Sunday, December 31, 2017

"Just knowing that there are still some who remember what we did and still care is enough to make an old man very happy."

Click on over to Blackfive and read about the heroic life of one Darrell “Shifty” Powers, a genuine WWII hero who died in June 2009 to almost no fanfare or recognition of any kind.

Darrell “Shifty” Powers, 1944
He served in Easy Company, 101st Airborne Division as a paratrooper, along with Major Dick Winters and the other guys from the 101st featured in “Band of Brothers”. An excellent series, by the way, and if you’ve never seen it, it’s well worth watching. You feel like you know these guys after it’s done.

He landed at Normandy on D-Day. He jumped at Arnhem in Operation Market Garden. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge.

But when he died recently, the media yawned. They don’t have time for men like him any more. They create other types of “heroes” that we’re expected to worship, built on image and appearance and never having done an honest day’s work in their lives. Polar opposites, in other words, of a man like Shifty Powers.

There’s a great story embedded in an email at the Backfive post, some of which I’ve copied here:
I met Shifty in the Philadelphia airport several years ago. I didn’t know who he was at the time. I just saw an elderly gentleman having trouble reading his ticket. I offered to help, assured him that he was at the right gate, and noticed the “Screaming Eagle”, the symbol of the 101st Airborne, on his hat.

Making conversation, I asked him if he’d been in the 101st Airborne or if his son was serving. He said quietly that he had been in the 101st. I thanked him for his service, then asked him when he served, and how many jumps he made.

Quietly and humbly, he said “Well, I guess I signed up in 1941 or so, and was in until sometime in 1945 . . . ” at which point my heart skipped.

At that point, again, very humbly, he said “I made the 5 training jumps at Toccoa, and then jumped into Normandy . . . . do you know where Normandy is?” At this point my heart stopped.

I told him yes, I know exactly where Normandy was, and I know what D-Day was. At that point he said “I also made a second jump into Holland, into Arnhem.” I was standing with a genuine war hero . . . . and then I realized that it was June, just after the anniversary of D-Day.

I asked Shifty if he was on his way back from France, and he said “Yes. And it’s real sad because these days so few of the guys are left, and those that are, lots of them can’t make the trip.” My heart was in my throat and I didn’t know what to say.

I helped Shifty get onto the plane and then realized he was back in Coach, while I was in First Class. I sent the flight attendant back to get him and said that I wanted to switch seats. When Shifty came forward, I got up out of the seat and told him I wanted him to have it, that I’d take his in coach.

He said “No, son, you enjoy that seat. Just knowing that there are still some who remember what we did and still care is enough to make an old man very happy.” His eyes were filling up as he said it. And mine are brimming up now as I write this.
Mine too, as I read it.

Real heroes are humble, and always deflect attempts to label them as such. In fact, that seems to be a pretty reliable way to separate real heroes from the loudmouth types who crave publicity about their alleged wartime medals and heroism, but are nearly always lying about all of it.

And all these WWII vets ask is that we remember. That’s all. Just remember.

Because remembering is a form of honor. The cheapest form of honor, in terms of the price we have to pay, but still a form of honor.

“Just knowing that there are still some who remember what we did and still care is enough to make an old man very happy.”

Oh, but he was more than just an old man. He was a symbol of a time when attitudes were different, when people accepted epic responsibilities at terribly young ages so that we could be free today.

Are we thankful enough? You tell me.

I’ll remember, and I’ll teach my kids to remember, and I’ll ask family and friends to remember. It is the very least, the absolute least, we can do.

May he rest in peace.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas from 1968 and Apollo 8

I visited American Digest this Christmas morning, because I knew Gerard would have several good posts about Christmas and the entire Christmas season, and Lo and Behold he has the same exact Christmas Eve Apollo 8 video that our pastor played for us last night during church services.

Our pastor's message was that even though the year 1968 was so divisive, violent, and chaotic, the Apollo 8 mission at Christmas united the country, and the world, and “saved” 1968.

Hard to argue with that, and in any case I won’t try, because I loved Christmas Eve 1968. It is probably my warmest Christmas memory.

I was nine years old, and everything that happens when you're nine years old remains very vivid forever, so that's part of it. But that Apollo 8 mission at Christmas time, when mankind launched a space mission to orbit the moon -- and then come back safely -- was absolutely riveting. It's hard to imagine today how amazing this was back in 1968.

It made Christmas 1968 even more amazing and filled with wonder than it already is every other year. 

