Sunday, November 22, 2015

52 years


Today is the 52nd anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. For any of us who remember the day, it is one of those "where were you moments" that haunt us all to this day.

My memory of this day was when Mrs. Newhouse, my first- grade teacher at Argos Elementary School, was called out into the hall. She returned moments later teary-eyed and crying as she told us the president had been killed. Our President.

For young children, the President was our hero. He was young, handsome, vibrant, energetic and lively. And sadly, we learned he was not impervious.

School, of course, was called off and we were sent home to our parents. When my sister and I got home from school it was clear to me, even at the age of six, that both my Mom and Dad were profoundly stunned by the president's assassination.

I remember that night sitting in bed praying that this was just a bad dream. It was worse than that.

The coming days were a national nightmare. Questions arose, "how could this happen? Why did this happen?" The funeral, the procession from the Capitol rotunda to Arlington National Cemetery.

Those days brought an end to an innocence to which I believe we have not recovered. The end of Camelot changed us all. I think we became more cynical, far less idealistic and more distrustful.

One has to wonder how our country would have fared differently if Martin, Bobby and John had not been gunned down before America's eyes.

Some believe Vietnam would never have happened under a Kennedy administration. Most believe Kennedy would have been re-elected the next year.

Nearly everyone harbors their own thoughts about Kennedy's assassination. Was Oswald part of a conspiracy? Was he "lone wolf?" Castro, the Mafia, Kruschev, Johnson? Who killed John? Theories, to this day, bounce around the public consciousness.

In any case, few events have haunted a generation as has the death of our young president. Mr. President, we long for what might have been.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Stand tall, France

Food for thought: France IS our oldest ally. They offered colonial support when we stood against the King and became an independent nation.

The Statue of Liberty was a gift to the United States as a reaffirmation of our friendship.

We have had, at times, a contentious relationship. We've not always agreed, but tell me that you have not had a disagreement with a personal friend and saw that relationship continue and grow.

We had each other's back in WWI and WII. If we offer France our support, be it condolences or something more concrete, it is, you know, just something friends do. 

Stand tall, France. We're with you.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

ACT: There's an epidemic out there

The U.S. Navy--specifically my community, Public Affairs--had a warning shot volleyed across its bow yesterday (metaphorically speaking). A high-ranking Sailor that I very much admired passed away yesterday and I am sad that his death is being investigated as a suicide. In the wake of this tragedy, he leaves behind a wife, children and a grandchild.

I do not want to broach this subject, BUT this is a topic we must talk about, we must address AND we must do something about.

Every day, 22 servicemembers succumb to suicide. So far in 2015 (as of 10/05/2015), 35 Active Duty Sailors and 9 Reservist Component Sailors have committed suicide.

In 2006, 45 AC and RC Sailors died from suicide. Last year it was 68. This is an epidemic plaguing
all five military branches and we cannot simply wish this epidemic away. We must take action. We must ACT. *

* A=Ask C=Care T=Treat

Do you know what to look for when someone might be considering suicide? Here are some warning signs.

* Does the person act out impulsively or out-of-character unexplainably?
* Are they experiencing difficulty managing friendships?
* Do they seek to isolate themselves from friends and family?
* Are they in financial trouble?
* Is their performance in routine tasks suffering?
* Do they exhibit difficulty getting out of bed and getting through daily tasks?
* Are they constantly tired or sluggish?
* Do they abuse alcohol and/or drugs?
* Do they exhibit intense feelings of guilt?

These questions carry over into civilian life as well. I am sure you all have heard the adage "don't commit a permanent solution to a temporary problem. This may sound trite, but in reality it is a battle charge for us all to take care of our friends and loved ones.

If you know someone who worries you, ask them if they are okay. Ask them once, twice, ask them three times. Tell them you care. Show them you care. Tell them others care, tell them this world will be a little less without them. And urge them to talk to their doctor, their pastor, anyone... anyone who can help.

