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Mark Caserta: Democrats forsook “Democracy” long ago.

16 Nov

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Congressmen Adam Schiff (both D-CA)


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Mark Caserta is an opinion columnist and Editor for Free State Patriot

November 16, 2019


 

Call it a “pet peeve”. Call it a “bete noire”. Call it what you will.  But stop calling it the “Democratic Party.”

It isn’t.

Political pundits need to stop referencing the party of Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff as the “Democratic” party. It’s not the Democratic party! Left-leaning Democrats forsook democracy years ago in their pursuit of bigger and more powerful government. They are the “Democrat” party.

In retrospect, I suppose there are other applicable names, though.

It would be perfectly acceptable to call them the “denial” party. They simply refuse to believe Donald Trump legitimately defeated and ultimately humiliated them in the 2016 presidential election. The lie in bed at night hoping it was all bad nightmare. And they awaken each morning to find out it was! Just for them!

You could even call them the “futility” party. Since the election of President Trump, and even after taking back the House of Representatives in 2018, they’ve set aside their representation of the American people in lieu of solely focusing on crippling the presidency of the most effective world leader in my lifetime.

You may just want to call them the “bogus investigation” party. In their “service”, since the election of Donald Trump, if there wasn’t something legitimate to investigate, that certainly hasn’t stopped them. They just create something! And then they spend millions of your tax dollars on their pipe dream! They must really think the American voters are ignorant!

One title that certainly fits could be the “charlatan” party. I’ve never seen a group of individuals, not to mention “elected” officials, who lie so much, yet are continually protected by the liberal media. The truth will never stand in the way of our current group of liberal politicians. It simply doesn’t factor into their progressive equation, nor is it relevant to their mission of crushing Donald Trump.

How about the “treasonous” party? The subversive agenda of these self-serving politicians is as unpatriotic as it comes. They absolutely hate Donald Trump and conservatism more than they love the United States or its citizens. Can someone say, “political domestic terrorists”?

The “hypocrite” party fits nicely! Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff decided to investigate a Trump phone call with a Ukrainian leader, citing a threat to withhold military aid unless the country investigated Joe Biden’s nefarious dealings with the Ukraine. The decision to investigate Trump, rather than investigate then Vice President Biden’s “admitted” threat to withhold millions of dollars of aid to the nation unless they fired the prosecutor investigating his son, Hunter, for collusion, is the epitome of hypocrisy. The real kicker is the Ukrainian leader denied he felt pressured and received the military aid! Facts be damned, we’ll get Trump!

“Progressive” party is certainly a title apropos to their agenda and is analogous the “communist” party. They are even running a presidential bid on socialist tenets! The term, “progressive” to Democrats means “anything goes”! Abortion should be without limits and upon demand. The government knows better how to spend your tax dollars than you do. Fossil fuels are destroying our planet, with the exception of the fuel used in their jets or SUVs. There is no such thing as “illegal immigration.” We are one big happy family which should be willing to “take from those who have” and give to “those who have not”. Anything less is homophobic, Islamophobic, xenophobic or Christianophobic.

It’s very sad that a few liberal leaders have diminished the party of John F. Kennedy into something unrecognizable. Factually, they’ve evolved into something quite “less” than American. Yet we continue to condone their behavior on our behalf. Congruently, many Americans are spending way too little time defending and supporting President Trump, who is simply fulfilling the promises upon which he was elected.

But that’s just too strange a concept for the Democrat Party.

 

 

 

Doug Smith: “General principle” insufficient in impeachment probe

16 Nov

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doug at wvhu

Doug Smith is an opinion columnist, historian and Associate editor for Free State Patriot

November 16, 2019


 

I learned the specific application of a general principle in the Navy. The specific application was “Anything which is everyone’s job is nobody’s job. The general principle is anything which is too widely, or universally applied becomes meaningless, since it does not specify any thing.

One example in practice is me and my fellow Republicans. Each time we disagree with Leftists, on anything, we are racists, sexists, bigots, and homophobes. Now, I’m willing to accept the premise that among the universe of Republicans, there may be people who are one or some combination of those things. But the words are now meaningless, because they are thrown around as an indictment for anything the Left disagrees with, and not for the real meanings or actions behind the words. So, because it means anything, it means nothing when a “Leftist” calls us one of these names.

