Lunch Time For Heroes

The last year has been incredibly hard for First Responders. I know this for a fact, because I have more than a few that are friends of mine, and I’ve got 100 of them in my class that I mentor on resiliency.

Consequently, I have a suggestion for you: adopt a substation/fire house/precinct. 

 

I don’t mean you have to let those characters in on the inheritance, but pick a group and do something nice for them. 

Now, in 2021, you have to do this the right way. They aren’t always receptive to you showing up with a pan of brownies. Besides the fact that a couple of the readers might load them up with funny edible substances that contain THC, there is a justifiable concern for contamination on purpose, or disease.

Here’s how you do it in a few short steps.

First, decide who to support. Law Enforcement, Fire, or Paramedic/EMT. 

Talk to the person in charge if you don’t know someone at the location. Find out how many people work there (*they may be touchy about providing this information, so make sure you can provide references*) and if it’s an organization that has shifts reporting/living there, find out when they eat dinner. Firehouses are a great bet for this, they cook for themselves and usually try to eat at the same time. Law enforcement and medics have a shift change, and if you bring a meal, cookies, ice cream sundaes, whatever, you could do it an hour before shift change so both oncoming and offgoing can enjoy the food.

Next, plan a menu when you know what the needs are. If you are a church or social group, you can get together and do a couple of pans of lasagna, hot dish, ribs, whatever, and the assorted salads and deserts. Throw in a couple of beverages for each person to be served and disposable plates/silverware. Saving them the cleanup is a big help. 

If you aren’t part of a group, but just want to do this because it feels right, you can find a restaurant they like and cater it in. A full meal for 15 people is about $200 at an inexpensive but good Mexican place around here, because it’s way cheaper when it’s a pan of enchiladas, beans, rice and tortilla instead of individual servings. Not a lot of money if you plan for it.

Now, don’t wait for Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving: do it next week. Yes, they work hard all year long, and Sunday the 19th is every bit as big a blessing as a holiday. 

I know morale is low in many of these organizations. Partly because since the Chinese Virus hit, people call them out for the smallest malady. One fire department I know has seen its calls more than double in the past 18 months. It’s wearing these folks down. Your plate of rigatoni and garlic bread will do more for morale than a dozen other things you could do.

That’s it. Just do something nice for them because you can, and they need the boost. Doesn’t have to cost a bundle, but the dividend for them is huge. 

 

 

Sometimes It’s Not A Flashback

The other night I was watching a British series, CALL THE MIDWIFE.  In this episode, there was a horrible incident of child neglect/abuse which greatly impacted the midwives, nuns, and police. All people who were used to misery and sadness. But this was different because it was children.

It brought me back to a morning four decades ago where I was dispatched to an elementary school in our city. I entered the school and was brought to a room where my roommate was already talking to a couple of little children. My roommate, the “Kiddie Cop” for the department, was a good guy. And I only had to take one look at him to see he was really upset about what he was hearing. 

As per our protocol, I waited for him to finish before approaching, and then interviewed the children myself. I don’t remember if it was the principal or a school nurse who was there to provide protection for the children involved, but there was a third person in the room as a witness. 

I knelt down so I could look the little boy in the eye, he was about eight or nine at the most. His younger sister was in the room as well, sitting rather frozen in a chair by the third person. Clearly she was in shock.

The reason for us talking to the boy separately was so that we could validate the story he was telling independently. It was not a good story. It turned out that the childrens’ teachers had suspected abuse on other occasions, but the children clammed up and wouldn’t say anything. The usual “I just fell, I’m okay” sort of thing. Mind you, this was four decades ago, and a lot of things just didn’t go much past the classroom. Reporting standards were quite different. 

On that day, however, there was irrefutable, undeniable evidence of abuse that had to be addressed. 

You see, both children had sheetrock embedded in their scalps. 

It turned out that they had a puppy, and the puppy had scratched at the door to go out. I never even asked what happened to the dog, but Daddy Dearest (and this was as told to me by the boy) had warned them they were responsible for the dog and its actions. When the dog scratched the door, dad decided to bounce their heads off the wall as a punishment. He did it a lot, and consequently the sheetrock broke and pushed under their scalps. 

My roommate and I did the usual investigative steps, gathered photos, and then stopped cold. The children lived just outside the city limits, and thus the crime had been committed outside of our jurisdiction. We only found this out as we were readying a complaint to get an arrest warrant. At this time, in New Mexico, the courts were very rigid about the proper agency pursuing the crime. 

