Sunday, October 11, 2015

My List

There’s a quote that I’ve always found unfortunately humorous – and accurate: “War is God's way of teaching Americans geography.” Besides geography, there’s another association I make with war – music. 

I will always associate Garth Brooks’ “I’ve Got Friends in Low Places” with Desert Storm. It seemed like the Armed Forces Network (AFN) played it continuously. Then, there was a song from Phase Two of the Afghanistan Campaign. I enjoyed it so much that I intended to have it played at my retirement ceremony. It was just one of the many moving songs by Toby Keith -- a great American patriot.

Toby’s song is titled “My List” and is in the genre of Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s in the Cradle.” There’s something about being away from your wife and kids for a year at a time (except for a two-week R&R) that accentuates all the milestones you’re missing. A partial excerpt of the lyrics from “My List” follows:

Under an old brass paperweight is my list of things to do today,
Go to the bank and the hardware store, put a new lock on the cellar door.
I cross 'em off as I get 'em done but when the sun is set,
There's still more than a few things left I haven't got to yet…

Go for a walk, say a little prayer, take a deep breath of mountain air,
Put on my glove, play some catch, it's time that I make time for that.
Wade the shore, cast a line, look up a long lost friend of mine,
Sit on the porch and give my girl a kiss.
Start livin' that's the next thing on my list.

When talking with Soldiers concerned about their kids back home, I’d tell them two things. First, that I believed God would honor their sacrifice, and secondly, there is no better way to teach your children the importance of duty, honor and
loyalty than living it. After all, I’d remind them, it wasn’t like we were on a protracted fishing expedition or out playing golf. Nonetheless, it was obvious to all of us that we were missing a great deal. 

Since I was medically retired (after 35 years of service), I never did get to play that song at a ceremony. So what brought that song back to my mind now? It was an appointment with the VA last week. The doctor was asking me about my mental health and TBI. I told her that the toll multiple deployments exacts is bad, but what’s even worse is the insult of watching those hard fought for cities and provinces falling back into the hands of the enemy.

During the Cold War, I was in West Germany where we faced-off with the Soviet Union-led Warsaw Pact. We were trained to know that Russia could not be trusted. To watch them now walk into Ukraine virtually unopposed is exasperating. To watch them align themselves with Iran, Iraq and Syria, move their forces into the Middle East, and then bomb our allies is sickening. 

Driving home from the VA hospital that day, my blood was beginning to boil. Not like the pressure cooker used by the Boston bombers, but more like a cauldron – boiling because of a belief that our government is making it mighty comfortable for our enemies and not adequately aiding our allies. And that’s when the idea of a “list” came clearly to mind. Only this list is not of things I want to do – this list is for our current Commander-in-Chief to check-off.

Mr. Obama – please put this under a paperweight:

-- You owe Mitt Romney an apology. When he told you in the debate about Russia, “This is without question our No. 1 geopolitical foe. They fight for every cause for the world’s worst actors.” You arrogantly mocked him, “The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because the Cold War’s been over for 20 years.” Sadly, Romney was past right.

-- You owe the 4,491 US Gold Star families and the 32,226 American wounded from Iraq an apology. Not because you started the war, but because you lost the war. You failed to heed the advice of your military commanders and leave a residual force.

-- You owe the families of the Benghazi four and the video maker you blamed it on (and later arrested) an apology.

-- You owe our children an apology for the Trillions in debt you’ve amassed.

I could go on, but I’ve got to go play catch.

This column appears in The Upson Beacon, 14 OCT 2015 published in Upson County, GA.

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