Wreaths Across the Ages

It was an early and unseasonably warm day on December 12, 2015, day when we 293086LOGOarrived to begin our work with Wreaths Across America. It was the day I learned the meaning of Christmas, grief, sympathy, and humility.

Although I never served in the military, I come from a long line of proud soldiers and sailors on both sides of my family. In fact, I think we cover every branch except the Air Force. I am proud of, and honored to be related to such an amazing group of people and am so grateful for their service and the sacrifices they and their families have made. One of the people of whom I am most proud is my late grandfather Clayton Graybill. Until last weekend, I only knew that he served in the Army in the Pacific during World War II. I thought he was a member of a field artillery unit, but he died before I was old enough to know what questions to ask.

CEM45182_136317377067Pappy, as I always knew him, was a good man. He epitomized “The Greatest Generation”. He was a humble, hardworking, generous, loyal, kind man. He died when I was living out of state, and I was unable to return for his funeral. Never saying goodbye to him has haunted me throughout the years. As soon as I was able to get back, we went to visit his grave at Fort Indiantown Gap National Cemetery in Annville, PA. As I sat in the grass crying my eyes out, I looked up and right at the tree line was a huge deer, a buck, just standing there looking in our direction. At that moment, I knew my grandfather’s spirit was embodied in that majestic animal. Five seconds later, it was gone. It was Pappy’s way of saying, “I’m here, I know you are, thank you.” That’s the kind of man he was; simple and unassuming. Continue reading

No Man Left Behind

A value staple of military units for generations, the phrase “No man left behind” became,

John Phelps poses with his creation after an unveiling ceremony Nov. 12, 2014, at the Wounded Warrior Battalion, Camp Pendleton, Calif.. The sculpture is based on the Operation Phantom Fury photograph 'Hell House' of then 1st Sgt. Bradley Kasal being carried out of a house by two lance corporals after a firefight where Kasal sustained life-threatening injuries. Shaltiel Dominguez/U.S. Marine Corps

John Phelps poses with his creation after an unveiling ceremony Nov. 12, 2014, at the Wounded Warrior Battalion, Camp Pendleton, Calif.. The sculpture is based on the Operation Phantom Fury photograph ‘Hell House’ of then 1st Sgt. Bradley Kasal being carried out of a house by two lance corporals after a firefight where Kasal sustained life-threatening injuries.
Shaltiel Dominguez/U.S. Marine Corps

for the first time, a real possibility during the Korean War (June 25, 1950 – July 27, 1953) and a battle cry during the Vietnam War (November 1, 1955 – April 30, 1975). Until recently, the legacy goal of “No man left behind” drove the U.S. Military, the CIA, and the State Department. A utopian objective, as it is impossible to fully realize, it was and should remain an important core value to those on the battlefield and those who support the people who fight for us. It is a legacy worth having and it comes with great stories of daring to beat the odds.

The Korean War Legacy-That Others May Live

Forrest L. Marion’s monograph, That Others May Live: USAF Air Rescue in Korea, pinpoints the exact time when it became feasible to rescue large numbers of soldiers, wounded soldiers, and civilians from bloody chaos of an active battle. “When the Korean War began in June 1950, the United States Air Force’s Air Rescue Service was a fledgling organization possessing a variety of aircraft types, most having seen service during World War II. The concept of using helicopters and amphibious fixed-wing aircraft to rescue airmen downed behind enemy lines or in hostile waters had gained little consideration by the Air Force and was largely unproven. But by the fall of 1950, the 3d Air Rescue Squadron had begun to write a new chapter in the history of air power, and by July 1953, when the armistice was signed in Korea, air rescue had become established as an integral part of U.S. fighting forces. Although the H-5 and H-19 helicopters and SA-16 amphibians gained attention worldwide by virtue of countless daring rescues performed throughout the war, lesser known aircraft such as the L-5, SC-47, SB-17, and SB-29 also played important roles in building the U.S. Air Force’s overall air rescue capability in the Korean War theater.” Continue reading