We had no option. We had to call the County Sheriff and let them pursue the case. We waited with the kids until the county sent someone to take the case, handed over our notes and departed. We could do nothing. 

I still remember, through a haze of anger, how we stood in the lot of the school smoking a cigarette and discussing the fact that we could get to dad and deal with him before the county could get a warrant. It would have been so simple, yet so wrong. And, as it turned out, instead we ate our anger and rage and went back to our jobs. 

I never found out what happened with those kids. The boy would be closing in on middle age right now. I have wondered a few times over the years if they were removed from the home, if there was a mom who took them, and how badly they were damaged from the evil presence that was their father. 

I am blessed in that while it’s still a strong memory, it isn’t a “trigger” for me like so many other people in the First Responder field who deal with that sort of thing over and over again in a career. For me, it’s a moment of reflection and sadness. 

So, to all of you out there reading this, keep an eye peeled for little children who are just a note off, and suffer an unusual amount of random physical damage. You might be the only one standing between them and a sheetrock wall.

 

Thirteen Has Never Been A Good Number

I’m not prone to sadness and depression. I’m actually one of the most resilient people I know. Sure, I have bad days like anyone else where the world closes in for an hour or two. I don’t know anyone who’s not manic who can make that claim.

But this last week has been a real bitch. Lots of dark and angry days. More than I have experienced in 40 years. That’s quite a stretch of time. 

My problems are not the issue here. I think I’m like a lot of veterans in that I just let a lot of things roll off of me and ignore them. There’s a saying in the military from after my time: “Embrace the suck.”

That phrase usually covers it. It’s going to be lousy for a while, just dig in and embrace it. You’re out in the rain and the mud, quit worrying about your white tennis shoes. 

This past week was different for most of us. I say that because I’ve talked to people I’ve known for years and they all seem to feel the same. I was thinking about avoiding the political in this post, and I will for a few more paragraphs.

Let’s get to the nub of this: someone you know is probably hurting way worse than me. You have a brother, sister, cousin, spouse, coworker or friend who served in the military. They need you to call them RIGHT NOW (time zone permitting) and check on them. You don’t have to give them a basic inventory for suicidal ideation on the phone, but just ask how they’re doing. Tell them you know it’s a rough time for veterans right now, and they were on your heart. That’s it. Then shut up and listen. You will probably hear them say they’re good. Pissed off, sad, whatever, but their voice will tell you they’re going to be good. 

If that isn’t the case, ask them if they’re getting some help. If they can’t dredge up the energy to do that, give them the number above:  1-800-273-8255. If they are below that threshold of energy, add them on as you call that number. Your cell phone should make it easy. Figure out how to do it before you call them. Yeah, they may be really mad at you by the time it’s done. But imagine the gut-wrenching feeling you’d experience if you didn’t call and the next thing you heard was that they’d killed themselves. I’ve been that guy. Didn’t know it was going to happen. I’ll do anything to avoid that feeling again. 

Now, assuming you’ve done the above, it’s political time.

I’ll be fine. Today is way better than yesterday, and the day before that one. I had lunch with two great fellow veterans today, and we shared our lives: that’s what gets us through to the next day sometimes. 

But if you’re wondering why this set of deaths in Afghanistan is so demoralizing to people who haven’t even been in the military for 30+ years, there’s a simple answer: Nobody in charge cares. They view the troops as disposable pieces on a political playing field. They are more concerned with their careers than the lives of the people in uniform. 

The most despicable thing you can do, in my less-than-humble opinion, is leave people behind. It is closely followed with needlessly sacrificing them on a political altar. The feckless generals, admirals, and resident of the White House have openly admitted that we PLAN TO LEAVE AMERICANS BEHIND. I am so freaking mad over that that my blood pressure just jumped 20 points. This was completely avoidable. It still is. We have the greatest military force in history, and we should flood the place with whatever troops and weapons it takes to crush the opposition, evacuate every American, destroy all the things we built, and leave not so much as a friggin round of ammo behind for the vermin who are taking over.

We have entrusted the security and well-being of our troops to the FREAKING TALIBAN. 8TH CENTURY BARBARIANS WHO HATE US. Yes, all caps. It’s like asking the SS to make sure wounded soldiers from Malmedy were cared for properly. It’s political, because the cowards in Washington won’t object to this insanity. Cowards with multiple stars on their shoulders. You want to know what a leader looks like?  I’m not finding an example in our military above the O-5 level. But go to the end of this blog to see what one man has said. His opinions are mine as well.

