Tag Archives: Marines

48,000* paths to homelessness?

The Heritage Foundation’s John Malcolm recently testified that there are more than 48,000 state and federal “collateral consequences” in the United States. These “hidden costs” of criminal convictions ar exactly what I was talking about when I wrote this on STRIFEBLOG in August:
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“You do the best you can, though, because you swore you would and because the outcome of a criminal case – regardless of whether a client goes to prison – frequently inflicts significant consequences on the lives and fortunes of not just your client but also your client’s family. A criminal conviction, the criminal record that follows it, and any collateral consequences from the conviction, e.g., loss of professional license, reduction in amount of VA disability compensation, termination of VA pension payments, deportation, denial of access to public housing and federal student aid, etc., can hurt and even destroy families.”

 

Collateral Consequences: Protecting Public Safety or Encouraging Recidivism

“Since most ex-offenders—millions of them—at some point will be released from custody and return to our communities, it is important that we do everything we can to encourage them to become productive, law-abiding members of society and that we not put too many impediments, in the form of excessive collateral consequences, in their way that will hinder their efforts.

“More attention must be paid to this issue to avoid these dangerous and counterproductive results. In a time of intense polarization, this is one of the few issues people can rally around and find common ground. If people are pushed into the corner and denied opportunities for gainful employment and a stable environment for too long, they will have little choice but to recidivate. It is not in anybody’s best interest to relegate the formally incarcerated to a backwater of second-class citizenship status.”

John Malcolm. Vice President, Institute for Constitutional Government, Heritage Foundation.

https://www.heritage.org/testimony/collateral-consequences-protecting-public-safety-or-encouraging-recidivism-0

*TITLE OF POST includes “48,000” in an effort to keep the message clear. Far too many of those 48,000 can shatter a family and thrust moms and dads and kids into homelessness but certainly not all of them.

GI: Owned Lock, Stock, and Barrel

“PROSE”: “the ordinary language people use in speaking or writing.”  – Merriam Webster

 

A former special operator has remarked that his generation suffers from a kind of moral relativism that assumes all purported “truths” are equally valid. He pointed out that it matters little that someone disagrees with the proposition that “2 + 2 = 4.” Mathematicians don’t waste time listening to arguments otherwise. And neither does the military, he explained.

Calculating and acting on the correct answer to complex mathematical equations was the job of, among others, World War II bombardiers. And tens of thousands of Allied navigators and radiomen and pilots and gunners died getting bombardiers to their job sites, so they could do what they’d been trained and tasked to do. More people than anticipated died 20,000 feet below when a bombardier got the math wrong.

Of course, the mathematics of calculating the correct and desired damage to a target – computer assist or not – has never been the only part of the military’s mission that’s nothing more than a car on blocks if alternative, or preferred, truths are given the time of day.

grandad dress and decoration post DPRK. 225 x 300Facts no one in our family ever talked about, truths about where and why and how my grandad was critically wounded in combat, have made me reflect on another non-negotiable fact of military service that is both unknown and unfelt by most of the 92.7% of us in this country who have never served under arms: the fact of being government property to be used as the nation deems necessary.

What I’ve learned by researching the Korean combat experiences of other soldiers from the U.S. Army’s 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division has told me much I never knew about what grandad was made of. It’s given me a narrow space in a fence through which I can see part of why this World War II drill instructor I called “grandad” was never the same after Korea. And what I’ve seen has forever axed the thought that I might one day change my hard-to-spell surname from that of a soldier from Queens with an 8th grade education who adopted two Tennessee boys and then raised my dad and his kid brother as best he knew how.

In a September 13, 2017 Brookings’ blogpost, “Catastrophe on the Yalu: America’s Intelligence Failure in Korea,” Bruce Riedel, the Director of Brookings’ Intelligence Project, suggests that the bloodletting at Unsan – during which U.S. Army Master Sergeant Charles Bloeser was forever wounded – didn’t have to happen. Three days of fighting legions of battle – hardened Communist Chinese troops who weren’t supposed to be there was due to “a catastrophic intelligence failure. . .. the result of terrible intelligence management, not the poor collection or analysis of information.”

