11 November 2010

Veterans Day: More Than a Day Off

Today is Veterans Day. Across this great nation, on this day, there will be parades, breakfasts, and tributes for veterans. Still, there are others who will look at this day and treat it as just another day; a day off from work, a day to catch all the sales, and generally a day to relax. Many of those people will not even think about the veterans and the sacrifices they made to protect this nation. I bear them no ill-will; if that is how they want to spend veterans day, more power to them.

I cannot say that I am not disappointed, though. Too many people in this great nation have lost sight of our history; they forget to stop and think that if it were not for veterans, we could well have been defeated by the Huns, the Nazis, the Japanese, or the Communists of the Soviet Union and the world today would be much, much different from how it is now. If not for the men and women of yesteryear and today, you would not be able to go to the Public Library and check out a book, you would not be able to walk into a grocery store and buy everything you need to eat for a week or two, you would not be able to express your opinions about the government without fear of retaliation; you get the point.

Our children must be taught that there are people who willingly and routinely give of themselves to protect our country and preserve the freedoms many of us take for granted. Here are some great ideas on how to show your thanks and respect for our veterans:

1) Make it a point to go to a VA medical facility if there's one close-by and say thank-you to the veterans inside. Many of those veterans have no family and their closest friends are likely ones who were killed in combat; you will never know how much a hospitalized veteran appreciates that until you see the joy on his/her face.

2) Donate to the VFW, DAV, American Legion or any other patriotic organization that assists veterans. They rely on members' dues and donations, so a few bucks their way would really help.

3) When you meet a veteran, shake his/her hand, look him/her in the eye and say with all sincerity, "Thank You".

4) Teach your children about the sacrifices veterans made for them.

That's it; I know it doesn't sound like much but these little things mean a whole lot to veterans.

Before I end this post, I want to say Thank You to every single veteran in this country and to all the active duty and reserve that are in harm's way protecting and defending us...and to every man and woman I ever had the privilege to serve with, Thank You, my brothers and sisters, you are what makes this country great and I am honored to know you and call you friend.

That's it, folks, nothing left to say; so I'll close this out with a few of my favorite quotes:

It is the Soldier, not the minister who has given us freedom of religion.
It is the Soldier, not the reporter who has given us freedom of the press.
It is the Soldier, not the poet who has given us freedom of speech.
It is the Soldier, not the campus organizer who has given us freedom to protest.
It is the Soldier, not the lawyer who has given us the right to a fair trial.
It is the Soldier, not the politician who has given us the right to vote.
It is the Soldier who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag, whose coffin is draped by the flag, and who allows the protester to burn the flag.

A veteran - whether active duty, national guard, or reserve - is someone who, at one point in his/her life, wrote a blank check made payable to 'The United States of America', for an amount of 'up to and including my life.' That is honor, and there are far too many people in this country who no longer understand it.

If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you can read it in English, thank a veteran.

For those who fought for it, freedom has a flavor that the protected will never know.

Peace, out.

05 November 2010

Wake Up Sunshine! Welcome to Reality!

You know, I served 20 years in the US Navy. Over that time I have seen some outstanding sailors and some real dirtbags. The thing about it is, though, that it wasn't until I was on the other side of my career (that means once I passed the 10 year mark) before I noticed the scales tipping. I don't know, maybe I chose not to see it but when I look back it is there plain as day.

I hit the mid-point of my career in 1997. Back then I was stationed in San Diego where I was volunteering and coaching Little League baseball. The kids were all good kids, to be sure, but there was something happening...it seemed like the kids and their parents were changing. So, here I was, working with these kids, teaching them the basics of baseball and how to play; more importantly, they were learning about teamwork and motivation while having fun. Well, our season didn't go as well as we had hoped; our team was eliminated from the championship. I started to tell the kids it was ok, the world wasn't going to end. I told them the old adage my grandpa told me when I was their age: "If at first you don't succeed, try try again." Then one of the kids tells me that's ok, coach, we all get trophies for playing. HUH??!!?? Somehow, somewhere, somebody changed the rules because they felt telling kids they lost hurt their self-esteem; the remedy was to give everybody a trophy.

You see, back in the dark ages, when I played Little League, we had tournaments and championships. The First Place team got a TEAM trophy, individual trophies weren't given. Second place teams got nothing...you got that...NOTHING. Back then it was understood that if you wanted to be recognized and rewarded you had to be the best, nothing less was good enough. Sometimes you won and sometimes you lost and when you lost, you didn't piss and moan about how bad you felt about yourself; what you did was PRACTICE. You practiced as often as you could so that next summer YOUR team would be the champion.

I didn't come back for the next season; I couldn't stomach the fact that these wonderful, bright kids were being set up to fail.

Special Note: If you are under the age of 35, you may not understand what I just said; that's ok, I will explain it to you.

The kids were set up to fail in the future because they were being taught that you don't have to practice and win; everybody gets a trophy! Then I read in the newspaper how schools in San Diego were not putting F's on report cards anymore. Failing grades being harmful to self-esteem and all.

Then, I started noticing the change in the Navy. I had junior sailors who rarely did more than the minimum required and then became quite upset when they didn't get advanced or they didn't get their Navy Achievement Medal. By the time I retired in 2007, I am sorry to say that I left a Navy with more of this attitude than anyone cared to mention. Now, I am NOT putting down sailors. NOT AT ALL. Any person who chooses to serve their country deserves respect and there are thousands of sailors who give more and do more than what is required on a daily basis. They do it all the time. Yet, there isn't an outstanding sailor out there who would disagree with me about the dirtbags.

So, what caused this change in thinking? Well, let's see, a good many years ago, there was a man named Dr. Spock (NO, NOT Leonard Nimoy from Star Trek!). This man, at one point, put a book out that told parents not to spank their children. Disciplining your child this way is wrong became the mantra across the land. Then, we were told that we needed to "positively reinforce" our children; in other words, we were supposed to lavish praise on our children and discipline became "time out". I don't know about you, maybe I'm crazy, but it sure looks to me like we've gone a bit overboard. Now we have a new term for parents; "helicopter parents" are parents who constantly hover over their children, lavishing them with praise, making them feel like they are truly special and better than everyone else.

The result? Well, look around you today. Today's young adults are going out into the world thinking the world owes them. They expect the $50,000 a year job fresh out of college; they think everyone around them should drop to their knees and kiss their feet. When I was on active duty, I watched sailors get Navy Achievement Medals for the damnedest things; the kicker was the baker who received a medal AND a meritorious advancement (read: un-earned) for...get this...BAKING CAKES! These kids today are spoiled rotten because their parents have raised them to think the world should be grateful for their presence!

So what do we do about this? Hell, I don't know. Maybe I should go back to the title of this post; hey kids, WAKE UP to what the rest of us call REALITY!!! Nobody owes you ANYTHING! You deserve NOTHING! You have to WORK to EARN praise and recognition, not sit on your duff waiting for the goodies to come to you! The REAL WORLD doesn't give a damn about your self-esteem!

Parents! WAKE UP! You are setting your kids up to FAIL!!! You want to know why our country is falling behind in math and science? HELLO!!! We are raising a nation of IGNORANT KIDS!!! Oh well, at least they will feel good about themselves.

Disclaimer Alert: If you are not doing this with your kids, you don't have to yell at me because this post isn't aimed at you.