None of this had to happen. It was all preventable. Don’t even bother to say we should never have been there: I agree. We should have swept in after 9/11 and flattened every one of the swine who caused it, leaving smoking rubble behind. And then left. 

But we were there, and there is a moral obligation to take care of our allies and our people. That was not done. We lost any moral high-ground we had with the behavior of this administration. 

I will be fine. But don’t expect me not to be angry and talk trash about the scum in charge. I plan on doing that for a long time to come. The tables with 13 beers and the people honoring the dead are a good thing. But it’s not enough. We need to demand change and demand it loudly. We should never again place our people in such a precarious position voluntarily.

I never minded the thought of going bad places with my people. I always knew President Reagan would come for us, and if he couldn’t, he’d destroy those who hurt us. That was enough. I pray for the dead, but even more so for the people still serving who have to serve under a leadership team that places so little value on their lives.

I can’t even imagine the personal dilemma of Lt. Colonel Stuart Scheller. I don’t know his heart, but what I’ve seen of him in the last 12 hours impresses the heck out of me. He resigned his commission today as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Marine Corps so that he could speak freely. I hope and pray he’s not a fraud, as he really touched my heart. Here is his video:

 

Florida Man Has Arrived

This past winter, my wife and I moved to Southwest Florida. We were close to urban sophisticates in that we enjoyed a great number of ethnic foods, were familiar with many cultures, and spoke at least five languages between us. However, neither of us can stand opera, and loathe Sevilla Flamenco. 

Now, after a mere six months in a home in the Everglades, we have become a flatland version of the Beverly Hillbillies. Yes, Jethro Bodean and I have a lot in common. I’m going to say that Kip is Ellie Mae, but there is a chance at our ages that we’re actually Jed and Granny.

Not only am I fascinated with moonshining (not doing it, but love looking at the videos and companies that sell the equipment) and canning – just covered Jed and Grannie with those two, but entertainment has gotten simpler out here in the boonies far from reliable internet. 

We enjoy good rainstorms, the clouds, the many birds, and guessing when the electric done gonna come back. (Thank God the backup battery system went active with most of the solar a few weeks ago. Five power bounces yesterday in our area, one big one today so far.) We do watch a few hours of internet television a few days a week, but mostly we read, write, go for walks, or massage Chewy’s belly. 

However, today I knew I was likely to strike oil if I went shooting in our yard. I went outside to kill a wasp nest that was being constructed in an outdoor power box – it has a clear plastic cover. On my way around the side of the house, I realized what it was Chewy was so fascinated with this morning when we let him out: there was a dead possum in the yard.

Now I do have some standards, and cookin’ up possum ain’t on that list. Besides, it was much like a Norwegian Blue Parrot: stiff as a board, joined the choir eternal. It wasn’t playing possum, and the freshness date had passed hours before in the heat we have today.

Back to the garage, grab the shovel, and hurl the beastie into the vacant part of our property. The vultures (yes, they are numerous) should spot it within a day, and they will dispose of it promptly. Anything dead goes over the fence and they come to clean it up.

So, I flung it into the lot, killed the wasps, and went inside to inform Grannie what I’d found in the yard. 

She did not grab the stew pot. She did not insist that I sniff it to see if it is good. But she did ask that I move the corpse to the diagonally opposite side of the yard, outside the fence, so that she could watch the vultures. 

The entertainment value of vultures picking a possum clean has now become a thing at our house. My shovel and I returned to the yard, picked up the star of our show, and marched around to the opposite side of the property to deposit the body in the undeveloped field.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, was when I truly knew that I was “Florida Man.”

 

Oh, there you are. I’ve got a bonus for you folks that made it past the dead possum: the unaired pilot for the “Hillbillies of Beverly Hills.”  Yup, slightly different name, but it’s the whole backstory as it was pitched to the studios and networks. It is well worth 35 minutes of your day if you watched the show in the 60s.  

Finally, here are the buzzards at lunch, and a special Simpson’s treat:

A Crucial Man At Two Junctures

If you’re ever in doubt as to the need for term limits, and a return to the Founders idea that citizens should serve in government as servants, and then return to their real jobs, I present Joe Biden as the clear answer you seek.

Biden, who’s been around government longer than most Americans have been alive (both by median and average age) was involved in the final collapse of South Vietnam. He has blundered about for the last 47 years and managed to stay in power long enough to see another nation tank, this time under his complete and utter lack of leadership.