Casualty records at the National Archives report that grandad was “[s]eriously wounded in action by missile” on November 2, 1950. In an excerpt in Vanity Fair from The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War, David Halberstam explains what happened one day earlier, when the two-star general commanding grandad’s division asked for permission to pull back:

On the afternoon of November 1, Major General Hobart R. “Hap” Gay, the First Cav division commander, was in his command post with General Charles Palmer, his artillery commander, when a radio report from an observer in an L-5 spotter plane caught their attention: “This is the strangest sight I have ever seen. There are two large columns of enemy infantry moving southeast over the trails in the vicinity of Myongdang-dong and Yonghung-dong. Our shells are landing right in their columns and they keep coming.” Those were two tiny villages five or six air miles from Unsan. Palmer immediately ordered additional artillery units to start firing, and Gay nervously called First Corps, requesting permission to pull the entire Eighth Cav several miles south of Unsan. His request was denied.

honor-guard-w-flag-arlington-natl-cemetary-multi-sourced. 300 x 166

 

The Army’s Military History Center describes what happened next:

“Thousands of Chinese [] attacked from the north, northwest, and west against scattered U.S. and South Korean units moving deep into North Korea. The Chinese seemed to come out of nowhere as they swarmed around the flanks and over the defensive positions of the surprised [] troops.” As the lead to the Halberstam excerpt puts it, “hundreds of Americans got slaughtered at Unsan, one of the worst defeats of the Korean War.”

In “one of the most shameful and little-known incidents in U.S. military history,” writes Charles J. Hanley (quoting Korean War historian Jack J. Gifford), some 600 of the 3rd Battalion’s 800 men” were “[t]rapped by two Chinese divisions,” and “left to die in far northern Korea.”

“The Yalu disaster was completely predictable,” writes Riedel in his Brookings blogpost. “The intelligence failure was the result of a policy maker’s determination that intelligence support his preconceived views, not challenge them. It is a timeless lesson.”

Knowing that men my grandad trained with and fought to keep alive – men from what Sebastian Junger would call his “tribe” – died in or after a battle that looks like it never had to go down the way it did, infuriates me. And I regret that I didn’t know these things when grandma was alive and might have found in this history at least some solace after living through some very dark years with her husband after he came home.

To my way of thinking, the men who fell at Unsan died with honor. But the likelihood that their lives were wasted is disturbing.

And knowing that many of these men would have died on other battlefields on the Korean peninsula before two years of peace talks would bring an armistice is no comfort. Quite the opposite.

The warriors ordered into a Chinese hornets’ nest with grandad were sons and brothers and husbands and fathers – all soldiers who deserved to fight where they could do the most good. Not here. Not this way.

Ms. Elizabeth M. Collins writes in a November 2016 retrospective at Army.Mil that “[a] 1954 Congressional report termed the Korean War “one of the most heinous and barbaric” periods in history, citing some 1,800 cases of war crimes involving thousands of victims: “Virtually every provision of the Geneva Convention governing the treatment of war prisoners was purposely violated or ignored by the North Korean or Chinese forces.”

 

But here’s where grandad has a lesson for those of us who have never served. Had he known earlier what the intel really showed – that Communist China cared a great deal about what happened the other side of the Yalu river – it wouldn’t have mattered. It must not be allowed to matter.

Like all who serve, grandad was owned by the United States lock, stock, and barrel, to be used as his nation deemed necessary. Even if ordered to march into Hell itself.

The thing about that is this. We who are civilians might see such an order as time for a career change without giving notice. U.S. Marines, sailors, soldiers, airmen, and members of the U.S. Coast Guard who refuse to obey lawful orders breach the law and threaten the order, discipline, and unit cohesiveness without which the nation can neither defend itself nor otherwise pursue its interests.

That was true for grandad, who had solemnly sworn, among other duties, that he would “observe and obey the orders of the President of the United States of America, and the orders of the officers appointed over [him].”

It was true for grandad’s commanding general whose request to pull the Army back had been denied.

 

ENDNOTE content supplied in sequence. Links to numbers to be updated.

[1] Author: Charles L.K. Bloeser, M.A., J.D. Member, Bar of the State of Tennessee; member, Bar of the Supreme Court of the United States.

[2] (“. . . what if we told you that 2 +2 = ? has stumped even some of the smartest mathematicians because it doesn’t necessarily have to equal 4?”) Elena Holodny. “Here’s How Your Watch Can Prove that 2 + 2 Doesn’t Equal 4.” Businessinsider.com (June 24, 2014).

[3] Mona Chalabi. “What Percentage of Americans Have Served in the Military?” Fivethirtyeight.com (March 19, 2015).

[4]Sixty years later those fallen soldiers, the lost battalion of Unsan, are stranded anew.

“North Korea is offering fresh clues to their remains. American teams are ready to re-enter the north to dig for them. But for five years the U.S. government has refused to work with North Korea to recover the men of Unsan and others among more than 8,000 U.S. missing in action from the 1950-53 war.

