Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day

Originally begun as a day off for government civil servants to decorate local graves for soldiers lost in suppression of the late rebellion, Memorial day was expanded to those service men and women lost for any purpose. That expansion was probably necessary to get the agreement of southern neo-confederates to the expanded holiday.

That number of US servicemen's deaths averages close to a thousand a year in peacetime, due to rigorous training, and the high rate of deaths normally seen by young men in the service members key demographics.

The bravest thing anyone can do is sign up. You then, with some degree of foreknowledge, accept the added risk of the service, and reduced control of the situations to which you will be subjected. After that, you are following through. Following through is not a trivial thing, but it is rare that our servicemen do not follow through. It is common for young men to not sign up.

All men die, and everyone dies alone. Not all die giving their last full measure of love and devotion to the last best hope of mankind.

Let us today remember the lives of those wonderful men and women who, by their service, have made us safer, and more free.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Some Lessons of History That Got Us Where We Are

The Barbary pirates taught us that our merchant marine needs to be defended and secured by a strong Navy.

The Spanish American War taught us that we could not ignore attacks on our Navy in foreign waters, and the business of getting men to the battle was as big a job as the battle itself.

In WWI the US fought with British designed rifles (P-17) and French (ChauChat machineguns and 75mm quick firing artillery) weapons. We were able to benefit from instruction from French Alpine and Chasseur infanty. We learned from that, and instituted an industry mobilization program in time for WWII.

In WWII the US started behind, because our non-intervention policy let the murderous thugs like Stalin, Hitler and Tojo get their war machine manned and trained, with combat experience before we got in. We paid dearly for that.

In Korea we learned that the potential strength of the US was not enough to stop aggressors, and a smaller force with high readiness would be needed.

In Vietnam we learned that it was not enough to win the battles, but that traitors in the US could throw away the results of our soldiers valor. John Kerry call your office.

After Desert Storm we learned that pushing back a murderous thug to his own country didn't provide protection from attacks on our friends or ourselves.

Of course some people have learned nothing.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Congrats Kacey, and Suzanne

Today Kacey graduates from college. On her way she has made hardly any missteps, unlike me. She graduates with several honors, and has presented various papers. She also had a taste of being the local celebrity with her heading the 'human hamster wheel' project. I am very happy for her. She continues on with higher education. I would say 'I am proud of her' but I am not sure that my contribution is enough to claim that honor. I am a modest man, with much to be modest about.

By contrast, my two bachelor degrees, my masters degree, I never attended my own graduation. I was commissioned, but I completed my course work at a different time of year than graduation, and didn't care enough about the ceremony to travel from Georgia to Missouri, from California to Arizona, or even from Edwards to Fresno. When I got the Certificate in Systems Engineering, I didn't go to the ceremony for that either.

I guess I am the kind of person who doesn't stand on ceremony.

I had my fill as a high school validictorian, gave a speech which was instantly forgotten, and have very rarely returned since.

Kacey gets from me, my enduring love, a copy of the book 'Why do you care what they think Mr. Feynmann" and Dale Carnagie's book "How to Win Friends and Influence People". The point: A broad range of behavior is acceptable in humans.

Bob Heinlein had it right. A human can set a trap, kill dinner, skin it, prepare a tasty meal, write a sonnet, solve a differential equation, Specialization is for insects.

Brother Doug told me that young people feel a need to do something with their bodies. For women it is often flirting-acting-modeling-motherhood. For men it is often sports-military-philandering. Some of those are honorable, some can, with too much emphasis, lead to a lack of balance that becomes dishonorable. With luck, kids will survive their youth with traits, virtues, and skills which serve them in their maturity.

Happy Mother's day Suzanne. Certainly Kacey's success is very largely due to Kacey, but Suzanne's role was far greater than mine. Not by my choice, but I do recognize reality.