A Soul Divided

Like Elvis, the United Sates has left the building. Citizens and politicians are heating up

US Navy 060417-N-8157C-162 The American flag flies prominently during the World Patriot Tour performance at Hickam Air Force Base By U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Dennis Cantrell [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

US Navy 060417-N-8157C-162 The American flag flies prominently during the World Patriot Tour performance at Hickam Air Force Base
By U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Dennis Cantrell [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Facebook, Twitter, and the airways with anger, acidity, and hatred of each other. The foil is refugees not even at its outer shores. The insanity is that these otherwise reasoned people, including President Obama, are attacking each other rather than face the reality of the world around them. Liberals, who last week were pleading for civility, are calling for the heads of conservatives and conservatives are screaming that leftist liberals are to blame. It is a madness attributed to the death throes of terminally ill dogs. Left untreated, dead and dying curs become a vultures’ feast and so will the culture that changed the world. As we sow the seeds of freedom, we must continuously pull the weeds of self-destruction.

The United States, a great experiment in freedom through rebirth, is considering its next renaissance. A country that chose to march to the beat of its unique drum with a history rife in human failings embedded in noble souls and reflected through its art. It is a country willing to evolve and improve. Renascence, a 1912 poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay, in many ways, reflects the soul of the United States through the decades and centuries as it coped with wars, natural disasters, and the pain of those less fortunate.

“…I saw at sea a great fog bank

Between two ships that struck and sank;

A thousand screams the heavens smote;

And every scream tore through my throat

No hurt I did not feel, no death

That was not mine; mine each last breath

That, crying, met an answering cry

From the compassion that was I.

All suffering mine, and mine its rod;

Mine, pity like the pity of God.

Ah, awful weight! Infinity

Pressed down upon the finite Me!

My anguished spirit, like a bird,

Beating against my lips I heard;

Yet lay the weight so close about

There was no room for it without.

And so beneath the weight lay I

And suffered death, but could not die….”

Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images

Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images

France is suffering as the United States suffered fourteen years ago. This may be a good time to stop and listen to the heartbeat of the world, read a poem, and listen to some music by Mendelssohn, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Vivaldi, Beethoven, or Rachmaninoff. We do not need to fear. It is only the echoes of the Cold War we hear.

Introspective peace corralled into learning yields understanding and productive dialog. Productive dialog excludes blaming and hatred while uniting those at odds and sets the stage for solutions. Solutions are in desperately short supply and high demand. You can and may change the world. ad1_imageDefining terms such as ‘counterinsurgency’ and exploring the legacy of the Cold War on the geopolitical stage is the focus of the next several posts. These posts may add to the dialog by adding ideas that achieve a desired outcome or identifying those that deserve dropping into a ‘failed’ box along with their enabling structures and bureaucracies.

Maintaining a ground, a frame of reference, is vital for our conversation. What is the historical and philosophical evolution of the great experiment called the United States of America?

 

The Enemy of My Enemy Illusion

“American blood tastes sweeter, and we are coming for you” paraphrases a battle cry

In honor of the people who died in France on November, 13, 2015.

In honor of the people who died in France on November, 13, 2015.

that rang through the streets of Paris on Friday, November 13, 2015. As shots and explosions rang out at Parisian symbols of Western culture, the people cried, and brutality unfolded. Make no mistake, this is a religious war. President Obama may dance around the words all he chooses, but the dance does not change the facts. ISIS and its allies have declared the war to be holy and just, based on its interpretation of Islam. It matters not that the religion is Dharmic faiths, Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, Rastafarian, or even other Muslims. It matters only that Western Culture and Eastern Cultures exist. Dissenting with the ISIS interpreters of Islam lands even fellow Muslims on an uncomfortable enemies list alongside Western and Eastern Civilization. Denying the role of religion in this war is like sending firefighters to fight the smoke rather than attack the fire. The structure will burn, and the smoke will hang in the air unfettered.