To bring the general principle to another specific case in point, let us consider the case for impeachment of Donald Trump. The Left, of course, made the point that he was not qualified to be President during the campaign. Fair enough. That is how politics is played. ( Note for a future article: the point may be made that his opponent, Hillary Clinton, is not qualified to hold any position of public trust, including dog catcher in Little Rock) But, here we differ from the normal, because as soon as it became apparent that Trump would win, the argument became one of get him at any cost. For any reason. He must be impeached, the reasoning went, because we think he is unfit (and by extension, so are all of you who voted for him) and therefore, ought to be impeached. Not, mind you, because he committed high crimes and misdemeanors in office, but because we do not like him. Our opinion of his qualifications, his manners, his speech, his “pink monkey” outsider status, is enough that he “deserves” to be impeached. So now all we need is a reason, or an excuse.

So “deserves to be impeached”, or impeachable offense, has becomes so general as to be meaningless. Everything the Left, or the Never Trump Elitist so called Conservatives, disapproves of, disagrees with, or dislikes about Donald Trump becomes the latest smoking gun, bombshell, reason, excuse to remove him.  And they all become so universal as to become meaningless. Worthless. Impeachment itself, has become a meaningless political exercise, and excuse for soft coups to change governments. It has been used over and over, and we should remember, has never been successful. I suspect it never will.

But the greatest offense of the Left, (again, Never Trumpers on the Right? A whole different article.) is the assault on language, and ultimately, the Constitution. The protection of impeachment against a truly egregious POTUS is evaporated. No one takes it seriously as anything other than sour grapes. And no one takes seriously the latest avocado. Huh? Means as much as bombshell, and I like avocados. And no one who is not consumed with Trump Derangement Syndrome misses the fact that without reason, or with excuse after excuse which has evaporated, the Democrats are into a political process, impeachment, which will fail, in the hopes of skewing the outcome of the next election, which they surmise they will also lose to Donald Trump.

And so, they should.

Mark Caserta: Huntington recognized as the 2nd poorest place in West Virginia.

9 Nov

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Mark Caserta is an opinion columnist and editor for Free State Patriot

November 9, 2019


 

Population decline is arguably the most prominent metric for determining the socio-economic stability of any state or city across America. And Huntington, West Virginia, once again, is being recognized for all the wrong reasons.

Per recent United States census estimates, Huntington, the 2nd largest city (based on 2017 estimates) in West Virginia is losing its population at an alarming rate. I will go further to speculate that if this metric could somehow be modified to reflect the ratio of people who left our community who were contributors to our economy versus the incoming ones who incessantly “make withdrawals” on our economy, the attrition rate would reveal a much greater negative impact to our city.

According to recent estimates, Huntington started the decade with an estimated 49, 153 people. By 2018, the number had fallen six percent to 46, 048.

Based on data from the American Community Survey, the average size of a household was around 2.21 persons with a median “household” income of around $30,359.

The survey went on to rate the top ten poorest places in the Mountain State for 2019. It’s not surprising to those paying attention or being impacted by our depraved economy, that Huntington is near the top of the list. Very near.

The survey analyzed the most recent data from cities in West Virginia with a population of 5,000 or more people. They arrived at these cities as the poorest places in West Virginia.

  1. Keyser
  2. Huntington
  3. Morgantown
  4. Buckhannon
  5. Grafton
  6. Martinsburg
  7. Moundsville
  8. Parkersburg
  9. Bluefield
  10. Oak Hill

The facts of the survey were very telling, indeed. (The survey is available for viewing at 2013-2017 American Community Survey) The information gathered to declare Huntington as being one of the poorest places in West Virginia, indirectly points to our city as being one of the poorest places in America!

The study examined the poverty level, median household income adjusted for the cost of living and the unemployment rate, as they explain below.

“The “median household income adjusted for the cost of living” attempts to gauge how expensive it is to live in a place and how that impacts the quality of life. For example, a town might have fewer people living below the official poverty line, but the cost of living is so high they’d still feel poor.

The unemployment rate tries to capture the prospects for improvement in the city or town. If more people are employed, the brighter the future looks and vice versa.