Have a great Christmas, all!

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Hollywood No Longer Understands Heroism

So The Oscars happened a few weeks ago, and once again, I didn't watch. Not only that, I didn't care one way or the other.

Hollywood lost me years ago. And they've done nothing to repair that relationship. In fact, they've made it much, much worse.

Not many people know this, but Hollywood used to be filled with patriotic guys who actually fought in real wars. For example, James Stewart, who flew flew bombing missions over Nazi-occupied Europe, and earned the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Croix de Guerre, among other medals. Imagine that, an actor and a military hero.

Brig. Gen. Stewart risked his life, quite willingly, to fight against Nazis and for freedom, while today a useful idiot like Sean Penn risks nothing while he kisses up to a corrupt dictator like Hugo Chavez. Do we have to wonder what James Stewart might have thought about that? No we do not.

No Hollywood studio boss during WWII or Korea would have dared to make any kind of anti-military movie that painted soldiers as bloodthirsty baby-murderers. They didn't believe that, and they knew the market would reject it completely. The country was engaged, along with much of the free world, in a fight for survival, and made great sacrifices for that fight. It was not a pose to impress others, like much of what passes for anti-war sentiment among the Hollywood left today.

Today's Hollywood wouldn't even know what to do with a real man like James Stewart, because today’s Hollywood doesn't write that role, doesn’t make that movie, and doesn't cater to that demographic.

In fact, today's Hollywood despises all of that, and actively works against it.

Today's Hollywood is quite happy to make movies with feminized male characters who wouldn’t know how to fire a weapon or ride a horse if their lives depended on it. They don't even talk like men any more. But they know how to use their cool new iPhone to find the nearest Starbucks.

I don’t think most people realize it, but we have had something stolen from us over the last 50 years: the connection between movies and heroism, duty, and honor.

That connection, in large part, was purposefully destroyed by Hollywood starting in the late-1960s with a constant stream of depressing, narcissistic, counter-cultural movies. Which was, amazingly enough, right around the time of the breakup of the old studio system. Suddenly, celebrating heroism, duty, and honor became oh-so-very-passe.

You can see it for yourself: just read through the plot descriptions of the movies on Turner Classic Movies every week, and then compare that with the dreary crap that Hollywood has put out over the last 15-20 years, or the depressing, narcissistic movies put out before that. It’s stunning, really, to see the complete about-face in movies from just the early 60s to the early 70s: from, say, “The Longest Day” to “Dog Day Afternoon”, featuring a criminal as protagonist.

This is a comment about the focus of these movies, and the types of heroes they portray, not the quality of them. Lots of very good movies were made after the mid-60s, particularly in the 70s. But the focus of these movies, the lessons they reinforced, the heroes they highlighted, were completely different from what came before. It was not subtle, it was striking.

Today, Hollywood complains about losing customers, yet continues to churn out more of this same derivative, boring crap filled with anti-military, anti-family, anti-Christian, anti-America messages.

Newsflash:  out here in flyover country supporting the troops is not just a pose, and it's plainly obvious that the movie-going audience, rather than leaving Hollywood, feels instead that Hollywood has left them. And with good reason.

The ugly truth for Hollywood is that we would come back if you would stop putting out crappy movies that hector us into feeling bad about ourselves, our society, and our country. I like movies, and I would go see some of them, but I absolutely will not subject myself or my family to propaganda explicitly intended to flip every traditional cultural norm on its head.

Obviously, somebody within the Hollywood power structure has thought about this too, somebody with the power to make the movies they want to make and tell the stories they want to tell. It's not some revolutionary new idea — and they’re in the business to make money, right? To make movies that put asses in the seats, and sell tickets? You would think.

But maybe not. Maybe Hollywood is really about shaping attitudes, and is willing to lose money on movie after movie in order to re-shape American attitudes about our military and about what Hollywood really thinks about the country that allows it to say whatever it wants. A freedom they enjoy, in part, because of two things about America they hate: our military and our Constitution. 

Feel the irony. Hollywood likes irony. It makes them feel clever and superior.

(An updated version of something I wrote in July 2010)

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Let's Try Leading From The Front, For a Change

British Police Name Two of Three London Attackers as May Calls for Crackdown
LONDON—One of three knife-wielding assailants who killed seven people in a weekend terror attack here was known to security services, authorities said Monday. Neighbors said his zeal for Islamic extremism was broadcast to the nation in a television documentary called “The Jihadis Next Door.”

