Category Archives: Patriotism

On American Sniper and all the critics

First I will say I have not seen the movie. I know the story hits me pretty hard so I’m waiting until I can watch it at home. I have read the book though and the movie isn’t what I am planning on discussing anyway.

I have seen a lot of criticisms of Chris as a person and some of them are right. He likely did make some stuff up about his career and things he’s done. The question is who hasn’t exaggerated their life at some point? Others are way off such as calling him a coward or a terrorist or denigrating his service because it was to the critic the wrong war for the wrong reasons (never mind that even the New York Times now admits that we did find WMDs in Iraq). These people don’t understand the nature of military service or what is involved. People in the service serve the politicians the people elect and their whims. Our only hope when we are sent somewhere is that we can do the job we were sent to do and bring everyone home alive. Chris Kyle did this with surgical precision and in a way only a small number will ever understand. Looking at a living thing through a high-power scope and making the kill or don’t kill decision creates a connection with the target that is almost intimate. To keep going out there over and over and doing that while not turning into a blubbering lunatic takes extraordinary mental discipline.

At the same time I’ve seen some criticisms of Kyle’s detractors thrown back I don’t care for either. Not because it’s aimed at the critics, but because some of it paints good people with a broad brush they don’t deserve. The comment in question was that anyone who does not serve in the military is a coward. I don’t agree with this. Some try and fail for medical reasons. Others just aren’t called to serve. A long time ago there was a study of people who enter the military, law enforcement and other “first responders” that found we are wired differently than most. Doesn’t mean those who don’t serve are cowards, just not hard wired to run towards the sound of trouble. However that doesn’t excuse Kyle’s detractors from being ignorant, sanctimonious assholes.

Greg “Pappy” Boyington is credited with saying: “Show me a hero, and I’ll show you a bum.” If you know who Greg Boyington was you know he’s spoke from personal experience, both as a hero and a bum. Chris Kyle had his faults, everyone does, but that doesn’t change the fact that he was a hero in Iraq and back at home where he died trying to help his brothers and sisters to deal with PTSD. Nothing can change that.

Why we train

My opinion is things like this are the reason the founders of our nation wanted everyone to be armed and skilled at using those arms. We must all strive to ensure that if such evil ever appears in our nation the notion of “a rifle behind every blade of grass” is reality.

But that’s just my humble opinion.

Memorial Day

I don’t come from a family with much of a military tradition. Grandfather and Great Uncles that were veterans of WWI and an Uncle who joined the service during the Korean War but was discharged after his mother passed so he could help care for his family. Of course there’s me with time in the Air Force, but I don’t really matter.

Today like most other days I think about those who died on the battlefields and those who left something of themselves behind whether it was a physical or emotional chunk. Today is their day. Today is the day that I wish there was something we could do to soothe the broken souls of those who will never greet their loved ones again and those who survived and struggle to find peace with what they have seen. Parades and “Thank you for your service” strike me as hollow for some reason, but I just don’t know how we can really express our gratitude for the sacrifices made in our names.

Maybe someday we will figure out how to treat our veterans with the dignity and respect they deserve. We may even figure out how to help them cope with their losses better, to heal the wounds of the spirit and body. Hopefully that day will arrive very soon.

A Well Regulated Militia…

As we wait anxiously for the ruling in Heller v. DC that will either decide what the Second Amendment means or continue to muddy the waters. We have an interesting case study that illustrates the continuous need for a Nation of Riflemen (just for argument’s sake I do include women under that label). However to know what makes this case study so important, one needs to know the story behind it.

Established as the National Board for the Promotion of Rifle Practice by the War Department Appropriations Bill of 1903 and enthusiastically supported by Both President Theodore Roosevelt and the National Rifle Association the National Board for the Promotion of Rifle Practice had one mission. Teach Americans how to shoot and shoot well. At its first meeting the determined the best way to meet this goal was to establish rifle clubs. Two years later President Roosevelt signed Public Law #149, authorizing the sale, at cost, of surplus military rifles, ammunition, and related equipment to rifle clubs meeting requirements specified by the Board and approved by the Secretary of War.

In 1916 the National Defense Act created the Office of the Director of Civilian Marksmanship (DCM) managed by the U.S. Army with the authorization to distribute arms and ammunition to organized civilian rifle clubs under rules established by the Board, provide funds for the operation of government rifle ranges, and open all military rifle ranges to civilian shooters. To this day, many military ranges are still used by civilian clubs and associations for training, practice and competition.