Now, for those of you about to run off to Snopes, or any other leftist source, and prove me wrong, Joe has always been gutless enough to waffle about his true intentions unless he was putting black men into prison. He did not vote against aid to South Vietnam, but he did oppose it, and along with the other clowns in the Senate, he contributed to the blocking of the legislation that would have, among other things, allowed for the United States to aid South Vietnamese in escaping the communists at the end of the war.

This time, in conjunction with the plutocrats and doorknobs in charge of foreign policy, and the Pentagon, they have missed the opportunity to evacuate the people in Afghanistan who fought on our side. Mind you, we brought 210,000 illegal immigrants into the country across the southern border last month, but it was evidently way too hard to bring about 125,000 people under a certain sentence of death out of Afghanistan.

For those of you unfamiliar with how this will go, I can give you a broad picture to use as a template. Pol Pot in Cambodia, and the evil people involved in the North Vietnamese regime, managed to enslave and/or murder over 2,000,000 people in the first 5 years after the war ended in Southeast Asia. Reeducation camps, rape, shootings, starvation, and torture were routine and applied liberally (choice of words intended) to their enemies. 

This time around, there will be no reeducation camps. Nor will their be families left behind as members are killed. Nope. The Taliban have a habit of raping and murdering your family in front of you, enslaving the ones they want to continue to rape and torment, and then killing you in the most painful manner they can find. There will be no exceptions, and the deaths will be beyond belief in numbers and violence. If you were our friend, your entire family is doomed. If you were in a small village, probably the whole village will be wiped out. That’s how this will play out. 

We, the United States Military, left behind a considerable quantity of weapons, ammunition, and equipment. I doubt that we will send Tomahawks and B-52 strikes with cluster munitions to destroy it. No, we will watch it be exploited for intelligence value by the Communist Chinese (the same lovable rascals who released a bio-engineered virus on the world last year) who have declared their support of the Taliban. Some of those items will be used directly against us down the road, some will be sold, and all will lose their secrets. A couple of days of air strikes against things, not people, could prevent this, and the fact is we really should have had special forces people blowing this stuff up as the government fell. But we didn’t.

And Joe has assured us this would never happen. Not 6 months ago, not a year ago, but 38 days ago. He lied about this as well. And then he ran away to Camp David where he’s eating ice cream and his handlers are trying to cover up his advanced dementia. There is a lot of lying going on in Washington for the last few decades. I’m willing to bet most people just accept it as the truth because “The government said so.”  Strangely, veterans I talk to are the least likely to accept that. Largely because we were obligated to follow orders blindly (*mostly*) during our service, but got to see behind the scenes stuff the average person didn’t. We, the collective we, were disposable. Some of us know the truth: and it isn’t what’s coming out of Washington. If they lie to us about something as obvious and checkable as the fall of Afghanistan, why wouldn’t they lie to us about a lot of other things we can never check?

So, here we are, 46 years after Saigon fell with the same clown-show political scum in power, many of whom are secretly gleeful that we “got ours.”

Me?  I had lunch with a friend who’s an Afghanistan vet today. He had a very distinct opinion about what is happening. Strangely, it sounds pretty much like what my friends fathers and older brothers said in 1975.

We have once again betrayed and hurt our veterans for political expediency. I cannot count their sacrifice as a loss, for they showed us what true love of country meant. Generally from the rank of E-1 to aboutt O-6.  Most in the general officer ranks had very little skin in the game and it was about politics.

But the men and women who came home in body bags, or with no left leg, or with nightmares and mental health problems related to the conflict deserved better. This withdrawal could have been handled much better and it wasn’t.

Importantly, we should never have tried building a democratic nation state there. It generally doesn’t work well in places like Afghanistan. What should have happened after 9/11 was an aerial blitz of all Al Qaeda camps, special forces turned loose with blood warrants, and an economic destruction of the place that would make salting the earth look like a gift. 

Yes, I know I’m a barbarian. But I’m a big believer of kicking your attacker in the crotch and hitting him in the head with a hammer just before you leave to have a beer down at the saloon. Hurt him so bad that he’s not going to bother you soon. But don’t stick around to lecture his family about how they should behave. Kill all the bad guys you can find and leave. Quickly. Leaving them wondering if you’ll come back and fearing that possibility.

I apologize to the Afghan patriots who worked with us, and to the Vietnamese who fought the communists on behalf of my nation. Hell, if the Dixie Chicks can apologize for us I can too. My statement is simple:

If you have to choose between working with us and surviving, our track record says go it without us.

I am ashamed of our government. We could have done so much better. And we should have.