“Now, under pressure from MIA family groups, the Obama administration is said to be moving slowly to reverse the Bush administration’s suspension of the joint recovery program, a step taken in 2005 as the North Korean nuclear crisis dragged on.

“If I had a direct line in to the president, I would say, `Please reinstitute this program. There are families that need closure,'” said Ruth Davis, 61, of Palestine, Texas, whose uncle, Sgt. 1st Class Benny Don Rogers, has been listed as MIA since Chinese attackers overran his company — I Company, 8th Cavalry — at Unsan in late 1950.

It was one of Rogers’ I Company comrades, Pfc. Philip W. Ackley of Hillsboro, New Hampshire, whose identifying dog tag appeared in a photo the North Koreans handed over at Korea’s Panmunjom truce village in January of this 60th year since the war started. The North Koreans also delivered photos of remains, a stark reminder that Unsan’s dead still wait to come home.” Charles J. Hanley, “Lost Korean War battalion awaits US MIA decision,” Associated Press (July 18, 2010).

[5] Sebastian Junger. Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging (London: 4th Estate 2017).

[6] Another soldier from the “First Cav” whose honorable service at Unsan was recognized publicly was Tibor Rubin. Mr. Rubin had survived the Holocaust while his family did not. He thanked the United States for his rescue by enlisting in the Army shortly after he arrived in the States and when he could barely speak English. Mr. Rubin was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his valor in combat at Unsan, but his official citation describes in detail how the soldier single-handedly kept alive as many as 40 of his fellow POWs during 2 years he spent in a Chinese prison camp.

[7] “The first oath under the Constitution was approved by Act of Congress 29 September 1789 (Sec. 3, Ch. 25, 1st Congress). It applied to all commissioned officers, noncommissioned officers and privates in the service of the United States.” Information courtesy history.army.mil, accessed May 28, 2018.

 

 

 

Charles.photo.lawlibrary. 150 x 200Charles Bloeser is a lawyer and the researcher behind the creation of combatresearchandprose.com, a new open-source applied research initiative examining combat and those marked by it. His most recent publication, in August 2018, reports how a cancer-stricken, combat-haunted Vietnam veteran fell between the cracks in a modern jail. It’s an account that, from that warrior’s deathbed, he asked author to share with those best able to keep the same thing from happening to others. STRIFE, at the Department of War Studies, Kings College London, gave him a way to do that.  

http://www.strifeblog.org/2018/08/02/henry-a-wounded-soldier-forgotten-by-all-in-an-american-jail-by-all-except-his-brothers-who-fell-beside-him-in-vietnam

 

 

 

 

 

Veterans’ Treatment Court allows career Army sergeant to include yoga in five-year plan

“PROSE”: “the ordinary language people use in speaking or writing.”  – Merriam Webster

Following is excerpted from Connected Warriors website: https://connectedwarriors.org/warrior-testimonials/

Nikki Prodromos

SERGEANT FIRST CLASS

“My name is Nikki Prodromos and I found Connected Warriors Yoga because drinking to cope with my three combat tours landed me in Veterans’ Treatment Court after having a few too many and getting behind the wheel. I have 21 enlisted years in the Army, serving active duty from ’95-’99 and joining the Reserves after September 11th. After each combat tour, I came home a little more anxious, a little more depressed, and a lot more withdrawn. At my lowest point, I couldn’t leave my apartment to check my mail and would ‘rally’ two days a month to attend battle assemblies and honor my reserve commitment but, I would pick up a 12 pack on the way home.

“Veterans’ Treatment Court required me to write a five-year plan in which I included attending yoga, for several reasons. First, the plan required a physical exercise element and as a 70% disabled veteran, this was one of my few viable options. Second, I tried yoga a few years ago and loved how I felt after my practice. Third, my Veterans’ Treatment Court mentor handed me a CW yoga flier and I found out it was free…which was about all my budget could afford last year. Finally, I’m two semesters shy of my master’s degree in Performance/Sport Psychology and know that the healing power of yoga has been proven time and time again. Boy, did I need some healing!”

