Monday, September 3, 2018

Where have all the flowers gone?

Ten years ago I was stationed in Kabul, Afghanistan for 13 months where I served as the NCOIC (Non-commissioned officer in charge) at CSTC-A's public affairs unit. 

Over the course of the past few months (and in the coming days), I have been posting some favorite photos that I shot during my tour of duty on my Facebook page.

On this particular day (photo above), I was assigned to cover the dedication of a new community water well. 

Freshwater was (and is) at a premium for Kabul's citizens. This water well was located centrally in one of the provinces so that the local population had relatively easy access to fresh clean water.

The lifespan of an Afghan is ridiculously short compared to citizens of other nations. One child in four dies before the age of five years due to poor sanitary conditions and a lack of access to fresh clean drinking water.

This water project was a concerted effort to make a change for the better for the citizens in the immediate locale.

During the dedication ceremony, more than 200 locals, mostly men (village elders), some women and lots of children, gathered. Security that day was provided by members of the Afghan National Army.

In my Navy career (for 21 years) I was blessed with many opportunities. I served two back-to-back tours in Kuwait and one tour in Afghanistan. 
This dream assignment gave me the opportunity to serve as editor (and so much more) and lead news writer for The Enduring Ledger, our command monthly magazine.

Two old Navy campaign promised to "See the world" and "It's not just a job, it's an adventure." I can excitedly tell my readers it's all true. The Navy exposed unremarkable me to a world I could only dream about.

As always, I wonder where these wonderful, beautiful people are a decade later.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Free press forever!

More than 250 newspapers across the United States today in solidarity protesting Donald Trump's calling the press the "enemy of the people."

I have never believed the press was the "enemy of the people." 

Heck, to some degree, I was a member of the press for 21 years as a Navy journalist, so I do have a connection.

The media, be it print or radio/television broadcast, have a mission: To keep us informed.

The Donald has made it his lot in life to call the press "the enemy." Let's face it, Trump has created and drawn the lines with anyone who disagrees with him. He designates them as dummies, the enemy of the people, or worse.

If the Donald feels he is under siege from the press, you really have to ask yourself why? He goads the press, he taunts them, he insults reporters, he whines he is being treated unfairly, he calls them childish names. And for the most part, the press has turned the other cheek. Trump acts like a petulant, little-spoiled brat. Not the stuff of great presidents, to be sure.

He has insulted our allies and cozied up to our enemies, and when the press does its job by reporting this, this does not make them the enemy, this does not make the reports "fake news," but the conveyance of our current sad state of affairs.

Ask yourselves why Donald barred the press from being present when he met with Vladimir Putin. Ask yourself why he forbade the press from being present during his meetings with the North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

What Donald wants is for the press to turn a blind eye; to gush all over him like he is the best thing since spring. In other words, he wants the press to kiss his ass, and most legitimate news sources are having none of that.

The free press is one of the bedrocks of our society. The free press is constitutionally guaranteed and it exists to keep us in the know. I am not so naive as to fail to recognize some members of the press have an agenda (Fox News, anyone?). If you worry about that, then don't rely on one news source. Read multiple news sites, watch multiple news outlets.

Don't be duped. The press is not the enemy of the people.

But ignorance is.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Take the long way home

Today was a great deal of fun. I was a man on a mission today, starting my visit in Akron, my hometown, visiting David and Marilyn Kruger. Words cannot describe the joy of seeing them both. Marilyn was my former art teacher, mentor, and one of the first people who accepted and welcomed me with open arms when I came out in 1982. Marilyn is a devout Methodist and back then, I was fearful of losing anyone upon their learning I was gay. 

When I tearfully told her, she pretty much asked me, "what took you so long?" I replied that I was going to go to hell for who I was (am). She countered with, "God does not hate you for who you are. He made you and loves you as you are."

I really MUST make the time to see them more often.

My friends Randy and Adele Kindig renewed their wedding vows.

Randy had asked me earlier this week if I would be willing to read a poem to "introduce" them to their family in the chapel where they married 40 years ago today.

Would I be willing? More than that, I was honored to be asked! As Randy said, "You were there the first time, we'd love for you to take part this time too."

I read Edmund O'Neill's "Marriage Joins Two People in the Circle of its Love."

Back when we were teens, Randy, Adele, Phyllis (my [then] girlfriend, and later my wife) were tight as can be. We served as each other mates at the other's weddings.

I played a part in Randy and Adele getting together in our junior year in high school. I have known Randy since 1973 when we sat across from one another in study hall and Adele was in my junior high school English class.

Today doing their renewal ceremony, I learned Randy is quite the romantic. His vows were beautiful! When Adele read hers, she at times, struggled (quite successfully) to contain her emotions.