In 1996 a concerted effort was undertaken by certain hoplophobic legislators to abolish the DCM. Instead the function was transferred to a new non-profit corporation called the Corporation for the Promotion of Rifle Practice and Firearms Safety, Inc. (CMP)To this day the CMP continues in the tradition of the DCM providing training, competition and arms to the American public. All without the benefit of Federal funding.

In 2001 as America entered the fight against Terrorism a shortage of skilled marksmen began to plague the services. While most services had a trained Sniper Cadre, this small group of individuals was not large enough nor were their mission parameters such that they would work inside as a part of large units on a mission. In 2004 the services decided the answer was to have Squad Designated Marksmen (SDM).

While the Sniper has the equipment and training to operate individually or in a small team to engage targets at extended ranges with precision fire. The SDM is equipped with a standard rifle and uses standard ammunition, the only real difference is his rifle is usually equipped with an optical sight. Like the Sniper the SDM must possess an understanding and mastery of the fundamentals of marksmanship, basic ballistics, range estimation, assessment of environmental conditions and the ability to compensate for those conditions by sight adjustment and/or windage hold-off. Unlike the Sniper, who must be able to do this with targets a half-mile away or more. The SDM’s maximum engagement range is limited to around 600 meters.

As is usual with the Armed Forces, marksmanship training had been largely neglected by Politicians who sought to use the money that would go towards marksmanship training as a “Peace Dividend” for pet Social Programs. Subsequently the Military found itself overwhelmed with requests for advanced marksmanship training. Fortunately for our men and women in uniform Lieutenant Colonel David Liwanag , the Commander of the USAMU, realized that there was a ready and willing pool of highly trained marksman that could assist in the training of SDMs.

The call for assistance went out to the CMP and the Riflemen of the CMP responded immediately with a resounding “Yes.”

Today the role of the CMP and the Military is reversed, with the CMP’s skilled riflemen teaching the Army how to shoot and shoot well. The mix of rifles found in the early days of training has been supplanted almost completely by match grade AR-15s mounting Trijicon TAO1 Advanced Combat Optical Gunsights (ACOG).

If it wasn’t for this program and the men and women who participate in it. American Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines would not have access to the training and experience the CMP has to offer and their jobs on the battlefield would be even more perilous than they are now.

To get involved in the CMP go to their website and look for a club in your area. While you’re at it you may want to join The National Rifle Association as most clubs want you to be a member of the NRA to join. Another good resource for learning marksmanship skills is the Appleseed Project

[The Constitution preserves] the advantage of being armed which Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation…(where) the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms.
—James Madison,The Federalist Papers, No. 46.

We established however some, although not all its [self-government] important principles . The constitutions of most of our States assert, that all power is inherent in the people; that they may exercise it by themselves, in all cases to which they think themselves competent, (as in electing their functionaries executive and legislative, and deciding by a jury of themselves, in all judiciary cases in which any fact is involved,) or they may act by representatives, freely and equally chosen; that it is their right and duty to be at all times armed;
—Thomas Jefferson to John Cartwright, 1824. Memorial Edition 16:45, Lipscomb and Bergh, editors

Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom in Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretence, raised in the United States. A military force, at the command of Congress, can execute no laws, but such as the people perceive to be just and constitutional; for they will possess the power, and jealousy will instantly inspire the inclination, to resist the execution of a law which appears to them unjust and oppressive.
—Noah Webster, An Examination of the Leading Principles of the Federal Constitution (Philadelphia 1787).

Who are the militia? Are they not ourselves? Is it feared, then, that we shall turn our arms each man gainst his own bosom. Congress have no power to disarm the militia. Their swords, and every other terrible implement of the soldier, are the birthright of an American…[T]he unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or state governments, but, where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the people.
—Tenche Coxe, The Pennsylvania Gazette, Feb. 20, 1788.

[W]hereas, to preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms, and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them; nor does it follow from this, that all promiscuously must go into actual service on every occasion. The mind that aims at a select militia, must be influenced by a truly anti-republican principle; and when we see many men disposed to practice upon it, whenever they can prevail, no wonder true republicans are for carefully guarding against it.
—Richard Henry Lee, The Pennsylvania Gazette, Feb. 20, 1788.

[W]hen the resolution of enslaving America was formed in Great Britain, the British Parliament was advised by an artful man, who was governor of Pennsylvania, to disarm the people; that it was the best and most effectual way to enslave them; but that they should not do it openly, but weaken them, and let them sink gradually…I ask, who are the militia? They consist of now of the whole people, except a few public officers. But I cannot say who will be the militia of the future day. If that paper on the table gets no alteration, the militia of the future day may not consist of all classes, high and low, and rich and poor…
—George Mason, Virginia ratifying convention, June 2 through June 26, 1788.