Following description of a yoga class at Ft. Campbell is excerpted from Connected Warriors website: https://connectedwarriors.org/warrior-testimonials/

Michael, MSG – U.S. ARMY VETERAN WITH 17 YEARS IN SERVICE

“Three years ago a retired Army Command Sergeant Major invited me to a Connected Warriors yoga class at Fort Campbell. Needless to say, I was apprehensive about going to an unfamiliar activity that I perceived as new age stretching for women. Walking in the room, I was surprised to find such an eclectic group of participants from all different age groups, genders, body types, and fitness levels. Many had some type of knee, shoulder, or back injury – battle wounds from a dedicated life of service. Much to my surprise, the class was an intense workout that challenged my strength, balance, and flexibility. I found myself returning each week to learn new postures and for the challenge of pushing myself to the edge. During that year, I noticed physical changes such as my knee no longer swelling after long runs and ruck marches, increased inner core strength, and an overall improvement in my level of fitness.”

Per Connected Warriors:

“The Connected Warriors mission is to empower Servicemembers, Veterans and their Families worldwide through Trauma-Conscious Yoga.”

“Thanks to our synergistic partnership with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Connected Warriors is at the forefront of clinical studies on yoga’s positive effects. Out of every dollar we raise, 92¢ cents goes into our programs in 9 countries worldwide, 24 states, and Washington D.C.”

 

Two Vietnam veterans talk about the Connected Warriors program in 2011 South Florida article re former sex crimes and homicide prosecutor who left to teach yoga full time:

“I always thought that yoga had something to do with meditation, but I didn’t know it was so strenuous,” said Vietnam veteran Curtis Hodge Jr., 66, a Lauderhill retiree. He said a weekly class with Frankel has helped him sleep through the night for the first time in 40 years.

“This is not a sissy thing, you know,” Hodge said.

Fellow Vietnam veteran Tom Turnberger, 63, a former Marine, praised Frankel’s non-critical manner. “He goes out of his way to make everyone feel welcome,” said Turnberger, of Plantation. “He said he appreciates what we’ve done as veterans, and that is not something those of us who served in Vietnam heard a lot.

“I don’t know how this works, but it gives me a sense of calm,” he added. “I’ve been searching for this.”

https://www.sun-sentinel.com/health/fl-xpm-2011-08-03-fl-yoga-for-vets-20110730-story.html

 

Feature image accessed 4 December 2018 at https://connectedwarriors.org/warrior-testimonials/

 

Charles.photo.lawlibrary. 150 x 200

Charles Bloeser is a lawyer and the researcher behind the creation of combatresearchandprose.com, a new open-source applied research initiative examining combat and those marked by it. His most recent publication, in August 2018, reports how a cancer-stricken, combat-haunted Vietnam veteran fell between the cracks in a modern jail. It’s an account that, from that warrior’s deathbed, he asked author to share with those best able to keep the same thing from happening to others. STRIFE, at the Department of War Studies, Kings College London, gave him a way to do that.  

http://www.strifeblog.org/2018/08/02/henry-a-wounded-soldier-forgotten-by-all-in-an-american-jail-by-all-except-his-brothers-who-fell-beside-him-in-vietnam

Hostile holidays? Give Sir Anthony Hopkins two minutes in Spielberg’s Amistad: a source to turn to when “there appears no hope at all”

“PROSE”: “the ordinary language people use in speaking or writing.”  – Merriam Webster

Sir Philip Anthony Hopkins, as John Quincy Adams presenting oral argument before the Supreme Court of the United States, in Amistad (1997). This two-and-a-half minute clip reminds us of an oft-forgotten well from which we might draw courage when “there appears no hope at all.”

“The other night I was talking with my friend, Cinque. He was over at my place, and we were out in the greenhouse together, and he was explaining to me how when a member of the Mende—that’s his people—how when a member of the Mende encounters a situation where there appears no hope at all, he evokes his ancestors . . . tradition. See, the Mende believe that if one can summon the spirit of one’s ancestors, then they have never left, and the wisdom and strength they fathered and inspired will come to his aid. James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, John Adams . . . we have long resisted asking you for guidance. Perhaps, we have feared in doing so, we might acknowledge that our individuality, which we so, so revere, is not entirely our own. Perhaps, we’ve feared an appeal to you might be taken for weakness. But we’ve come to understand, finally, that this is not so. We understand now, that we’ve been made to understand, and to embrace the understanding, that who we are is who we were. We desperately need your strength and wisdom, to triumph over our fears, our prejudices, ourselves. Give us the courage to do what is right. And if it means civil war, then let it come. And when it does, may it be, finally, the last battle of the American Revolution.”

 

Legal citation for the real case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court:

The United States, Appellants, v. The Libellants And Claimants Of The Schooner Amistad, Her Tackle, Apparel, And Furniture, Together With Her Cargo, And The Africans Mentioned And Described In The Several Libels And Claims, Appellees, 40 U.S. 518; 10 L. Ed. 826 (1841).