But police said they had no intelligence suggesting the man, Khuram Shazad Butt, a 27-year-old Pakistan-born British citizen, was plotting violence ahead of Saturday’s rampage.
I think we may have hit upon a flaw in your system, chief.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Aiming High, and Giving All

Originally written November 2004

This past Wednesday evening, I went to the visitation for a brave young Marine from Wheaton, Illinois, named Nick Larson.

Lance Corporal Nick Larson. I didn't know him, but I felt compelled to do something symbolic to show my respect and admiration for all the thousands of young men and women who do the hard work that allows us to live free. And especially for those who die too young, doing something so selfless. It's the least we can do.

There were HUNDREDS of people there. High school kids, Marines, soliders, sailors, airmen, family and friends, uniformed police officers and EMTs, etc. The line was probably 150 feet out the back door and 4-5 people wide, and it stayed that long for a good hour after we got into it and inched our way forward.

We waited an hour and a half, my 16-year-old son and I. I didn't make him go, but did encourage him to, and left it up to him. He wasn't sure, but when he saw me getting my shoes on, he went into his room and got dressed and said "I'll go with you". I have never been prouder.

Unfortunately, the casket was closed; Lance Corporal Larson had been shot in the head and in the chest/back. He would have been 20 years old next week.

There was a nice picture of him, sitting at his kitchen table right before he left for Iraq, with a cake. The cake said "Good Luck". His expression in the photo was mostly serious, with a tiny sort of half smile, like he was mainly interested in taking care of business. Which he most definitely was, having started climbing ropes and working out at 14 in order to prepare himself for being a Marine.

I never knew Nick, but it still makes me sad and a little bit angry that a fine young man, so motivated and sure of his station in life at such a young age, is now buried in a cemetery not far from here. He'll never be a husband, or a father; the kids he might have had will never be born. So much future, wasted. I'll be visiting that grave, to plant little flags on Memorial Day, and maybe just to say a little prayer now and then.

So, I was humbled to be in the presence of such an outpouring of love and respect. There is something about those who die while in service of a cause greater than themselves; people instinctively respond to that, in a way that they don't for others.

God bless him, and his family, and may his memory live on in those that he touched, forever.

The poem from the little card at the funeral home reads:

I'm Free
Don't grieve for me, for now I'm free
I'm following the path God laid for me
I took His hand when I heard Him call
I turned my back and left it all
Be not burdened with times of sorrow
I wish you the sunshine of tomorrow
My life's been full, I savored much
Good friends, good times, a loved one's touch
Perhaps my time seemed all too brief
Don't lengthen it now with undue grief
Lift up your head and share with me
God wanted me now. He set me free

More details about Nick's story ...

Wheaton Marine dies in Fallujah - (James Fuller, Daily Herald)
Family and friends hugged and cried in the driveway at the Larson home Wednesday in Wheaton after they learned that Nicholas Larson, a 19-year-old lance corporal in the Marines, was killed in action this week in Fallujah, Iraq. 
Cars with red, white and blue magnets saying "Support Our Troops" crowded the street in front of the home as those who knew Larson gathered to grieve.

Some gazed at the red U.S. Marine Corps flag that hung limply outside. None of them was ready to talk publicly about Larson's death.

The Larson family was notified Tuesday evening by the Marines, with Wheaton police and a local ambulance providing an escort.

The offensive into Fallujah began its third full day Wednesday. At least 10 U.S. troops have died in the fight so far.

Larson, a 2003 graduate of Wheaton North High School was a determined individual, staff members said Wednesday.

"He was a quiet, focused and intense student," said Assistant Principal Matt Biscan. "It's rare for a kid his age to know what they wanted to do, but he knew he wanted to be a Marine.

"We're all very, very sad today," Biscan said. "It was shock when I found out."

Larson was the only son of David and Anne Larson. He followed in the footsteps of his father, who served in the Navy, friends said.

"He seemed like the kid who always wanted to go into the Marines," said Frank Rago of Wheaton, a high school classmate. "He was a good kid who just wanted to help his country. He was definitely very patriotic."

Friends said Larson's determination hit full-throttle when he hung a rope in the back yard to work on Navy SEAL exercises. He also lifted weights every day after school as he prepared to enlist.

"He was kind of scrawny in middle school, but (during high school) he became very muscular," said Tom Lundby, another classmate. "He did a lot of working out, a lot of pull-ups. He was really into that."

