Ready or Not #10: Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all! Today is December 25th, 2013, and many of us wonder where the time has gone. Not just the days of this year but the days, months, and years in our lives.
Christmas is a time of sharing, a time of giving, and a time of remembering. I want to borrow a few lines from the song Memories written by Marvin Hamlisch.

Memories, like the corners of my mind; Misty water-colored memories, of the way we were;

Scattered pictures of the smiles we left behind; Smiles we gave to one another, for the way we were.
The changes we have seen are too many to list, yet the world is not the same as when we started school in the 1950s. Many of the high school graduates of 2014 will be unable to read, write, or perform simple math. Such was not the case when we had teachers such as Mrs. Hutchinson, Mrs. Steadman, Mrs. Copeland, and Mrs. Brakefield. And for us boys, let us not forget the influences of Coach Hub Dotson, Bruce Handley, Paul Wylie, and our principal Mr. Brakefield. As schoolkids, we didn’t realize how fortunate we were to attend Martin High School.
As I write this today, I am filled with memories of my childhood and those who touched my life. I remember Lynn Long, Jerry Chappell, Steve Ferguson, Harry Copeland, David Estes, Greg Gross, L.J. Fondren, Monte Key, Fred Harsany, Steve Hill, and Ronnie Thompson. I remember Bonita Lollar, Laura Jane Morrow, Rickey Henson, Susan Jackson, Karen Smith, Ann Henderson, Donna Stewart, and Hilda Teske.
My point is, no matter who you are, or where you are, or where you came from, there are many who have touched your life. Take a moment to think of them.
Now take a moment to remember those who are no longer with us. I wish I could have one more Christmas with my Mom and Dad. Some day, our children will wish they had one more day with us. As the saying goes, we are not promised tomorrow.
If you are fortunate enough to spend today with family, give each one a hug filled with love. Let them know how you feel. Start a new tradition. Gather all the young ones around and tell them a story about their great grandmother or grandfather. Keep the memories alive, for one day we will be only a memory, and maybe a future generation will tell a story about us.
Take a few minutes to reach out to old friends. A surprise call sometimes lift spirits, and most certainly can evoke memories and laughter.
Christmas is more than giving and receiving gifts. But is it really? Many celebrate their faith, and they should. Some line up at soup kitchens in hopes of getting out of the cold and having a hot meal. Sadly, some will die today. Joyously, some will be born to today. Life happens.
The greatest gift you can give is yourself with unconditional love for your family and appreciation for your friends. Those who have touched our lives have done so for a reason, though we might never know why.
The greatest gift you can receive is the unconditional love from your family and appreciation from your friends.
Let a smile fill your face. Open your arms. Let the joy of family and friends wash over you. For now you have riches beyond measuring.
Merry Christmas to all.
Until next time, Ready or Not.

Ready or Not #9: Dates to Remember

Have we become a nation numb to significant events in our history? Do our elected president, vice president, senators, and congressmen and women truly represent our ideologies? Do our schools ensure our children our history? So I ask you, do you remember the following dates and what occurred on those dates?

July 4th, 1776?
March 6,1836?
December 7, 1941?
September 11, 2001?

Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruiz de Santayana y Borrás, known as George Santayana (December 16, 1863 – September 26, 1952), was a philosopher, essayist, poet, and novelist. Two of his sayings should be remembered by all of us all the time:

1. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
2. Only the dead have seen the end of war.

As we go about our daily lives, trying to make it through the challenges of that day, we should take a moment to remember what we have, how we got it, and how we keep it.

I’m not talking about our car or our house or any of our belongings. I’m talking about our freedoms.

There exists in this world a group of fanatics that would take away what we have. Though the group has been in existence since the late 1980s, its defining moment came September 11, 2001.

The Twin Towers came down when hijacked aircraft slammed into them. Another aircraft hit the Pentagon. The bravery of the passengers on United Airlines Flight 93 prevented this hijacked aircraft from reaching its suspected target, the United States Capitol.