America, The Great Satan

With the Cold War decisions to use the drug trade to help fund secret, off-the-radar CIA ‘low-intensity’ wars and to align with various political factions of Islam evolving america-great-satan-via irantheocratic states with Shariah Law, the United States left its moral high ground floating in the wake of its fear of Soviet Communist expansionism. The Cold War legacy of the U.S. government’s drug trading is evident in shattered families across the United States and in its streets and alleys lined drug hazed with lost souls. Making a case for the U.S.’s involvement in the growth of the second generation drug cartels we fight now would not be difficult. Why and how the U.S. lost its Constitutional soul to trading drugs leads back to the myriad proxy wars it fought at the height of the Cold War: Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Central and South America. The argument is made that proxy wars have been fought throughout history and, it particular, they kept the Cold War from becoming too hot. Whether or not you agree with the rationale, other peoples and their children died by the millions in proxy wars, and it was the first time the U.S. paid for proxy wars by trading drugs thereby bypassing Congress. In May 2009, Shunya published Namit Arora essay, America, the Cold War, and the Taliban pointed out that: Continue reading

Iran—A Blast From The Past

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) affectionately known in the U.S. as the

Iran nuclear deal: agreement in Vienna. From left to right: Foreign ministers Wang Yi (China), Laurent Fabius (France), Frank-Walter Steinmeier (Germany), Federica Mogherini (EU), Mohammad Javad Zarif (Iran), Philip Hammond (UK), John Kerry (USA)

Iran nuclear deal: agreement in Vienna. From left to right: Foreign ministers Wang Yi (China), Laurent Fabius (France), Frank-Walter Steinmeier (Germany), Federica Mogherini (EU), Mohammad Javad Zarif (Iran), Philip Hammond (UK), John Kerry (USA)

Iran Nuclear Deal was negotiated by U.S. Secretary of State Kerry and Iran’s executive leaders. A panel of Iranian lawmakers concluded the JCPOA was flawed but recommended approval. Zee News reported on October 4, 2015, that the Iranian panel found the Nuclear Deal posed a potential security threat and skirted Iranian lawmakers. During the Nuclear Deal negotiations, the executive branches of both Iran and the U.S. bypassed their respective legislative bodies. Skirting Iran’s lawgivers and circumventing the U.S. Congress yielded the same outcome; begrudging approval of the JCPOA by a bunch of grumpy elected politicians.

Through time media and political focus on Iran rises and ebbs depending upon the current administration’s Middle East game plan. Iran’s become a seasonal spectator sport; a gift the U.S. gave itself back in the 1950s. The new season opened with Benjamin Netanyahu’s impassioned speech to the U.S. Congress against the Deal and President Obama’s United Nations subsequent end run on Congress for approval of the JCPOA.

Today’s Iran is all that remains of Persia, an ancient and magnificent civilization. Persia, a

Persia

Persia

succession of empires, can trace its lineage back 5,200 years. From its pinnacle around 550 BCE, Persia fell to Alexander about 200 years later, then rose from ashes to once again assuming a global leadership position. By the time the Empire finally fell to the Rashidun Muslims in about 651 AD, it was an economically vibrant, culturally diverse nation that boasted connective highways, civilized infrastructure, taxes, and one primary religion—Zoroastrianism, which promoted the idea that its followers “be among those who renew the world…to make the world progress towards perfection”. Continue reading

BRUNNER’S BOYS

In early 1982 B Troop 1st Squadron 11th Armored Cavalry was a rough and tumble outfit.

In 1982, men from B Troop 1st Squadron 11th Armored Cavalry were among those that held the line against Soviet aggression.

In 1982, men from B Troop 1st Squadron 11th Armored Cavalry were among those that held the line against Soviet aggression.