Tony Donaldson knew Larson since they attended Monroe Middle School together and found himself laughing at memories while struggling to grasp the loss of his close friend Wednesday.

"He was one of those guys that if you were deciding whether or not to go to school, you'd go just to see what Nick had to say during lunch," he said.

The two friends often chatted over the Internet while Larson was overseas, Donaldson said. In recent weeks, Larson was counting down the days, as his tour was set to end in January.

"He told me it was getting pretty bad, and he was genuinely scared about what was going on there," Donaldson said. "We all respect him for his choices. He died for it, but if there was anyone you'd want protecting your country, it was Nick."

Now it's my town's turn to sacrifice another fine young American.

I'll be going to the services for Nick, to show support and do my own little bit to thank him and his family and friends.

My sincere thanks to Nicholas for giving his life in a cause greater than himself, in fighting for freedom for people he didn't know.

May God rest his soul.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Washington thinks America is stupid

Now that Trump's first Congress is sworn in, the big debates about what is worth keeping in the Affordable Care Act have begun.

So it seems like a great time for a little reminder of just how little regard the Washington establishment has for the average American ...

Washington has been selling us shit sandwiches for decades now, and we've been buying them and asking for more. This is nothing new.

What is new: admitting it.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Empathy - have we reached peak stupid on this yet?

An interesting essay by Bulldog at Maggie's Farm - a site which should be a daily read for you - on empathy and whether people can use it as a weapon to shame you into agreeing with somebody else's, um, stupidity: Has Lack of Empathy Been Pathologized?

I posted the following comment there (copied here with a slight edit for style):

Empathy is important, but it cannot be used to disallow all disagreement with someone else's opinions. That's um, crazy and ridiculous. 

A person's opinions exist independently of who they are as a person. The fact that those opinions are "theirs" is true enough, but they can also change their opinions over time (let's hope so!) so while today you might disagree with their opinion on Trump or whatever, someday their opinion might change and at that time you might agree with them. So ... we agree and disagree not with the emotional center of a person, via empathy, but with the opinions they express, their rational side. 

I'm with you Bulldog - people who so strongly tie their entire identity to their opinions and insist that any disagreement with any of their opinions is automatically an affront to them *personally*, well, sorry, that's 7th grade. I've moved on from 7th grade.

Friday, January 06, 2017

The synthesizer comes SO close to ruining this song. But it doesn't.

Starbuck - Moonlight Feels Right

You know the song, just not the name of the band. Now you do. You're welcome.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Obama:, smart or not?

Commenter Michael at this Althouse post hit on something I too have noticed before:  Like her husband, Mrs. Obama is not all that smart. (8:57 AM)

Some people are impressed by the Obamas in the same way that they are drawn to the Left in general: platitudes favored by intellectuals, with lots of "ten dollar" multi-syllabic words. Makes 'em feel smart and stuff.

I used to be one of those people. I know how they think, and what they read, and the sources of news they cultivate. I also know how far off base they can be when it comes to policy and fixing real-world problems.

The office of president is an executive position, requiring leadership, decisiveness, commitment and fortitude. Just sounding smart is not good enough. Using big words that impress intellectuals is great, but it needs leadership behind it, or it's more than useless, it's deceptive.

The contrast between what Obama sounds like off-teleprompter, vs. on-teleprompter, is instructive. He's a real trainwreck when he's off-teleprompter. It's embarrassing to even listen to it. I'm not sure what the problem is. Is he simply too dim-witted to think on his feet? Tongue-tied from thinking too much like a lawyer i.e., an obsession with parsing every word to death? Maybe both.

I remember very distinctly listening to a Fresh Air interview with actor James Woods back in the 1990s - he sounded like a borderline genius. Very impressive. One of those IQ 150+ people, able to think very quickly and express those thoughts concisely. No "ums" or "uhs". Pretty impressive, especially among the celebrity set.

Obama thinks he's one of those people. So do millions of others. He's not, and it isn't close.

He sounds nothing like those people. He sounds dull-witted, timid, lacking any confidence in his "ideas", whatever those might be, and a complete inability to express them coherently. Shouldn't we know by now what they are, after 8 years?

Soaring speeches are nice but worse than meaningless if not backed by the actions that implement the ideas. The number of people fooled by this in 2008, 2012, and into the current day is distressing.

It's pretty clear that we need more people who can distinguish between meaningless b.s. and actual evidence of leadership.