After we collected the data for all 27 places with more than 5,000 people in West Virginia, we ranked each place from 1 to 27 for each of the criteria, with 1 being the poorest.”

We then averaged all the rankings for a place into a “Poor Score” with the place having the lowest overall Poor Score, Keyser, crowned the “Poorest Place In West Virginia For 2019”.

And Huntington receives a “silver” medal for being the 2nd poorest place in West Virginia. Doesn’t that make you proud!

It should make you angry! Under the direction of our current city leaders, we have experienced a social and economic decline like nothing I’ve seen in my lifetime!

At this point, I’m not certain which is happening more rapidly, the loss of economically productive people or the acquisition of people dependent upon our city and our tax dollars.

But I can say without hesitation, both are happening.   And that’s a recipe for disaster. And we appear to be working harder at attracting the dependent folks than we are at retaining those who contribute to a thriving economy.

In what world does that make sense? It seems the only business benefitting from this madness are those who receive government grants or subsidies to support their programs.

Yes, there is certainly a need for these sorts of supportive entities. But the rehab industry cannot and must not be considered a viable replacement for good, living wage paying jobs in manufacturing and infrastructure.

I’m convinced our city leaders are either clueless or unwilling in addressing the problem.

After all, they can simply vote themselves pay increases, while the poor remain poor and without hope.

Oh, you didn’t know? Why, yes! In October, Huntington City Council approved an ordinance to increase the mayor’s salary from $85,000 a year to $114,500 by 2021. That’s nearly a $30,000 increase in 2 years!

Additionally, Council members will be getting about $40 to $50 more each month.

I’m all for pay increases based on performance. But what have they done to deserve these increases? Most people producing their type of results wouldn’t be rewarded, they’d be terminated!

Look around you. It’s obvious our city leaders have been as feckless and ineffective in their duties. And unfortunately, as we continue to be recognized for all the wrong reasons, Huntington will continue to be avoided by businessmen and entrepreneurs like the plague.

Don’t be fooled by a sharp-tongued, political orator in 2020. Vote to return the Jewell City to greatness, before we pass the point of no return.

 

 

 

 

Mark Caserta: Building a city on drug rehab is a disastrous business plan.

26 Oct

COURTHOUSE

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Mark Caserta is an opinion columnist and editor for the conservative blog,  “Free State Patriot”

October 26, 2019


 

Anyone who tells you Huntington, WV. is successfully addressing its devastating level of drug addiction via its rehab efforts, is trying to sell something.

To say that Huntington is “spinning its wheels” in dealing with drug abuse is a monumental understatement. We are, indeed, digging ourselves into a trench from which it will be very difficult to escape. And sadly, we have leadership who believes in doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.

In fact, our city leaders are unable to offer any confirmable metric showing any sustainable level of success at reducing opioid addiction within our own city.

It gets worse.

Reliable sources have confirmed we now have rehab facilities actively sourcing addicts outside our city limits, encouraging them to come to Huntington for treatment.

Why? Why bring them to our city – our centers for treatment? Why not help duplicate efforts in their own communities and educate their personnel on providing treatment to their citizens rather than bring them here. And furthermore, what is their incentive to ever leave?

Well, just follow the government money feeding these institutions.

According to a recent information provided by AHIP (America’s Health Insurance Plans), a national association whose members provide coverage for healthcare and related services, under Mayor Steve Williams’ leadership, “Huntington has become known as the ‘epicenter of the solution’ to the opioid epidemic”

Really? Many informed individuals vehemently disagree!

Huntington has become the epicenter of the “problem” and rapidly becoming the East Coast provider for rehab services! Additionally, we offer a city-sponsored level of enablement incentivizing these people to stay, virtually living a lifestyle supported by taxpayers!

Reportedly, since 2015, the City of Huntington, WV. has acquired $4.8 million in state, federal and philanthropic grants to combat the opioid epidemic.

What do we have to show for it?

Has the Mayor’s Office of Drug Control Policy been effective in utilizing the so-called “harm reduction program”, adult drug court and drug overdose response team to reduce the problem? Or have they simply enabled behaviors and attempted to build an “economic model” on drug rehab?