Like every other combat arms unit in the Army we were convinced that we were the best. While we were technically and tactically proficient, we lacked Army discipline. We did have a somewhat Wild West, hands on brand of discipline, in that it wasn’t unheard of for an NCO to knock some sense into an unruly private behind the tank line in the motor pool.

Of course, the barracks could be a zoo on the weekends. Paydays, about a third of the troops would be in the clubs downtown trying to meet girls or in the brothels doing the same. Most of the rest of the guys would have made substantial investments in cases of beer or bottles of liquor and be sitting barracks rooms playing poker, tonk, or spades. There was the occasional fight.   These were usually over and forgotten in a matter of minutes. As long as the fight didn’t turn into a riot or the music get too loud no one bothered us. By Sunday afternoon we would begin putting the barracks back together for Monday morning inspection. Continue reading

Arc of the Moral Universe or Wormhole?

For years I believed my fate was tethered to Theodore Parker’s arc of the

The Arc of the Moral Universe (Public Domain)

The Arc of the Moral Universe (Public Domain)

Moral universe bending toward justice. However, objective, empirical evidence indicates that I am condemned to wander in a wormhole with its ends fixed between the 1960s and 2010s. In 1964, Dr. Martin Luther King concluded an address to the graduating class at Connecticut’s Wesleyan University stating “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice” in quotation marks. President Obama and Time Magazine attributed the quote to Dr. King, but the provenance moves the date back to before the Civil War and a series of sermons given by Theodore Parker.

The 1960s. hoto by Albert R. Simpson, Department of Defense. Public domain

Photo by Albert R. Simpson, Department of Defense. Public domain

The 1960s

What a time it was. Baby boomers came of age. For the first time in history over 50 percent of Americans were under the age of 25 and looking for a cause to fight for (it’s what people under 25 do). Revolutions of many colors were in the air, anti-anything was good. Sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll took the country by storm. The Cold War was at its zenith. The Bay of Pigs, the Cuban missile crisis, Vietnam, and assassinations filled the headlines. Technology was ascending and science became the new religion. Space travel was no longer the domain of Buck Rogers or science fiction authors. Check out some of the U.S. headlines:

1960: Russia shot Gary Power’s American U-2 spy plane downed over the motherland * An irritated Khrushchev canceled the Paris summit conference * The Israelis invaded Argentina to capture Adolf Eichmann, a Nazi noted for the extermination of Jews (The Israelis executed Eichmann in 1962) * Mao’s Communist China and the Soviet Union split in conflict over Communist ideology * Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, Madagascar, and Zaire (Belgian Congo) gained independence * Cuba confiscated $770 million of U.S. property * 900 U.S. military advisers were in South Vietnam * 1961: U.S. and Cuba severed diplomatic relationship * Robert Frost recited “The Gift Outright” at John F. Kennedy’s inauguration * Moscow’s Yuri Gagarin became first man in orbit around Earth * Cuba routed the U.S./exiles Bay of Pigs invasion *The U.S.’s astronauts, Alan Shepard and Virgil Grissom, made it into space * Russia’s Titov went one better by orbiting the earth over seventeen times in the Vostok II * East Germans erected the Berlin Wall to keep the East Berliners home * The U.S. detonated a really nasty 50-megaton hydrogen bomb * 2,000 U.S. military advisers were in South Vietnam * 1962: Lt. Col. John Glenn, Jr. was the first American to orbit Earth * Algeria gained independence from France * The Soviets and Americans faced off during the Cuban missile crisis * James Meredith registered at University of Mississippi thanks to protection from federal marshals * Cuba released 1,113 prisoners from the Bay of Pigs invasion attempt * Burundi, Jamaica, Western Samoa, Uganda, and Trinidad and Tobago became independent * 11,000 U.S. military advisers were in South Vietnam * 1963: France and West Germany signed a treaty of cooperation ending four centuries of conflict * Dr. De Bakey implanted the first artificial heart in human; the patient lived four days * Pope John XXIII died and was succeeded by Cardinal Montini, Paul VI * U.S. Supreme Court ruled no locality may require recitation of Lord’s Prayer or Bible verses in public schools * The U.K.’s Profumo scandal broke out * Dr. Martin Luther King delivered the “I have a dream” speech to a Civil rights rally held by 200,000 blacks and whites in Washington, D.C. * Washington-to-Moscow “hot line” communications link opened to reduce the risk of accidental war * President Kennedy was assassinated by sniper in Dallas, TX and Lyndon B. Johnson became president * Lee Harvey Oswald, accused assassin of President Kennedy, was murdered by Jack Ruby, a Dallas nightclub owner * Kenya achieved independence * Betty Friedan published “The Feminine Mystique” * 15,000 U.S. military advisers were in South Vietnam * 1964: U.S. Supreme Court ruled that congressional districts should be roughly equal in population * Ruby convicted of murder and sentenced to death for slaying Lee Harvey Oswald (the conviction was reversed Oct. 5, 1966; Ruby died Jan. 3, 1967) * Three civil rights workers—Schwerner, Goodman, and Cheney—murdered in Mississippi * Twenty-one arrests resulted in trial and conviction of seven by federal jury * Nelson Mandela sentenced to life imprisonment * Congress approved Gulf of Tonkin resolution (The Gulf of Tonkin turned out to be a false flag incident) * The Warren Report concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone * The Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show * 23,310 U.S. military personnel were in South Vietnam * 1965: Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and more than 2,600 other blacks arrested in Selma, Ala., during three-day demonstrations against voter-registration rules * Malcolm X, black-nationalist leader, shot to death at Harlem rally in New York City * U.S. Marines and Army Rangers landed in Dominican Republic * Medicare, senior citizens’ government medical assistance program, began * Blacks rioted for six days in Watts section of Los Angeles: 34 dead, over 1,000 injured, nearly 4,000 arrested, fire damage put at $175 million * A power failure in Ontario plant blacked out parts of eight states of northeast U.S. and two provinces of southeast Canada * Ralph Nader’s published “Unsafe at Any Speed” * 184,314 U.S. military personnel were in South Vietnam * 1966: Black teenagers rioted in Watts, Los Angeles; two men killed and at least 25 injured * The Supreme Court decided Miranda v* Arizona * 382,010 U.S. military personnel were in South Vietnam * 1967: Three Apollo astronauts—Col. Virgil Grissom, Col. Edward White II, and Lt. Cmdr. Roger Chaffee—killed in spacecraft fire during simulated launch * Biafra seceded from Nigeria * Israeli and Arab forces engaged in the Six-day War that ended with Israel occupying Sinai Peninsula, Golan Heights, Gaza Strip, and east bank of Suez Canal * Red China announced the explosion of its first hydrogen bomb * Racial violence in Detroit; 7,000 National Guardsmen aided police after night of rioting * Similar outbreaks occur in New York City’s Spanish Harlem, Rochester, N.Y., Birmingham, Ala., and New Britain, Conn. * Thurgood Marshall sworn in as first black U.S. Supreme Court justice * Dr. Christiaan Barnard and team of South African surgeons performed world’s first successful human heart transplant-patient died 18 days later* 485,600 U.S. military personnel were in South Vietnam * 1968: North Korea seized U.S. Navy ship Pueblo and held 83 on board as spies * Tet offensive started, turning point in Vietnam War * My Lai massacre * President Johnson announced he would not seek or accept presidential re-nomination * Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. assassinated in Memphis and James Earl Ray, indicted in his murder, captured in London (in 1969 Ray plead guilty and sentenced to 99 years) * Sen. Robert F. Kennedy was shot and critically wounded in Los Angeles hotel after winning California primary-he died the next day * (Sirhan Sirhan convicted 1969) * Czechoslovakia invaded by Russians and Warsaw Pact forces crushed the liberal regime* 549,500 U.S. military personnel were in South Vietnam * 1969: Richard M. Nixon inaugurated 37th president of the U.S. * Stonewall riot in New York City marks beginning of gay rights movement * Apollo 11 astronauts—Neil Armstrong, Edwin Aldrin, Jr., and Michael Collins—took man’s first walk on moon * Sen. Edward Kennedy plead guilty to leaving scene of fatal accident at Chappaquiddick, Mass. in which Mary Jo Kopechne drowned—got a two-month suspended sentence * Woodstock Festival * Sesame Street debuts * Internet (ARPA) goes online * 549,500 U.S. military personnel were in South Vietnam * Continue reading

