“May have been the losing side. Still not convinced it was the wrong one.”

"This report is maybe 12-years-old. Parliament buried it, and it stayed buried till River dug it up. This is what they feared she knew. And they were right to fear because there's a whole universe of folk who are gonna know it, too. They're gonna see it. Somebody has to speak for these people. You all got on this boat for different reasons, but you all come to the same place. So now I'm asking more of you than I have before. Maybe all. Sure as I know anything I know this, they will try again. Maybe on another world, maybe on this very ground swept clean. A year from now, 10, they'll swing back to the belief that they can make people . . . better. And I do not hold to that. So no more running. I aim to misbehave." ~ Captain Malcom Reynolds

Saturday, November 29, 2014

A companion link

Some other thoughts on the subject of military service and hero worship. Worth a read.

Cultural Competence and the Growing Split

There is a short but good article here on the challenges faced by non-military mental health providers in dealing with military patients. This certainly reflects things I've found in my own experience.

But it also reflects a change in our society as a whole. One that I think will lead to many other problems as time goes by.

There is a growing rift between the military and veterans and the rest of American society.

I don't mean this in terms of beliefs, or politics, or social mores (though all of those are certainly a factor). I mean simply in terms of common ground and the ability to relate, empathize and interact.

Without doing more research than I'm inclined to, I'll only take my observations back to the World War II generation - though my gut and history classes would lead me to think you could certainly take it further. When discussing the "Greatest Generation" it was not at all uncommon for a family to have one or more members who had served in the military in some fashion; and if they hadn't than there was certainly a neighbor or friend in the community who had. Which leads to shared experiences and common ground. To kids hearing war stories from a favorite uncle, young men asking for advice before embarking on their own journeys, or business transactions lubricated through veteran's conversations. It led to politicians, whether local or national, who had served in the uniform of the troops they were then going to order into harm's way. In short, "veterans" were a part of the communities they lived in, rather than something unusual. And, whether for a tour or a career, military service was seen as something to be proud of (and as a SERVICE) rather than something to hide.

Vietnam, the end of the draft, and the transition to a volunteer military force started to change that. An unpopular war, a shift in national outlook and other factors led to soldiers being viewed as "different" somehow. Whether labeled as misfits, killers, or rejects who weren't "smart enough" for the regular world, those who entered the military were no longer seen as serving the nation as a whole, but as tools of some nebulous political/industrial complex, as proxies for profit rather than protectors of the oppressed.

Fast forward to the modern age. The military, while still all-volunteer has become a truly separate entity in most people's lives. Fewer than 1% of the population are veterans these days, and even the Pentagon states that 70% of modern American youth would be ineligible for military service due to health, education, or criminal convictions. The political class? Completely disconnected - the barest fraction of our representatives have any military service, much less in time of war. And we have thus entered the era where to be a veteran is a strange thing, where the men and women who go into harm's way for our nation are seen as being an "unusual" group, and where our medical system needs special training in order to even relate to them as a whole.

Some of you may be disputing this - "My friends and I are all veterans," "There are plenty of people in my family/town/job who served," and the like. But these are clusters (I know, because I'm in one of them). Certain professions, rural communities, and yes, even family traditions are represented more heavily amongst veterans than others. In some cases this is because a tradition of service remains, in others it is due to an affinity between career paths. But, I challenge you to go to a major city and conduct the same survey - you'll find the percentages reflect what I am discussing.

This is sad and this is dangerous. It is sad because we have a complete disconnect - the men and women who are sacrificing their years, their bodies and their lives for a nation come home to a place which they no longer relate to. And the communities which receive them are challenged to interact with a group they cannot understand. The politicians spend the lives of these troops, they cut back on equipment, training and benefits for the people who protect our nation, all without the slightest concept of who these service members are.

And it is dangerous, because a military which sees itself as separate from the people, as unappreciated or unwanted, is a military capable of acts against the society they are meant to preserve. Capable of being exploited by generals or politicians or internal drives to "make things right." Which also goes against the very foundations of our nation, and holds the potential for vast abuse.

Do I have the perfect solution? Of course not. But Heinlein's thoughts on service connected to citizenship certainly provide an option.

Either way we owe it to our warriors and to ourselves to find the common ground again, to bring these men and women home and let them truly feel at home. To understand the concept of sacrifice for a greater good, and a chance at peace when it is done.


Centurions were the guardians of Rome. At the height of the Roman Republic there were over five thousand qualified Roman Centurions in the Legions. To be a Centurion required that, in a mostly illiterate society, one be able to read and write clearly, to be able to convey and create orders, to be capable of not only performing every skill of a Roman soldier but teach every skill of a Roman soldier.