How do you build an economic model on addiction? What economic future is there for taxpayers in a business that never increases cash flow in a city, and even adversely impacts current business?

city of huntington

Let’s be clear. Until people have hope in this city for a real future, both socially and economically, we are doomed to a perpetuation and ultimate increase in the socio-economic woes we’ve seen grow under the current city administration.

Don’t take my word for it! Listen to what experts have to say!

Per a 2017 report from the National Institute of Drug Abuse, “The brain adapts and responds to the environments and conditions in which a person lives. When we speak of addiction as a chronic disorder of the brain, it thus includes an understanding that some individuals are more susceptible to drug use and addiction than others, not only because of genetic factors but also because of stress and a host of other environmental and social factors in their lives that have made them more vulnerable.”

The report goes on to say that while opioid addiction is an “equal opportunity” problem that can afflict people from all races and walks of life, it has particularly impacted some of the poorest regions of the country, such as Appalachia, where vast numbers of people are living in poverty. These individuals, void of economic hope, are especially at risk for addiction, and subsequent consequences like overdose or the spread of HIV.

Sound familiar?

Bottom line: A population facing increasing economic challenges and increased psychological stress are disproportionately impacted by addiction.

If we ever expect to reduce drug addiction in our city, we must improve the economic model.

Look around you. When was the last time you saw the construction of business that could provide a living wage to the inhabitants of our area? People are hurting. Many of them are working two and three jobs just to make ends meet. Others aren’t even trying. They’re either leaving the area or being engulfed by the quick sand of hopelessness and despair. Yet, we have a city administration which seems oblivious to a solution.

Yes, there is definitely a need for rehabilitation and re-assimilation into society. We all care about people either bound by addiction or languishing in the hopelessness of poverty. But without economic improvement, without jobs, without hope, more and more people will fall into the calamitous abyss of addiction.

The City of Huntington, WV. will never see economic improvement until leadership begins putting people, not political gain, first.  And building a city on rehab, is a disastrous business plan.

 

 

 

Mark Caserta: Huntington, WV. wasn’t always in this condition.

4 Oct

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The “Port of Huntington Tri-State” was one of the busiest inland ports in the United States.


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Mark Caserta is an opinion columnist and editor for Free State Patriot, a conservative blog.

October 4, 2019


 

The digital super-highway is laden with information about Huntington, WV’s rich heritage.  We haven’t always been a city nearly “last” in every measurable attribute.

Once described as a “historic and bustling city of commerce and heavy industry,” benefitting from its location on the Ohio River, it was home to the “Port of Huntington Tri-State,” one of the busiest inland ports in the United States, per online sources.

Birthed from the vision of Collis P. Huntington, a railroad capitalist, our fair city, once known as “Holderby’s Landing,” was incorporated in 1871 and renamed, Huntington, after its founder.

Growing around the railroad, which came through in 1873, the city began to prosper. During much of the 20th century it was a significant river and rail point for the nation’s business. Our resources, work ethic and geography enabled the city of Huntington to be manufacturing “rich and diverse”, producing railroad equipment, steel, coal, fabricated metal, mining equipment, rebuilt machinery, rubber products, chemicals and clothing.

Many “baby boomers” and those having grown up in Huntington recall industries such as, ACF Industries, Owens-Illinois, Fastenal and Kerr Glass. The list is as heartbreaking as it is seemingly endless. One by one, we’ve watched these opportunity outlets fade away, abiding in memory only.

Yes, there are many factors which have contributed to the demise of industry in our region, but none any more responsible than decades of failing, liberal Democrat policies.

Some things never change.

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With the eradication of good-paying jobs, “hope was sure to follow”. Hope is simply having a vision for the future and a purpose for one’s life. The Bible says that “without vision, the people perish.” I can think of no better way to describe our city. It is perishing a slow, painful death.

I’m resigned to believe our leaders are either incredibly ignorant of the situation, or they don’t care. Either way, it isn’t our city’s leadership that’s paying the price – it’s the citizens.

When all we hear are the “accolades” being bestowed upon our mayor for being on the “front lines” of the battle against opioid addiction, yet, the situation has never been worse, something doesn’t pass the smell test. Frankly, I’m tired of people “peeing” down my back and telling me it’s raining!