My Vietnam era mode of transportation (1968 – 1975)‏

Note to reader:  As a U.S. invited contractor I was issued a Department of defense noncombatant’s certificate of identity with assimilated rank of Colonel/EGS-15, equal to a military grade of 0-6.  I was issued blanket travel orders  to board military aircraft to any in-country military installation.  These travel orders were valid from 1968 to March 1973.  After which I traveled either on commercial or Air America aircraft until April 1975.

Going There: World Airways DC-8 Charter ~ 1968

Aboard a World Airways DC-8 Charter from Travis AFB to Tan Son Nhut AFB, Saigon, VN. One of the stewardesses was Linda Phillippe; who happened to be the daughter of one of my old bosses. She took good care of me while in-flight.

Aboard a World Airways DC-8 Charter from Travis AFB to Tan Son Nhut AFB, Saigon, VN.
One of the stewardesses was Linda Phillippe; who happened to be the daughter of one of
my old bosses. She took good care of me while in-flight.

Trivia:

In the 1960s, World Airways became the first U.S. charter airline to enter the jet age with the acquisition of new Boeing 707s.

The USAF Military Airlift Command, “MAC”, used World Airways Charters extensively during the Vietnam era for Military troop transfers.

World’s most famous flight was on 2 April 1975

The first ‘Operation Babylift’ flight took off from Saigon in darkness; the airport had turned the runway lights off. The DC-8 departed without a formal clearance to take off or a flight plan filed. Oakland Aviation Museum Life Members Bill Keating and Ken Healy piloted the flight. Ed Daly paid for the flight out of his own pocket. Continue reading

Aces and Eights

"Dead man's hand" by Tage Olsin - Own work

“Dead man’s hand” by Tage Olsin – Own work

Aces and Eights are called the ‘Dead Man’s’ hand for the cards Wild Bill Hickok was rumored to hold as he was shot in the back. I smell a market branding guru since black Aces, Eights and Wild Bill did not appear in the same sentence until the 1920s. The term ‘Dead Man’s’ hand didn’t even show up in the vocabulary as a phrase until the late 1800’s according to folks who research such things. Between 1886 and 1903 the Dead Man held a Full House of jacks with a pair of tens, pairs of jacks and sevens or jacks and eights. It’s relevant to the citizen/taxpayer today and tied to the very beginning of the Cold War.

Life’s like a game of cards. You play the hand that’s dealt while learning the game of citizenship and making choices. In August 2013 the Cato Institute published Michael D. Tanner and Charles Hughes’ White Paper The Work versus Welfare Trade-Off: 2013. It’s an eye-opening paper and I heartily recommend that everyone read the entire 52-pages. Tanner and Hughes open the discussion:

In 1995, the Cato Institute published a groundbreaking study, The Work vs. Welfare Trade-Off, which estimated the value of the full package of welfare benefits available to a typical recipient in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. It found that not only did the value of such benefits greatly exceed the poverty level but, because welfare benefits are tax-free, their dollar value was greater than the amount of take-home income a worker would receive from an entry-level job.

Since then, many welfare programs have undergone significant change, including the 1996 welfare reform legislation that ended the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program and replaced it with the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program. Accordingly, this paper examines the current welfare system in the same manner as the 1995 paper. Welfare benefits continue to outpace the income that most recipients can expect to earn from an entry-level job, and the balance between welfare and work may actually have grown worse in recent years.