4th of July

I’ve already made one 4th of July post, but I have a few more things to share with you. First up is Red Skelton delivering The Pledge of Allegiance.

I’ll follow that with The Famous Patton Speech

Finally, we have our Babe of the 4th of July.

The Men Who Risked Everything

A moving speech written by Rush Libaugh Jr. The Father of the radio personality we know as Rush Limbaugh. His comments following the speech are bolded.

It was a glorious morning. The sun was shining and the wind was from the southeast. Up especially early, a tall bony, redheaded young Virginian found time to buy a new thermometer, for which he paid three pounds, fifteen shillings. He also bought gloves for Martha, his wife, who was ill at home.

Thomas Jefferson arrived early at the statehouse. The temperature was 72.5 degrees and the horseflies weren’t nearly so bad at that hour. It was a lovely room, very large, with gleaming white walls. The chairs were comfortable. Facing the single door were two brass fireplaces, but they would not be used today.

The moment the door was shut, and it was always kept locked, the room became an oven. The tall windows were shut, so that loud quarreling voices could not be heard by passersby. Small openings atop the windows allowed a slight stir of air, and also a large number of horseflies. Jefferson records that “the horseflies were dexterous in finding necks, and the silk of stockings was nothing to them.” All discussing was punctuated by the slap of hands on necks.

On the wall at the back, facing the president’s desk, was a panoply — consisting of a drum, swords, and banners seized from Fort Ticonderoga the previous year. Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold had captured the place, shouting that they were taking it “in the name of the Great Jehovah and the Continental Congress!”

Now Congress got to work, promptly taking up an emergency measure about which there was discussion but no dissension. “Resolved: That an application be made to the Committee of Safety of Pennsylvania for a supply of flints for the troops at New York.”

Then Congress transformed itself into a committee of the whole. The Declaration of Independence was read aloud once more, and debate resumed. Though Jefferson was the best writer of all of them, he had been somewhat verbose. Congress hacked the excess away. They did a good job, as a side-by-side comparison of the rough draft and the final text shows. They cut the phrase “by a self-assumed power.” “Climb” was replaced by “must read,” then “must” was eliminated, then the whole sentence, and soon the whole paragraph was cut. Jefferson groaned as they continued what he later called “their depredations.” “Inherent and inalienable rights” came out “certain unalienable rights,” and to this day no one knows who suggested the elegant change.

A total of 86 alterations were made. Almost 500 words were eliminated, leaving 1,337. At last, after three days of wrangling, the document was put to a vote.

Here in this hall Patrick Henry had once thundered: “I am no longer a Virginian, sir, but an American.” But today the loud, sometimes bitter argument stilled, and without fanfare the vote was taken from north to south by colonies, as was the custom. On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was adopted.

There were no trumpets blown. No one stood on his chair and cheered. The afternoon was waning and Congress had no thought of delaying the full calendar of routine business on its hands. For several hours they worked on many other problems before adjourning for the day.

Much To Lose

What kind of men were the 56 signers who adopted the Declaration of Independence and who, by their signing, committed an act of treason against the crown? To each of you, the names Franklin, Adams, Hancock and Jefferson are almost as familiar as household words. Most of us, however, know nothing of the other signers. Who were they? What happened to them?

I imagine that many of you are somewhat surprised at the names not there: George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Patrick Henry. All were elsewhere.

Ben Franklin was the only really old man. Eighteen were under 40; three were in their 20s. Of the 56 almost half – 24 – were judges and lawyers. Eleven were merchants, nine were landowners and farmers, and the remaining 12 were doctors, ministers, and politicians.

With only a few exceptions, such as Samuel Adams of Massachusetts, these were men of substantial property. All but two had families. The vast majority were men of education and standing in their communities. They had economic security as few men had in the 18th Century.

Each had more to lose from revolution than he had to gain by it. John Hancock, one of the richest men in America, already had a price of 500 pounds on his head. He signed in enormous letters so that his Majesty could now read his name without glasses and could now double the reward. Ben Franklin wryly noted: “Indeed we must all hang together, otherwise we shall most assuredly hang separately.”

Fat Benjamin Harrison of Virginia told tiny Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts: “With me it will all be over in a minute, but you, you will be dancing on air an hour after I am gone.”

These men knew what they risked. The penalty for treason was death by hanging. And remember, a great British fleet was already at anchor in New York Harbor.
They were sober men. There were no dreamy-eyed intellectuals or draft card burners here. They were far from hot-eyed fanatics yammering for an explosion. They simply asked for the status quo. It was change they resisted. It was equality with the mother country they desired. It was taxation with representation they sought. They were all conservatives, yet they rebelled.