Again, this has nothing to do with a dislike of the mayor or city leaders. It also has nothing to do with a lack of compassion for those bound by addiction, entombed in poverty or impacted by crime. Anyone who uses this argument against simple reasoning, isn’t being intellectually honest with you!

And it’s sheer insanity to keep going down the same road and expecting different results.

It seems to me, the only results we’re seeing is the increasing number of people being “captured” in the nets of addiction recovery houses. I have heard from numerous, credible sources, some of these recovery institutions are now actively “soliciting” addicts from outside the state of WV. into our city for treatment.

Could this be possible? If they truly want to help these folks, support efforts in their states and cities, NOT OURS! THE CITIZENS OF HUNTINGTON HAVE ENOUGH ISSUES OF THEIR OWN WITHOUT TAKING ON OTHER STATE’S PROBLEMS!  THIS IS ABSOLUTELY UNACCEPTABLE!

Yet, sadly, government subsidies follow these individuals right into these institutions. You be the judge as to who benefits the most. But, in no way, shape or form, could it be the citizens of Huntington.

Someone has got to “stop this wheel of absurdity!”

We must demand a third-party audit of not only the Cabell-Huntington Health Department’s needle exchange program, but the success rates of many of these rehabilitation institutions. Maybe, I’m just overly cautious, but based on what I see with my own eyes, I’m not willing to take anyone’s “word” on the success rate. Too often, perceived results can be skewed by emotion and personal investment in the project. Give us accurate data; not emotional responses!

Ultimately, the taxpayers own these programs and have a right to see where their hard-earned money is being spent! In the interest of transparency and good will, these rehab facilities, as well as the Cabell-Huntington Health Department, should willingly submit to ongoing audits. If for no other reason, to share learnings and make necessary adjustments that will make them even more successful!

No organization supported by taxpayer dollars should ever be allowed to “fly under the radar”.

The city of Huntington will never be able to return to a community filled with industry and solid work ethic until three things happen.

First, we must have leadership ready, willing and able to look beyond political aspirations, directly into the heart of the city and do what’s right for the people – not for their paycheck.

Secondly, we must change our mindset on how to effectively reduce the opioid epidemic, rather than expanding our nets of enablement.

And finally, the people of Huntington must take a stand and embrace a sense of urgency in making these changes.

Time is not an abundant asset in this fight. We may, already, be close to the point of no return.

Don’t accept lip service. Expect accurate, unbiased information.

And then use it to turn this city around.

 

Doug Smith: Here’s some common sense perspective on all this “shouting” about President Trump!

30 Sep

trump in wv


doug at wvhu

Doug Smith is an opinion columnist, historian and associate editor for Free State Patriot

September 30, 2019


 

Let’s take them sequentially, shall we?   

Editor’s disclaimer: Those incapable of incorporating logic into your mental processing, are free to return to your Sunday comics, gum wrappers and The Springer Show.  This could be hazardous to your mental stability.

1.      I started out, before his nomination, criticizing Donald Trump as an ass. Nothing to date has altered my opinion. He is rude, crude, and I would not be his buddy. However, that also does not alter my view that he was far and away a better choice than Hillary Clinton, who is vicious and utterly amoral. And based on his performance, I conclude that while I would have liked a less abrasive POTUS, he has done more than any POTUS since Reagan to roll back the progressive’s corrosive effects on the nation. I still give him a solid B.

2.      Joe Biden, like Hillary Clinton, needed to be investigated long ago, by someone who had not predetermined not to bring charges against a Democrat. He is dishonest, self-aggrandizing, and, apparently, utter lacking in a moral code. He committed plagiarism in law school, shamelessly stole speeches from better politicians. One must wonder how he ever managed to graduate. He has falsely, and wildly claimed that he went to law school on a full scholarship (false), graduated in the top of his class (also false), and had 3 undergraduate degrees (he had one, like most college graduates.) Like Hillary and Barack, he consistently tries to convince that he is the smartest guy in the room, without compelling evidence that this is even nearly true. He is also stupidly dishonest. How do we know about his shady and likely criminal dealings with Ukraine s government and a gas holding company, along with his son? Because he bragged about it, on tape. He could take advice in being Teflon from the Clintons.