 

Feature image attribution: Battle Bare for PTSD and Military Suicide, accessed online 21 November 2018 at https://www.pinterest.com/pin/292734044500114364/

 

 

Charles.photo.lawlibrary. 150 x 200Charles Bloeser is a lawyer and the researcher behind the creation of combatresearchandprose.com, a new open-source applied research initiative examining combat and those marked by it. His most recent publication, in August 2018, reports how a cancer-stricken, combat-haunted Vietnam veteran fell between the cracks in a modern jail. It’s an account that, from that warrior’s deathbed, he asked author to share with those best able to keep the same thing from happening to others. STRIFE, at the Department of War Studies, Kings College London, gave him a way to do that.  

http://www.strifeblog.org/2018/08/02/henry-a-wounded-soldier-forgotten-by-all-in-an-american-jail-by-all-except-his-brothers-who-fell-beside-him-in-vietnam

An Oklahoma pie auction back in the day: a reminder of America’s first principles

Except for a four-day break to study and then sit for the Oklahoma Bar exam, each day of the summer and fall after my graduation from law school was the same as all the others. Before daylight would stretch itself across the old, aspirational “Indian Territory” that hugs Kansas, Missouri, and Arkansas, my work hours had already begun to link themselves one to another like freight cars on a long-haul journey. Each hour spent doing my part of a successful statewide team effort to return an Army veteran from Tulsa to the United States Senate.

My part of the 1996 campaign had me working Oklahoma’s northeastern 20 counties. And it would often be long after dark before my work train could stop for the night. I might, for example, have a 10 pm meeting at an all-night coffee shop near Ft. Smith, Arkansas before I could start the return trip to Tulsa, where I could see my family and get a few hours’ sleep ahead of another meeting or event or trip to a rural airfield to pick up the Senator for one or more of his campaign-related appointments.

It had been that sort of day when, on a sultry evening before the Oklahoma primaries, I pulled into an overstuffed dirt parking lot next to a large steel building that housed a volunteer fire department south of Tahlequah, capital city of the Cherokee nation.

Our campaign had signs.  We had organization.  We had consultants.  We had experience and money. We had relationships. And we were led by a former U.S. Naval attaché and oilman who for decades brought together Oklahoma Republicans and Democrats for pro-business policies. As U.S. Congressman Tom Cole (R-OK4) said when Herb died two years after that 1996 campaign, “There are very few people with that much political influence that the public didn’t know.”

The Republican senator’s re-election campaign also had the benefit of creative ad folks who with a single TV spot could bump our candidate up or down in the polls overnight. Between a well-executed statewide media strategy and the early days of political campaigns exploiting the internet, the statewide campaign that was paying me sometimes left me to wonder if Lyndon Johnson’s aphorism that “all politics is local” was still true.

My primary task on that campaign was to coordinate volunteer activities among several interest groups comprised of many “blue dog” Democrats and fewer, generally socially conservative, Republicans who occupied part or all of three U.S. House districts. With the exceptions of the Tulsa metropolitan area and, to a lesser degree, Bartlesville and Muskogee, the area is primarily rural. Pro-military. Pro-2nd Amendment. Pro-God. Passionate, hard-working patriots who were already in 1996 getting buffeted by blows from the globalization of business.

The folks there came by their strict law-and-order sensibilities honestly. As I explained when I wrote about a KIA Cherokee “Delta Force” operator from one of those twenty counties,

For the ancestors of the area’s current residents – family whose stories get passed down from one generation to the next – living in Indian Territory meant living with little, if any, meaningful law enforcement. And the law officers they did have kept getting killed. The National Park Service reports that from 1875 – 1896, 65 Deputy U.S. Marshals were killed in the line of duty in “Indian Territory.”

https://combatresearchandprose.com/2018/07/07/in-2018-we-still-need-our-warriors/

indian journal eufala ok 322 x 400I gave speeches, kept an eye on “the other guy” and reported back. It was my job to represent the candidate at parades, rattlesnake roundups, peach festivals, and calf fry festivals. On the days when the Senator was scheduled for campaign business in my corner of the state, it was my job – personally or by delegating – to make sure that he got where he needed to go, met with the media or others he was scheduled to see, and to get him out of town quick enough to give him a shot at staying on schedule and maybe getting some time with family.

It was also my job to speak for the Senator at pie auctions.

I don’t recall the first Oklahoma pie auction I attended.  But whether the first or last, they all had a common theme: some local organization seizes the opportunity during an active political season to raise money for a good cause – tonight, it was a volunteer fire department nestled in the woods of Eastern Oklahoma.