It was principle, not property, that had brought these men to Philadelphia. Two of them became presidents of the United States. Seven of them became state governors. One died in office as vice president of the United States. Several would go on to be U.S. Senators. One, the richest man in America, in 1828 founded the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. One, a delegate from Philadelphia, was the only real poet, musician and philosopher of the signers. (It was he, Francis Hopkinson not Betsy Ross who designed the United States flag.)

Richard Henry Lee, a delegate from Virginia, had introduced the resolution to adopt the Declaration of Independence in June of 1776. He was prophetic in his concluding remarks: “Why then sir, why do we longer delay? Why still deliberate? Let this happy day give birth to an American Republic. Let her arise not to devastate and to conquer but to reestablish the reign of peace and law.

“The eyes of Europe are fixed upon us. She demands of us a living example of freedom that may exhibit a contrast in the felicity of the citizen to the ever-increasing tyranny which desolates her polluted shores. She invites us to prepare an asylum where the unhappy may find solace, and the persecuted repost.

“If we are not this day wanting in our duty, the names of the American Legislatures of 1776 will be placed by posterity at the side of all of those whose memory has been and ever will be dear to virtuous men and good citizens.”

Though the resolution was formally adopted July 4, it was not until July 8 that two of the states authorized their delegates to sign, and it was not until August 2 that the signers met at Philadelphia to actually put their names to the Declaration.

William Ellery, delegate from Rhode Island, was curious to see the signers’ faces as they committed this supreme act of personal courage. He saw some men sign quickly, “but in no face was he able to discern real fear.” Stephan Hopkins, Ellery’s colleague from Rhode Island, was a man past 60. As he signed with a shaking pen, he declared: “My hand trembles, but my heart does not.”

“Most Glorious Service”

Even before the list was published, the British marked down every member of Congress suspected of having put his name to treason. All of them became the objects of vicious manhunts. Some were taken. Some, like Jefferson, had narrow escapes. All who had property or families near British strongholds suffered.

· Francis Lewis, New York delegate saw his home plundered — and his estates in what is now Harlem — completely destroyed by British Soldiers. Mrs. Lewis was captured and treated with great brutality. Though she was later exchanged for two British prisoners through the efforts of Congress, she died from the effects of her abuse.

· William Floyd, another New York delegate, was able to escape with his wife and children across Long Island Sound to Connecticut, where they lived as refugees without income for seven years. When they came home they found a devastated ruin.

· Philips Livingstone had all his great holdings in New York confiscated and his family driven out of their home. Livingstone died in 1778 still working in Congress for the cause.

· Louis Morris, the fourth New York delegate, saw all his timber, crops, and livestock taken. For seven years he was barred from his home and family.

· John Hart of Trenton, New Jersey, risked his life to return home to see his dying wife. Hessian soldiers rode after him, and he escaped in the woods. While his wife lay on her deathbed, the soldiers ruined his farm and wrecked his homestead. Hart, 65, slept in caves and woods as he was hunted across the countryside. When at long last, emaciated by hardship, he was able to sneak home, he found his wife had already been buried, and his 13 children taken away. He never saw them again. He died a broken man in 1779, without ever finding his family.

· Dr. John Witherspoon, signer, was president of the College of New Jersey, later called Princeton. The British occupied the town of Princeton, and billeted troops in the college. They trampled and burned the finest college library in the country.
· Judge Richard Stockton, another New Jersey delegate signer, had rushed back to his estate in an effort to evacuate his wife and children. The family found refuge with friends, but a Tory sympathizer betrayed them. Judge Stockton was pulled from bed in the night and brutally beaten by the arresting soldiers. Thrown into a common jail, he was deliberately starved. Congress finally arranged for Stockton’s parole, but his health was ruined. The judge was released as an invalid, when he could no longer harm the British cause. He returned home to find his estate looted and did not live to see the triumph of the Revolution. His family was forced to live off charity.

· Robert Morris, merchant prince of Philadelphia, delegate and signer, met Washington’s appeals and pleas for money year after year. He made and raised arms and provisions which made it possible for Washington to cross the Delaware at Trenton. In the process he lost 150 ships at sea, bleeding his own fortune and credit almost dry.

· George Clymer, Pennsylvania signer, escaped with his family from their home, but their property was completely destroyed by the British in the Germantown and Brandywine campaigns.

· Dr. Benjamin Rush, also from Pennsylvania, was forced to flee to Maryland. As a heroic surgeon with the army, Rush had several narrow escapes.