3.      Impeachment is a political remedy for misbehavior in office. The Democrats have lived and breathed the idea of impeaching Donald Trump since late the night of November 8, 2016, when it became obvious that Hillary was extending her losing streak. Their perspective is not that we should impeach the President because of this act or that, but that we should impeach the President because we don’t like what he says and does, and we need to find a crime to match the punishment we are determined to meet out.

4.      The Democrats have a history of trying to destroy, rather than defeat, Republican Presidents. It is not too much of a stretch to note, that the Democrats’ resistance to the 1st Republican President led to Civil War, and that a Democrat, and actor, assassinated him. But in more modern history, since WW2, there have been 7 GOP POTUS. Of these, Eisenhower doesn’t really count, because he had to check his registration to say what his party was, and he was such a national hero after the war that he was untouchable. Ford doesn’t count, because he was in office only a short time, filling Nixon’s unexpired term. Of the remaining 5, who were elected and served at least one full term, the Democrats have sought to impeach every one of them. Check your history if you find this incredible. Democrats introduced bills to impeach Nixon, Reagan, Bush 41, Bush 43, and they are carefully impeaching without impeaching Trump, largely because the want him gone, their lunatic base wants him impeached, but they realize that voting articles of impeachment will be a political disaster.

5.      When your irritating little brother or cousin bugs you, you may smack him. When you see 4 bigger guys jump on him and shove him down, you leap to his defense. This should explain why Trump supporters, even those, like me, who consider him an ass, but an effective ass, and OUR ass, are loathed to criticize him and quick to defend him. Like the camel sticking its nose in the tent, we realize that since the Dems and the Left attack him constantly, for everything, much of it made up, and not with the purpose of convincing him to alter course, but with the sole purpose of destroying him, we feel that we cannot give an inch in defending him. He may blunder sometimes, and his mouth may lead a life of its own, and he may be an ass, but the calculus that made him the choice over Hillary still holds, as do his results. The Dems, particularly the ones who suffer badly from the mental illness that is Liberalism, somehow have the idea that if only they can remove Trump, they will get Hillary. Of course, they don’t understand that what they would get is a fired-up President Pence, a seething GOP electorate, and, in 2021, unmovable GOP control of both Houses of Congress, and the White House, and, sometime in the foreseeable future, and 7-2 Originalist SCOTUS. Nor do they care. They are simply consumed by hate and want to hurt their enemies.

6.      As a student of history, I would urge any Leftists who still have thinking abilities unhampered by political madness to study Robespierre and the Jacobins in France. His final thought, before the guillotines that he set in motion descended on his neck must have been that it is easier to release the Kraken than to control it.

 

Doug Smith: Our veterans have earned our memory – our honor – our gratitude.

29 Sep

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It is easier to find men who will volunteer to die, than to find those who are willing to endure pain with patience.

Gaius Julius Caesar

No state has an inherent right to survive through conscript troops and, in the long run, no state ever has. Roman matrons used to say to their sons: Come back with your shield, or on it. Later on, this custom declined. So did Rome.

Robert Heinlein

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Doug Smith is a historian who proudly served our nation in the Navy aboard the submarine “USS Gato”.  He is also Free State Patriot associate editor.

September 29, 2019


 

All of us who wore the uniform have a place in our hearts, a quick tear, easily brought forth, by the memory of the guys who never made it home. We remember the guys trapped below decks on the Arizona, the 1st wave on Omaha Beach, the B-17 crews blown to bits high over a target, boys whose last sight was a dirty rice paddy in Vietnam. Yes, we remember our fallen.

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But on the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month, in the year of grace 1918, as the guns fell silent across the front in France, we began a tradition of remembrance of those who served, and suffered, and lived. We who lived to grow to silver hair and old age remember boys who did not, comrades, friends, youngsters, who served in some of the same places and ways that we did. Yet it is fitting that we remember those who came home now full of years, and full of memories of the things that they, and we, did.

Caesar was right: the things the veteran must endure are remarkable and much to ask. It is not easy to persuade people to endure them, even though Heinlein’s observation is equally correct: a society in which that small percentage refuses to stand to and endure will itself, not endure. We look around us and note that our numbers are small, indeed. In WW2, some 16 million served, about 12% of the population. Most numbers are far smaller, perhaps 7% at most serve. So vanishingly few know, from experience, what we know about the day to day realities that make a Veteran. Some have read, or seen movies, or heard Sea Stories, ( which of course, are never crippled by the constraints of truth or reality) but only a tiny handful know because we have seen and felt it.