Regardless of cause, pie auctions don’t have many moving parts. Organizers schedule an event, and then they invite candidates running for various political offices. These can be county offices such as sheriff or assessor or county commissioner. It might be the office of district attorney for the local judicial district. Frequently, the offices folks were fighting for are state house and senate seats.

Those who put together these fundraising events frequently invited candidates running for U.S. House seats or, in my case that night, the United States Senate. And 1996 was also a presidential campaign year.

It was impossible to schedule a pie auction for a date and time that would work for everyone, so why try? Local organizers simply put out the word that candidate so-and-so and sheriff so-and-so and congressman so-and-so had been invited. 

But even if a candidate knows about a scheduled pie auction and agrees with the cause its sponsors are trying to fund, there are a lot of times when a candidate can’t make it. This was often true of the U.S. senator our team would re-elect that year. After all, Oklahoma has 77 counties, and I only had 20 of them. Besides, a U.S. senator does have a professional job to do.

Organizers frequently expressed surprise and disappointment when we told them that a candidate couldn’t make it. But for most of them, this was not their first trip to the rodeo. So, while “the Senator very much wishes that he could be here tonight,” I was the campaign staffer who would have to do.     

It’s true that money is the mother’s milk of politics. And whether it’s a cause or a candidate makes little difference. Experienced pie auction organizers know well that the unspoken reason why a candidate can’t make their event might be that it competes with an intimate, in-home gathering with wealthy donors.

But these organizers show few scruples when it comes to taking advantage of those of us who’re paid political professionals. They knew we’d show up. Campaign-charged, caffeine-fueled highwaymen, ever fearful of the missed opportunity, who tried by hook or crook to get our candidates’ campaign signs up on the walls, on top of patriotically draped, pie-laden tables, or in spots that concealed a political opponent’s signage. At least for that night. 

The unwritten rules were pretty well known.  The Master of Ceremonies would give each of us a chance to speak for his or her campaign.  Of course, at some time during the night, pies would be auctioned.  Big pies.  Little pies.  Fresh pies.  Seldom stale pies. I could count on my favorites, pecan pie and lattice-topped apple pie, being among the pies to be auctioned.

The folks who run these pie auctions aren’t newbies.  They’re practiced and technically proficient. They have style. They have tempo. They’re shrewd. And like a lot of country folks I’ve dealt with over the years, they’re better at understanding human nature than they’ll disclose.

Oklahoma state seal 175 x 176By dangling a chance to speak during a hyper-charged political season, local organizers drew to their cause political campaigns both rich and poor.

But the candidates, and those who speak for them, had settled into our own tactics and patterns when approaching a pie auction. One I remember ran for almost any office any time there was an election. And she made sure that folks remembered her by sporting an elaborate, brightly-colored clown costume, complete with wild hair, a big red nose, and oversized clown shoes. 

But candidates who intended to win didn’t do that sort of thing.     

Among political professionals, our own techniques had a common thread.  Bring a pie and auction it off in the name of your candidate.  That way, the crowd gets to hear the candidate’s name. And, who knows, maybe they’ll think the candidate cares deeply about this particular cause.  Maybe the candidate does.

But whether one buys a pie or not, you’ve got to play the game. No matter how good or bad a pie might turn out to be, these rural communities can pretty quickly detect a distance, or arrogance, on the part of a candidate, if you don’t at least make it look as if you’d fought hard to buy a pie.  And that’s where skill and experience showed themselves. 

The true pros that you see at pie auctions are those who will bid for one pie and then another. And each time he bids, the worker enthusiastically shouts his candidate’s name for all to hear. Yes, again.  

Those who’ve reached journey level at these events know how to quit just in time to avoid actually having to buy a pie. And if by chance that campaign worker bids one time too often, he or she will simply find another pie auction further down the road and auction it off there in their candidates’ names.  It’s all quite cyclical. Predictable, even.

I have no idea how many pie auctions I attended that summer and fall.  Probably fewer than I think I did. But they’re small-town political happenings that loom large in my memory.

But one of these fundraisers sticks with me. As divisive and rancorous as the American political climate is in 2018, that pie auction, that night, at a volunteer fire department south of Tahlequah, Oklahoma, reminds me that measures of wisdom and foresight still undergird the American political experiment.    

I was running late that night, and the dirt clearing that served as a parking lot was stuffed full. I parked my Bronco under a tree. And I glanced over the barely legible notes I had jotted for a speech that I had given, in one form or other, countless times before. A speech that I would once again deliver in a few minutes. 