Needless to say, their ceremony was very moving!

Their short ceremony was beautiful. Afterward, they had a sit-down dinner at Adele's mother's (who will be 82 tomorrow) retirement home. Randy and Adele, like myself, have rather large families and for me, it was wonderful catching up with them all, some who I had not seen since the late 1980s.

Seeing their three children, whom I have known since they were born now all have kids. Randy and Adele, like myself, have rather large families and for me, it was wonderful catching up with all the siblings and their families!

Seeing all of the Kindigs (and Cumberlands--Adele's family) today left me rather nostalgic. On the way back, I took (with thanks to Supertramp) "the long way home," and drove by three places where I grew up.

First up, I drove by the site where I lived when I met Randy and Adele. That home no longer exists, with a cornfield standing in its place.

If you have ever driven on US 31 (heading north or south) you might have noticed a sign that reads Geneva Center four miles (or so) north of Rochester, Indiana.

I grew up in Fulton County and have seen those signs ever since I was a young kid BUT I never knew what the place was UNTIL today.

As I drove past, heading north on old US 31, I slammed on my brakes and turned around. Curiosity won out and I drove back and onto the property to see what this "mysterious place" was.

Meandering through the woods was a road leading to one large structure and a number of smaller ones. Off of one of the connecting roads, through the forest, I saw a huge cache of canoes.

At various spots, you can see hiking trails. Needless to say, the center is quite beautiful! It seems the center is a retreat frequented by members of many church congregations and organizations.

After leaving the dinner, I stopped at the home on Indiana 110, on the Fulton-Marshall County line where I lived during my kindergarten to the second-grade years.

When I stopped, the current resident was hosing down the deck. I asked if she minded if I took a picture of the home.

I explained I had lived there 1961-1965. The home looks quite different as the owners have added a second floor. We talked for about ten minutes. It was quite pleasant and I was gratified to see this home again. I've driven past it many-a-time over the years, but this was the first time I actually stopped.

After leaving there, I drove on to Argos and drove by the home where I lived during my sophomore year in high school. After leaving there, I stopped by Argos Community Schools where I attended grades K-2 and 9-10... yes, my family moved around quite a bit when I was a kid (I attended six different schools as a kid).
What a great day today was!

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The gauntlet

I'm thinking we, as a people, need to take a long hard look at ourselves... and take a chill pill.

By now everyone knows that Trump press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked to leave a restaurant over the weekend. Glee abounded among some of us (not me). I reported the event pretty much without comment.

She is now receiving death threats. So let me ask, when is enough enough?

Look, I hate Ms. Sanders and especially her boss, but I don't think I would have asked her to leave. What I would have done is this: I think if I were the restaurant owner I would have asked for a moment,m as a taxpayer, to bend her ear for a few minutes.

We pay her salary and I don't think it wrong that we have the right to ask her to listen, not talk (I/we already know her views) tell her respectfully how we feel and then let her eat in peace.

Nothing may come of it, but who knows, maybe a seed is planted.

Let's face it, the gauntlet has now been thrown. Sanders was asked to leave the restaurant. Mark my words, Nancy Pelosi is going to soon (if she has not already) face a similar situation.

You know, tit for tat. You cast a stone and I hurl one back.

Again, when is enough enough?

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Think twice, three times before...

So Roseanne went and got herself fired and her show jettisoned from the ABC network. I find it hard to celebrate this. First off, I didn't watch the show's revival. I could not in good conscience watch her knowing she supports the Donald.

Don't get me wrong. I think ABC's decision to cancel her was imminently correct, no questions asked.

What makes me sad is that a woman (or a man, for the matter) of her talent, her influence, and standing in the entertainment community (or any community) could be so racist, so unfunny, and so wrong!

It is hard to celebrate a racist. It is, however, not hard to celebrate punishing someone for crossing the line as she clearly did.

Canceled she is. Of course, she will apologize (I'm sure she already has... and saying "it was just a joke" does not cut it), but as many have pointed out today, freedom of speech does not, cannot, shield one from freedom of consequences. *

I dislike teaching lessons such as this. A lot of talented people are going to lose her job because of her mouth. I'm reminded that when one is angry and one wants to fire off an email, that it is best to write it, set it aside an hour or two. If, after that time, the message is still appropriate it may be okay to send it.

Maybe people who reside on the twitternet should follow this maxim as well... and that goes for certain politicians too.

* yes, I am fully aware my stance on fines being levied against sports figures who kneel during the national anthem can be construed similarly. There is, of course, a huge difference. That discussion is best left for another day.