Becoming a Centurion required intense physical ability, courage beyond the norm, years of sacrifice and a total devotion to the philosophy which was Rome.

When Rome fell to barbarian invaders, there were less than five hundred qualified Centurions. Not because Rome had fewer people but because it had fewer willing to make the sacrifices. And the last Centurions left their shields in the heather and took a barbarian bride…

- John Ringo

Monday, November 24, 2014

House Rules

I watch very very little network television, due to a dislike of the medium. However, once in a while I do get caught up watching a show that my wife enjoys.

We also have a standing house rule that during movies or TV shows I'm NOT allowed to comment on bomb techniques, tactical procedures, or the like - because according to my wife at times the "suspension of belief" element seems to elude me.

Which explains why I got "That Look" tonight during a show when I started talking to the bad guy on screen saying "Oh yes, I DREAM of someone doing that, please gift wrap solving your little bomb problem for me!"

Yes, there are issues in my head....

Music Monday

I always thought you could weave a heck of a novel out of these two songs:

Unfortunately these days I fear it would have too many modern parallels.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Home Decorating

Recently we went to a social get-together at a friend's house, kids and adults both enjoying themselves. It was a rather nice house in a good neighborhood, and it took me a little bit to figure out why it just didn't feel "right" to me.

There weren't any books.

No bookshelves, no partially read novels lying on an end table, not even a side room which had the family library. With the exception of a handful of school books it was otherwise a literary desert.

Now, please don't take this as a criticism of the people or place - it's nothing of the sort. It just reflects what I've grown used to and comfortable with in my own life.

Ever since I was young I was a reader. My mother kept books around the house, family friends had large libraries, trips to the bookstore and the library were frequent and quite simply it became the norm. Even when I was in the military I remember the majority of my personal possessions being books when I would move from one duty station to another.

I suppose it's only natural that one of the qualities which made my wife special is that she reads as well. Every room in our own house has at least one bookshelf, and when we go through those periodic purges of excess items in the home the books are always the hardest to sort through. Again, it's no surprise our children have taken the love of the written word into their own hearts as well.

Which explains why a house without books just doesn't feel "right" to me - because it's just an empty structure up until then. Sort of like being in one of those model or demo homes with all the furniture and accoutrements designed to show it off, but lacking that spark of life inside. The same as I have trouble relating to people don't read books at all, because there's just that little bit of something not in common with them.

I'd rather have a place cluttered with books and comfortable than the cleanest mansion in the world without a page in sight.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veteran's Day

For those who served, no matter the branch, field, or length of time - thank you. It was an honor and a privilege to serve beside you. Your sacrifices have helped not only this nation but others worldwide, and may your time never be forgotten.

To those who read this, please take a moment today and express your appreciation for those family, friends, or acquaintances today who wore our nation's uniform. It means a lot just to hear those words.

If you have the chance, the following organizations are worthy of your funds - they help the veterans, families and survivors of our recent conflicts. I can speak personally as to the good things they have done for my own family, purely out of their generosity.

Wounded Warrior Project

Wounded EOD Warrior Foundation

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Public Issues

One of the facts of working on a bomb squad is that the vast majority of our calls are false alarms - a simple abandoned bag, a package sent to the wrong location or whatever. While it's somewhat of a downer in terms of not dealing with live stuff, that's the nature of the beast. However, it also is a fact that we still have to treat EVERY call as if it IS live - because as soon as you get complacent thinking "oh, this is just another nothing incident" it will end up biting you. 

What this means is that, once we get on scene, we treat things very seriously - from controlling scene and traffic access, to possible evacuations, to the whole robot/bomb suit/special equipment game. This tends to be time consuming, and disruptive and everything else. Because my concern is the safety of me, the community, the other officers and everything else - not whether or not this is "convenient" to everything else around. 

Usually everyone is pretty understanding of this and realizes why we do things. But this past week we had Captain Sarcasm on board - because we had to block off the entrance to his commercial area in order to deal with a suspect package, and he just couldn't see all the fuss going on for what ended up being nothing. So, while I spent an hour resolving this situation, worrying about potential risks and countermeasures in my head, and everything else involved, he spent his time on the sidelines yelling out smart-assed comments, suggestions, and even going so far as to complain to the patrol supervisor on scene about all of this "nonsense." 

Fortunately for my temper and my career I was able to get things done and leave in a different direction, so that my mouth didn't add to the problem in a direct encounter...