I gathered a stack of push cards, stickers, and other campaign swag.  I checked my cowboy boots and slapped a campaign sticker on my chest. And I made my way toward the open door of a crowded, stuffy, oxygen-deprived steel barn.

I didn’t have a pie.

Wagoner American Legion_Annual Pie Auction 2018 330 x 430Excusing my way through those gathered in the doorway, I made sure to acknowledge those I thought I had never seen, as well as those I always saw at these events. Trying to at least appear discreet, I hunted around the room for spots to place the Senator’s signs. I then took my place along the wall with other sleep-deprived politicos. 

Candidates for every office from county sheriff to U.S. Senator had been invited to the event that night.  But it was a local event for a local cause. Tonight, local candidates would get to speak first. 

Going through in my mind the list of other campaign tasks that I still had to get done that night, and still being several counties from my family in Tulsa, I wasn’t happy about being in the last group to speak.

But that’s the way these events are sometimes. It’s all well and good that the U.S. Senator I worked for is one of 100 lawmakers who occupy the upper chamber of the United States Congress. A legislative body with the power to impeach federal officials, ratify treaties, approve ambassadors, and determine whether a president’s nominee will sit in the Cabinet, lead a government agency, or serve on the United States Supreme Court.   

But Jed’s son is now back from the Marines. He did a good job taking care of momma and the family business after his daddy died. And now he’s running for county commissioner. We’ll hear from him first.

***

kid with pie at October event for veterans 410 x 307It’s been a few years, and I don’t remember the name of the local candidate who that night reminded me of some pretty great values that my country’s built on. But I remember what he looked like.  And I remember what he said.

The gentleman was new to the political game, and he was running in a three-way Democratic primary for county sheriff.  He wasn’t expected to win.  He didn’t have much money.  He didn’t have a strong organization.  And he wasn’t backed by the local establishment who, no matter where or when, almost always seem to support the incumbent.  I suspected this candidate knew that.

But without hesitation and with military bearing, the wiry political newcomer stepped to an imaginary line in front of the local pie bakers, politicos, interested towns folk and the unpaid firemen who time and again risk their lives to keep their community safe.

The gentleman who now stood before us had shined his cowboy boots to a respectable gloss, and they looked as they should below his worn-in blue jeans.  A bright silver buckle, like the ones earned by rodeo champions, marked the border above strong legs – legs that may have carried this man through the pastures to rescue a lost calf or through the jungles of Vietnam to rescue a fallen brother.  Above the buckle, a spotless white t-shirt could not conceal a strength earned somewhere other than in a city slicker’s health club. 

“I’m not like these other guys,” the man said.

His words were firm, and they lacked any evidence of uncertainty. And neither the man’s demeanor nor his tone hinted at being abrasive. The man spoke from a clean-shaven, weather-tempered face that was only partly obscured by the brim of a cowboy hat that looked as if it was saved for special occasions.    

“I don’t have a fancy suit, and I don’t have fancy words like these . . .”

The candidate looked toward the wall, eying without condemnation nor envy those of us being paid to wage and win political warfare.

 “. . . professionals.” 

No vinegar came from this man’s words. And he displayed respect to all of us who were cooking slowly in a steel barn on an Oklahoma summer night. But the way this man uttered the word “professionals” as he looked over at us made our work seem sort of dirty. 

“But y’all know me,” he said. “And y’know my kinfolk. . .”

The political tenderfoot executed his pause like a pro. “I want t’be your sheriff.  And I’ve got some good ideas to make that office work better for folks.” 

One by one, without direct or even collateral attack on the incumbent sheriff, that political postulant told all of us – both the jaded and the naïve – the specifics of how he would improve the Sheriff’s service to the County and to his fellow Oklahomans. As I listened to this rarest of political speeches, delivered by a man whose candidacy wouldn’t survive the primaries, I was reminded that one reason our American democratic experiment didn’t die in the womb is that Americans like this man talked to their friends, spoke up in their communities and churches, declared independence from the Crown, and took up arms to secure the birth of our nation. 

NEW FROM STRIFE BLOG and this author: Part II of Henry: a wounded soldier forgotten by all in an American jail – by all except his brothers who fell beside him in Vietnam

Strife image 397 x 397The former soldier grimaced for just an instant as he lowered himself into a Spartan metal chair opposite mine in this cramped space we shared. A chair like the one he’d lowered himself into for his monitored telephone call with his wife. Their relationship described in Hebrew scriptures as one in which they cling to each other, becoming “one flesh.” Separated here for legitimate security reasons by a thick sheet of glass.  Those of us in “the biz” prefer to call that kind of visit a “no contact visit.” It just sounds a little better than “no human touch.”