But we know.

We know the loneliness. Ask any Vet, no matter where they served, and you will find nodding heads. Yes, we endured times of crushing loneliness. We spend Christmas Eve s surrounded by strangers, in places far from the familiar sounds and smells and sights that equal home. We often do mundane jobs far from parents, sweethearts, wives, husbands, and children. The jobs may demand much, or not, but they demand us; far from where we would rather be. So we trudge on and get the job done, get the mission accomplished, while feeling that aching emptiness from faces we can see, but not touch. All of us together, feeling that ache, sharing the place and the time, find that it is endurable, if just barely, because the people next to us know. They are there too. We may miss WV, while they miss Brooklyn, or Missouri, but together we form a new family: our brothers, and a new home town: the outfit, the company, the boat. The place where we endure loneliness together becomes our home, and the people, our brothers. That is how we survive. That is how we endure.

We know the fatigue. Sleep? What exactly is that? In the brief moments we try it, we perfect the art of sleeping anywhere, anytime, on anything. A torpedo skid, a gun mount, a tow motor, a stack of boxes, a hole, wet, cold, hard, hot, sandy, doesn’t matter. We get so tired that if 5 minutes comes our way to close our eyes, we sleep. Perhaps not well, or for long. From the 1st way too early morning we began our lifelong hatred of the word Reveille. This hatred was underscored by an entirely unreasonable Ape kicking a 30 gallon metal GI can and introducing us to our first bit of military poetry: grab your socks and drop your; well, you know the poem. You just finished it in your head. We began to get an inkling that an uninterrupted 8 hours of sleep was an entirely civilian phenomenon. We also began to understand that we were civilians no longer. We had no idea how poorly we would ever again fit that world. But sleep? Wake up, you got the watch. General Quarters, All Hands Man Your Battle Stations. All hand turn to, clean up ship. In the rack promptly at 2300. Up at 0200 for the dogwatch. Back in the rack at 0400. Back up at 0600 for cleanup. Chow at 0700. Muster for Quarters at 0800. Did I sleep? I can’t remember. 9 to 5 and a 40 hour week, again, were relics of that left behind world. We worked till it was done, or until we dropped. Sleep? That was a luxury, and there were few luxuries.

We should mention coffee. SSAM. Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Marine: we all learned about coffee. Hot, if possible. Strong? We left strong behind a long time ago. Military coffee, Navy Coffee, as I came to love it, ranged from suitable for cleaning valves, to paint thinner, to the really strong stuff. Too old? Too strong? These are, again, strictly civilian concepts. If it was vaguely brown, and had at some point been above body temperature, and could still be poured, or cut into pieces and placed into a cup, we would drink it. Lots of it. It was at first, a poor substitute for the sleep we could never get enough of, and later, our buddy, our pal, our mate, Ambrosia and Nectar, Breakfast of Champions, Food of the Gods, The Water of Life. In cups, tin cups, steel pots, mess kits, whatever would hold it for us, we moved from coffee to coffee, working, cleaning, and functioning in between on the familiar acid warmth in the guts that is our Coffee. All praise to the Coffee.

We know the boredom. The old saw is that military life is hour after endless hour of sheer, mind numbing tedium and boredom, interrupted now and then by seconds or minutes of sheer terror. We can nod our heads in knowing agreement, because we fought a constant battle with boredom. We would do anything to break up the tedium once the work was done. For we could not leave, but must just hurry with our work, then wait. And wait. Pinochle, Cribbage, Euchre, Poker, Backgammon, Acey Duecy, Chess, Checkers, these were all our little friends in the battle. Long watches at night on the Bridge, 20 questions, discussions about baseball, food from back home (a very popular subject), wives, sweethearts, girls, ( also a very popular subject.) And then there were the jokes.

