 1971.

It involved officers candidate school. Near the end of my basic training at Fort Lewis,Ā four other guys and I received orders to report to the company commander’s office. He then told us we had tested well enough for acceptance into OCS.

He proceeded to tell us about the hell we would go through. “You think this was tough?” he said. “Wait’ll you have to go through OCS. Sixteen weeks of it.”

Well, I was in good physical and emotionalĀ condition. I felt at that moment as though I could kick the world in the backside. I was ready for anything. None of that physical stuff bothered me in the least.

Then came the deal-breaker. He told us we would have to commit to two years as a commissioned officer upon completion of our training. I rolled that around. That meant I’d be in the Army another four months longer than I had planned.

I turned to the Old Man and said, “No thank you, sir.”

That was that. Yes, I have wondered about the kind of officer I would have become. I believe I’d have been a good one … but that’s just me.

I finished my time and returned home a good bit different — and a lot better — than I was when I left the house in the wee hours of the morning two years earlier.

Time has flown by ever since and life has been so very good.


“Wipe that smirk off your face … “

This handout photo provided by Collin County, Texas shows Texas Attorney General Kenneth Paxton, who was booked into the county jail Monday, Aug. 3, 2015, in McKinney, Texas. A grand jury last week indicted Paxton on felony securities fraud charges. (AP Photo/Collin County via AP)

Look at this picture.

It is Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton posing for his jail-booking mug shot.

Does that smirk bother you? It bothers me. It makes me wonder why politicians feel compelled to smirk like that when they’re being booked into a lockup, a place with sturdy iron bars meant to keep prisoners inside.

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry smirked like that when he was booked after being indicted more than a year ago.

Paxton’s mug shot illustrates, I guess, a certain smugness that politicians have when the criminal justice system tags them with an allegation that they’ve committed a crime.

In this case, a Collin County grand jury has accused Paxton of securities fraud. It’s a big deal. The man could lose his political career if a jury convicts him of the felony accusations.

This mug shot reminds me of my dear, late mother.

I had this bad habit of smirking like that when Mom scolded me when I was a kid. I took the habit with me into the U.S. Army in 1968; our drill sergeants would get in our faces for this or that during our basic training and my reaction would be to, um, smirk. It drove these combat-tested soldiers crazy … and it damn near got me into some serious trouble.

Mom would get so angry she’d order me to “wipe that smirk off your face or I’ll wipe it off for you.”

Attorney General Paxton’s smirk will disappear if a jury hangs the “felon” label on him.

Bastrop County preps for ‘invasion’?

Here’s an interesting take on the upcoming military exercise planned by U.S. Special Forces, including Green Berets and SEALs, in Bastrop County, Texas.

It comes from former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, who served in the Clinton administration Cabinet.


As the U.S. military prepares to launch one of the largest training exercises in history later this month in Texas, many of the residents of Bastrop County suspect a secret Obama plot to spy on them, confiscate their guns and ultimately establish martial law. They aren’t ā€œnuts and wackos. They are concerned citizens, and they are patriots,ā€ Albert Ellison, chairman of the Bastrop Republican Party tells the Washington Post. Bastrop’s former mayor, Terry Orr, says the fear “stems a fair amount from the fact that we have a black president,ā€ who people believe is primarily concerned with the welfare of ā€œillegal aliens” and blacks. “People think the government is just not on the side of the white guy.” The current Bastrop mayor, Kenneth Kesselus, says the distrust is due in part to a sense that ā€œthings arenā€™t as good as they used to be,ā€ especially economically. ā€œThe middle class is getting squeezed and theyā€™ve got to take it out on somebody, and Obama is a great target.ā€

An economic recovery that only enriches the top breeds bigotry and invites scapegoating. It has happened before in history.

What do you think?


Here’s what I think. I think Reich’s comment about nature of the current recovery breeding “bigotry” and “scapegoating” is right on target. I also believe that’s just part of what’s fueling this mistrust of the military. I think some of it involves visceral loathing of the commander in chief by those who’ve bought into the myriad conspiracy theories surrounding his election, re-election and his service as president of the United States.

The crackpot Internet baloney that went viral around the world about the so-called Jade Helm 15 exercise being part of some plot by President Obama to declare martial law is a symptom of what’s become of the flow of rumors that get passed around as “information.”

Those who read this stuff, buy into it and then pass it along to gullible friends and acquaintances are contributing to the poisoning of what used to be considered reasonable political discourse.

And look at the comments of the former Bastrop mayor who suggests some of it stems from the president’s racial heritage. Is he right? You be the judge.

Dad asked a simple question … and gave birth to a career

It’s kind of late in the day. It’s about to end.

But in the waning hours of Father’s Day, I’ve suddenly gotten filled with the desire to share a brief story about my dad and a simple question he posed to me.

It was late in 1970. I had returned home fromĀ a two-yearĀ U.S. Army stint. I was preparing to re-enroll in college.

Mom, Dad and I were having dinner one evening at their home, where I returned after my Army hitch.

We were chatting about college, my plans and what I might want to do with my life now that my military obligation was over. I was single, unattached (for the time being) and I had my whole life ahead of me.

Dad asked, “Have you declared a major yet? Do you know what you want to study in college?”

I had not yet made that decision. “Why do you ask?” I said.

Dad responded immediately, “Have you thought about journalism?”

To be honest, I hadn’t given it any thought. “Journalism?” I asked.

Sure, he said. He told me of the letters I wrote home from wherever I was stationed for the previous two years. I wrote home frequently from basic training in Fort Lewis, Wash.; from Fort Eustis, Va., where I went through my advanced training; then from Da Nang, South Vietnam and later, from Fort Lewis, where I was assigned at the end of my tour.

He mentioned how “descriptive” they were. He said I had this ability to turn a phrase. He thought journalism might be a good fit for me, given — he said — my ability to string sentences together.

Oh, gee, why not? So, I returned to college in January 1971, enrolling in some journalism-related classes.

I then fell in love with this craft called “journalism.”

I stayed with it for the next four decades.

I look backĀ at that dinner-time moment with Dad and Mom with great fondness and appreciation for the simple question that Dad asked. It helped me — along withĀ prodding and pushing from the girl who would become my wife in September 1971 —Ā undertake a fruitful and moderately successful career in print journalism.

It’s not yet over, thankfully.

I’m pretty sure I thanked Dad for nudging me down that path. He’s been gone now for 35 years; Mom died 31 years ago. I can’t thank them again now.

However, I can share this memory to remind myself — and perhaps others — of our parents’ wisdom.

In that moment at the dinner table, father definitely knew best.