The current welfare system provides such a high level of benefits that it acts as a disincentive for work. Welfare currently pays more than a minimum-wage job in 35 states, even after accounting for the Earned Income Tax Credit, and in 13 states it pays more than $15 per hour. If Congress and state legislatures are serious about reducing welfare dependence and rewarding work, they should consider strengthening welfare work requirements, removing exemptions, and narrowing the definition of work. Moreover, states should consider ways to shrink the gap between the value of welfare and work by reducing current benefit levels and tightening eligibility requirements.

Why does this analysis matter on a site where the focus is the Cold War and its legacy? Because as taxpayers we all contribute to the decision making process about where ‘our’ money is spent. Many veterans in the United States struggle just to live in dignity or even in a house. Many veterans need medical help and some die waiting for the assistance they need. Welfare and the military are not apples and oranges as the same taxpayers fund both. Both are deeply emotional issues. Welfare is ‘for the children’ and the military is for our protection. Continue reading

FADING AWAY

“Old soldiers never die…they just fade away…” Gen Douglas MacArthur

“Old soldiers never die…they just fade away…” Gen Douglas MacArthur

 

This past Christmas I held my first grandson for the first time. I think that nothing can bring about one’s sense of mortality like the experience of holding that first grandchild.

Author Steve Traywick with Grandson

Author Steve Traywick with Grandson

Asher still had that new baby smell. He looked at Papaw with an unsure look in his eye, but an infant must have a sense of family. He didn’t cry. He settled into my arms and for the next two days only cried when he was hungry or had a wet diaper.

Looking into his eyes brought about a feeling of mortality, but it was a satisfied feeling….that feeling that I can let go now; that my name and bloodline will be carried on. I can live (or not) satisfied. I wonder if some day he’ll want to know about Papaw. I’m trying to leave enough of an ether trail that he can track me down if he chooses. If he does, he’ll certainly learn about the men I served with and what we did and how we served. I certainly hope he does. They are all unsung heroes.

I messaged with my oldest friend this evening. We were talking about trying to get together for the Tennessee/Oklahoma football game in Knoxville later this year. I haven’t seen Bill in probably ten years, but we always keep in touch. We’ve both made horrendous mistakes in our personal lives, but unlike me, Bill rose to the very pinnacle of our profession. He was (and in my mind still is) the very personification of a professional soldier and tanker. A tanker in the 2nd Infantry Division, a member of the Audie Murphy Club, an M1 Master Gunner, Master Gunner for a winning CAT (Canadian Army Trophy) team, combat vet in Desert Storm, he retired a Command Sargent Major.

Steve Traywick in Germany.

Steve Traywick in Germany.

I knew him when he was a young Specialist 4 and my tank driver. Later, we became neighbors. We babysat each other’s kids. We watched out for each other. Bill chose a different path than I did. I think that he couldn’t not succeed at anything he did. Even though we went separate ways, we always managed to maintain that sense of family that every member of an Armor unit knew. Bill was, and still is my oldest and dearest friend.

Chatting with Bill tonight, it occurred to me that we old soldiers are fading away like every generation must surely do. There are still quite a few of us around from Uncle Ronnie’s army, but we are certainly getting much older. Most of my buddies from my generation of the nineteen-eighties have grandchildren now. I have no idea how or when this happened. I told Bill tonight that if I’d known I would live this long, I would have certainly taken better care of myself. He agreed.

I suppose I’ve written all this to say that I’m very, very concerned. I worry for my Army and ultimately for my country. Probably every generation of soldiers (sailors and marines too, I suppose) worries that the succeeding generation won’t be tough enough to face the challenges that their generation faced. I certainly won’t compare us to The Greatest Generation or the generation that fought the thankless war in Korea. I’ve met a lot of Vietnam vets and won’t let my generation take a backseat to them; different time, different mission.

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