· John Martin, a Tory in his views previous to the debate, lived in a strongly loyalist area of Pennsylvania. When he came out for independence, most of his neighbors and even some of his relatives ostracized him. He was a sensitive and troubled man, and many believed this action killed him. When he died in 1777, his last words to his tormentors were: “Tell them that they will live to see the hour when they shall acknowledge it [the signing] to have been the most glorious service that I have ever rendered to my country.”

· William Ellery, Rhode Island delegate, saw his property and home burned to the ground.
· Thomas Lynch, Jr., South Carolina delegate, had his health broken from privation and exposures while serving as a company commander in the military. His doctors ordered him to seek a cure in the West Indies and on the voyage, he and his young bride were drowned at sea.

· Edward Rutledge, Arthur Middleton, and Thomas Heyward, Jr., the other three South Carolina signers, were taken by the British in the siege of Charleston. They were carried as prisoners of war to St. Augustine, Florida, where they were singled out for indignities. They were exchanged at the end of the war, the British in the meantime having completely devastated their large landholdings and estates.

· Thomas Nelson, signer of Virginia, was at the front in command of the Virginia military forces. With British General Charles Cornwallis in Yorktown, fire from 70 heavy American guns began to destroy Yorktown piece by piece. Lord Cornwallis and his staff moved their headquarters into Nelson’s palatial home. While American cannonballs were making a shambles of the town, the house of Governor Nelson remained untouched. Nelson turned in rage to the American gunners and asked, “Why do you spare my home?” They replied, “Sir, out of respect to you.” Nelson cried, “Give me the cannon!” and fired on his magnificent home himself, smashing it to bits. But Nelson’s sacrifice was not quite over. He had raised $2 million for the Revolutionary cause by pledging his own estates. When the loans came due, a newer peacetime Congress refused to honor them, and Nelson’s property was forfeited. He was never reimbursed. He died, impoverished, a few years later at the age of 50.

Lives, Fortunes, Honor

Of those 56 who signed the Declaration of Independence, nine died of wounds or hardships during the war. Five were captured and imprisoned, in each case with brutal treatment. Several lost wives, sons or entire families. One lost his 13 children. Two wives were brutally treated. All were at one time or another the victims of manhunts and driven from their homes. Twelve signers had their homes completely burned. Seventeen lost everything they owned. Yet not one defected or went back on his pledged word. Their honor, and the nation they sacrificed so much to create is still intact.

And, finally, there is the New Jersey signer, Abraham Clark.

He gave two sons to the officer corps in the Revolutionary Army. They were captured and sent to that infamous British prison hulk afloat in New York Harbor known as the hell ship Jersey, where 11,000 American captives were to die. The younger Clarks were treated with a special brutality because of their father. One was put in solitary and given no food. With the end almost in sight, with the war almost won, no one could have blamed Abraham Clark for acceding to the British request when they offered him his sons’ lives if he would recant and come out for the King and Parliament. The utter despair in this man’s heart, the anguish in his very soul, must reach out to each one of us down through 200 years with his answer: “No.”

The 56 signers of the Declaration Of Independence proved by their every deed that they made no idle boast when they composed the most magnificent curtain line in history. “And for the support of this Declaration with a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”

My friends, I know you have a copy of the Declaration of Independence somewhere around the house – in an old history book (newer ones may well omit it), an encyclopedia, or one of those artificially aged “parchments” we all got in school years ago. I suggest that each of you take the time this month to read through the text of the Declaration, one of the most noble and beautiful political documents in human history.

There is no more profound sentence than this: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness…”

These are far more than mere poetic words. The underlying ideas that infuse every sentence of this treatise have sustained this nation for more than two centuries. They were forged in the crucible of great sacrifice. They are living words that spring from and satisfy the deepest cries for liberty in the human spirit.

“Sacred honor” isn’t a phrase we use much these days, but every American life is touched by the bounty of this, the Founders’ legacy. It is freedom, tested by blood, and watered with tears.

– Rush Limbaugh III

Memorial Day 2007

Yes I know I am a day late, I wasn’t near a computer till last night and then I was too worn out.

Anyway, as usual I watch one of the classic war movies on Memorial Day. Last night it was Patton with George C. Scott. There is one quote that is attributed to Gen. Patton that sums up memorial day for me: “It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should
thank God that such men lived.” — General George Patton

He’s right, we shouldn’t mourn the dead. We should instead thank what ever cosmic force we believe in that such men were born to protect us.

Tam over at View From The Porch posted a picture that also struck home this year.

I remember, and I thank God every day.