If you are a friend, you must ACT.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

I have been--and ever shall be--your friend

A piece of my heart is crippled with this loss. We all knew this would happen. It had to. After all, none of us can live forever, not even our heroes. After all, we have already suffered the loss of Deforest Kelley, Jimmy Doohan, Gene and Majel Barrett-Roddenberry... And let's not mince words. Leonard Nimoy was a hero. When I learned of Nimoy's passing yesterday afternoon, I was at work where I could not take the time to mourn and to think about how I felt. I was of course, deeply saddened.

Nimoy, along with the rest of the crew of the Starship Enterprise, has been a part of my life for nearly 50 years, Yes, 50 years. I was nine years old when "Star Trek" first premiered. It amazes me that man of his humble stature could have enthralled us fans for half a century. Even more amazing is that Nimoy's first film appearance was in 1951. Usually, when I have eulogized a celebrity on my Facebook page I need to do a little research but not this time. Any TREK fan worth his (or her) salt knows this stuff forwards and backwards.

For the casual observer, Leonard Nimoy was Mr. Spock. For those of us who loved him, he was so much more than merely that. Author, poet, photographer, director, film and television actor, stage actor, singer, humanitarian, father, son, husband and friend are all words to describe the man. Words not mentioned often enough were his humor, intelligence, kindness and integrity... and humanity.

Nimoy was a man of conscience. He was in the truest sense of the word, a renaissance man. He inspired me as I know he did millions of others. As a boy, I watched the alien Spock who in many ways did not fit into his world--nor in his Mother's. Those of us who have always felt different empathized with the man Spock.

Nimoy had said in the past that the filming of "Star Trek - The Motion Picture" was not all that pleasant yet it was in this film that Spock uttered some of the most insightful words throughout TREK's long history.

"Is this all that I am? Is there nothing more? or "THIS... simple feeling is beyond V'ger's comprehension. No meaning. No hope--and no answers." BUT for the character of Spock we finally got to see the half human, half Vulcan finally take that leap to find comfort in his own skin. And none of this would have been possible without the immense talent of Mr. Nimoy.

Like many fans, I got the opportunity to meet him. Twice. Nimoy was a fan of the ST convention world and enjoyed meeting his legions of fans whenever he attended. His onstage talks were delightful, witty, humorous and insightful. Once, my friends and I traveled to see William Shatner and him together on stage in Chicago. Hilarity ensued. So did tears. Watching the two together and you knew they were--as William Shatner said on learning of his passing--"we were brothers."

For all of those people out there who have never understood--or worse, belittled "Star Trek" and its millions of fans, who do not understand the relevance of the series and its characters and look at today's front page headlines of the New York Times, the New York Daily Post, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and countless other fine newspapers and see whose photo and eulogy is front and center. If this does not attest to the power of Nimoy's role in "Star Trek," nothing does.

Nimoy would been 84 a month from yesterday. Our world will be a little less logical in his absence and we fans will miss him greatly... but I am reminded of his (Spock's) words... "grieve not for the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few... or the one." Nimoy's long life was special. He got to do the things he loved and he shared that with us.

"He's not really dead. Not as long as we remember him." ... but we will all miss him.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veteran's Day 2014

Think of it, less than 2% of our nation's population carries upon their shoulders the defense of this nation. In earlier times, when the Selective Service Draft was in play this number was a little higher and far more representative of this nation's diversity.

Men, women, some mere children, some like myself, who are much older have given of our time, our lives (too often, literally), our financial security and sometimes (again, sometimes too often) sacrificed our home and family lives, all for love of country.I thank my fellow servicemembers for their conscious efforts to guarantee that our nation's security is continued seamlessly.

I think of the men and women who served before me... my father, his father, my uncle Jim, my brothers Rob and Bryan, my sister Teresa, my friend Beth's father, my friend Shane's father and so many millions more.

This is a shout out, if you will, to them and to those who gave their all--like my former student Hospitalman Ben Rast, who was killed in action in Afghanistan.

We, who serve, have asked so little and I am constantly moved to tears when I think of those who make a concerted effort to thank us, which is why today is so special to we servicemembers. I remember coming home from Afghanistan in March 2009 to be greeted by hundreds of total strangers standing in line to shake our hands as we entered the terminal at Baltimore's airport. I won't lie. I was in tears as each thanked us.

Happy Veteran's Day, colleagues!