Once he was seated, Henry and I greeted each other with mutual respect, but the veteran’s words were narrow and thin. He wore a state court detainee’s bright orange coveralls. But he couldn’t fill them out.

I glanced again at the booking photograph from six months earlier.  And I looked back at this veteran. These couldn’t be the same person. They mustn’t be the same person.

Henry confirmed the basic facts that his wife had given me out in the lobby. He said he’d been arrested before. For the same thing. Henry told me it wasn’t that way before he was sent to Vietnam.

Part I

http://www.strifeblog.org/2018/08/02/henry-a-wounded-soldier-forgotten-by-all-in-an-american-jail-by-all-except-his-brothers-who-fell-beside-him-in-vietnam-part-i/

Part II

http://www.strifeblog.org/2018/08/07/henry-a-wounded-soldier-forgotten-by-all-in-an-american-jail-by-all-except-his-brothers-who-fell-beside-him-in-vietnam-part-ii/

sign-on-gate-of-kings-college-london 265About Strife

What is Strife?
“Strife is a dual format publication comprised of Strife academic blog, as well as the peer-reviewed academic journal, Strife Journal, which is published biannually. Strife is led by doctoral and graduate researchers based in the Department of War Studies, King’s College London. Our contributors come from a wide range of backgrounds including graduate and doctoral researchers, staff and faculty at King’s, and leading experts from around the world.”

 

 

 

 

ckb face indian screen image indirect 150 x 221Charles Bloeser is the creator of combatresearchandprose.com, a new open-source applied research initiative that will continue to contribute to bridging the gap in experience, knowledge, and understanding that divides those who’ve never served under arms from those who have. He’s the civilian son and grandson of veterans and a lawyer who’s spent most years arguing criminal and constitutional issues in America’s state and federal trial and appellate courts. Among his published research are works re Libyan-supported Jihadi terrorism in the Western Hemisphere, civilian-military law enforcement relations in the U.S., and the demands that an increasingly complex national security environment make for special operations forces. His research agenda includes national security/defense/veterans issues, with special attention to those facing challenges from combat stress/PTSD/TBI etc.

 

4,376,852 views can’t be wrong – Hip Hop from Tech N9ne “PTSD (Warrior Built)”

“PROSE”: “the ordinary language people use in speaking or writing.” – Merriam Webster

All proceeds from the sales of the Tech N9ne and Jay Trilogy version of “P.T.S.D.” benefit the “Warrior Built” charitable organization. Founded by Nick Hamm, a former U.S. Marine, wounded in the line of combat, “Warrior Built” seeks to honor the service and sacrifice of combat veterans and wounded service members by providing vocational and recreational opportunities.https://combatresearchandprose.com/2018/07/31/4376852-views-cant-be-wrong-hip-hop-from-tech-n9ne-ptsd-warrior-built/
RETIRED U.S. MARINE 1ST SERGEANT NICK HAMM FROM TUCSON, ARIZONA (USA) STARTED WARRIOR BUILT FOUNDATION. IN THIS 45-MINUTE INTERVIEW WITH MENTORS FOR MILITARY, HE SAYS THIS: WE’RE NOT YOUR GRANDMA’S FOUNDATION.” http://www.warriorbuilt.org/mentors-military-podcast-nick-hamm/
“PTSD(WARRIOR BUILT)” SEEMS TO CONNECT: 4,376,852 views reported 28 July
More info re Warrior Built Foundationhttp://www.warriorbuilt.org/

[Feature image Tech N9ne for “PTSD (Warrior Built),” courtesy Monster Energy. https://www.monsterenergy.com/news/tech-n9ne-ptsd-exclusive-video-debut
accessed 28 July 2018.]
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ckb face indian screen image indirect 150 x 221
Charles Bloeser is a lawyer and the researcher behind the creation of combatresearchandprose.com, a new open-source applied research initiative examining combat and those marked by it. His most recent publication, in August 2018, reports how a cancer-stricken, combat-haunted, Vietnam veteran fell between the cracks in a modern jail. It’s an account that, from that warrior’s deathbed, he asked author to share with those best able to keep the same thing from happening to others. STRIFE, at the Department of War Studies, Kings College London, gave him a way to do that.

http://www.strifeblog.org/2018/08/02/henry-a-wounded-soldier-forgotten-by-all-in-an-american-jail-by-all-except-his-brothers-who-fell-beside-him-in-vietnam