How much time to we have? We have gone for a bucket of steam, 6 feet of waterline, a bag of exhaust from a jeep, a frame for the sight picture, the mail buoy watch, a jar of relative bearing grease. If we were feeling extra bored we might treat a boot to the sight of a Sea Bat, or send him to wake the CO to ask for permission to retrieve the Mail Buoy. If we were extra brutal, we could always send for a Machinists Punch. Military folks develop a truly unique and somewhat morbid sense of humor; another reason Veterans never “quite” fit in with the true civilians.

Veterans learned these hardships, and pain. Pain was a constant companion. Short hours of sleep on a hard and oddly shaped surface left sore backs, butts, and necks. Odd eating habits, working in dim light, breathing fumes or low O2 often left headaches. Aspirins or APC tablets (remember those? Aspirin, Phenylthaline, and Caffeine, an ancient and sovereign cure for what ails ye) were carried in bulk containers by Medics and Corpsman. Hands skinned on the job, knees from crawling or kneeling, ankles from walking or marching. Head, neck, back, arms, hands, butt, legs, knees, ankles, feet, stomach: something always hurt.

Food. We learned to eat what we had. We had some odd loves. And odd language. The typical civilian, offered a plate of “expletive” on a Shingle, will back away from you as if you were mad. We would gobble it up. Meals were sometimes hot and plentiful, but often interrupted, sometimes out of a can, put away for your grandfather, but still good enough for you to survive. Ice cream took on an almost mystical importance. We could sail the world, and charge the gates of hell on Spam, Peanut Butter, Ice Cream, and Coffee. Another of those things civilians never quite get about us is finishing our meal in 3 minutes. We are not here to socialize, we are here to eat. Get it down, while you can.

We come away with strange reflexes. Some of us jump at sharp noises. Some of us can’t stand anyone behind us. Some of us have to have a fan on to sleep, and wake instantly if the power goes off and that background hum ceases.

We tend to speak a common, almost English, but still very foreign language. When we speak of shit cans, bulkheads, making a head call, FUBAR, SNAFU, REMF, Short Timers, Salts, civilians stare at us, but Veterans smile and nod in recognition: Brother. We find the Anglo Saxon monosyllable beginning with F to be a most useful and versatile noun, verb, adjective, adverb, exclamation, pronoun, and gerund. It amazes us as much that civilians do NOT use it with regularity, as it shocks them that we do. It is simply the most useful and descriptive word we know.

Yes, Veterans are an odd lot. We endured a life like few ever know. By and large we chose that life. Most will never understand why we did, or, upon hearing our stories, how we stayed and endured. We were not all wounded, and unlike our honored dead, we all came home. Yet if we came home alive, and if not unwounded, at least functioning, we did not come home unchanged. We left something of ourselves behind. We may believe that we brought home a great deal, but we never fool ourselves that it was without cost.

Yet, we echo the question of President Lincoln: Can any nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the premise that all men are created equal long endure? And for the Veteran, regardless the reasons to put on the uniform, adventure, boredom, escape, opportunity, patriotism; the idea gels before long that we have , at least, our answer to President Lincoln’s question. It will endure, if I have anything to say about it. I will take my oath seriously, and through loneliness, boredom, pain, and hardship, and if necessary, placing my life between “my loved home and war’s desolation”.

So we take this moment, born when the guns of August fell silent that November morning, and remember at this time, not those who died, but those who answered the call. We remember those who said, whatever it takes, nobody will get through me, and get to you. Kids can play in the park with their folks because we will stop any evil trying to reach them. We remember the ones, who, on that November morning, looked around and said, We’ve made it. We remember those who did not know, perhaps till much later, just what they had paid, and what it had cost for them to stand to and hold the line. We remember those who determined that they would pay the cost, whatever it was, even if it were a cost that they would be paying the rest of their lives. We remember those who say, decades later, full of years, softer, greyer, thinning on top, thickening in the middle, older but still proud, knowing it all, I would still do it again. We remember what they did, what they were, what they are, and what they meant to the country we live in, and what they mean still.

It has become a more common thing these days for civilians to greet Veterans they see with the words, Thank you for your service. Many of us are not sure just how to respond to that. We are grateful that they are not showing the disrespect are brothers faced after Vietnam coming home. But we are just a bit embarrassed and not sure how to respond to the civilians thanking us.

But not so with other Veterans. We remember how it was. We remember our comrades in arms. Our brothers. We give you respect.

We remember you.

 

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