Where were you when the Towers were hit? Do you remember watching the devastation on TV? Almost 3,000 of our citizens were killed.

This group calls itself al-Qaeda. Do not be misled. The members of this group are terrorists, and their goal is a a complete break from all foreign influences in Muslim countries, and the creation of a new world-wide Islamic caliphate. According to Wikipedia, among the beliefs ascribed to Al-Qaeda members is the conviction that a Christian–Jewish alliance is conspiring to destroy Islam. As Salafist jihadists, they believe that the killing of civilians is religiously sanctioned, and they ignore any aspect of religious scripture which might be interpreted as forbidding the murder of civilians and internecine fighting. Al-Qaeda also opposes man-made laws, and wants to replace them with a strict form of sharia law.

In simpler words, this terrorist organization wants the world to become Muslim.

Why aren’t the videos of the Twin Towers coming down shown today? I’ve heard it said the videos offend certain segments society.

I say, if you are offended,don’t watch. But who are you to decide this historical event can be mentioned but not shown?

Each day we lose thousands who were alive for World War II, and who remember where they were December 7, 1941. One day we will lose thousands who were alive and who remember where they were September 11, 2001.

Our political leaders and our school systems that bow to the voices of a few might choose to ignore history, but that doesn’t mean the events did not happen.

As George Santayana said,”Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Once our nation was ruled by another, and the laws of the land were those imposed by the ruling nation.

We must never let that happen. The future of our children, grandchildren, and the many generations to come depend on us.

One day we will have another president who believes in the principles of our Founding Fathers. You remember learning about them, don’t you? They pledged their lives, their fortunes,and their sacred honor to give us what we have today.

If we believe in ourselves and our country, we can only pledge the same.

As for the dates listed in the first part of this article, if you don’t know them, look them up. When you get the opportunity, share the history of these dates with your children and grandchildren. Share other dates as well. Teach those who come after us, for they will be the defenders of our freedoms.

Never forget.

Until next time, Ready or Not.

Ready or Not #8: Hyphen-Americans

I don’t like being put into a category. I don’t like having a label. Yet, I am placed in various categories and have various labels attached. I am identified by my gender, age, education, skin color, and income, among other things. Businesses want to know my likes and dislikes. Some want to know my political and religious affiliations. And you are also part of everything I have identified, and perhaps more.

One area of identification rankles me more than others, which makes me continually shake my head.

Why do we have to identify Americans with the use of hyphens?

Unless you are a Native American, your descendants came from somewhere else. To the best of my knowledge, on my father’s side I am of Scot-Irish heritage. On my mother’s side I am English. So, when people or businesses categorize, label, or otherwise refer to me, should they call me Scot-Irish-English American?

I bring the matter of hyphen-Americans up because we need to realize that as long as we categorize, label, or otherwise identify Americans we will always have a division of races. And as long as we keep these divisions at the forefront we will never have meaningful dialog to identify and solve problems.

My dad, the World War II Marine, sat me down at the kitchen table the morning after I graduated from high school. We were sipping coffee and sharing a father-son moment. He put his cup down and gave me the look–the one telling me He was going to say something and he was only going to say it once and I had better be paying attention. I remember putting my cup down and leaning forward.

“Son, you need to learn this now. I have given you food and shelter. I have made sure you had clothes to wear. When you wanted to play sports, I provided encouragement. When you made mistakes, I made sure you received the appropriate punishment. When you made poor decisions, we discussed why and how you made them. And, again, if warranted, I punished you. I have taught you responsibility, and taught you there are consequences to your actions. But the one thing I want you to leave this table with is I don’t owe you anything, and neither does anyone else.

My dad is gone now but I have never forgotten the words he spoke to me that day. He loved me and I knew it, but the life I was to lead would be mine, with whatever mistakes I made, with whatever god things I did.

So, let’s get this straight. I don’t owe you anything. Just because you identify yourself with a hyphen doesn’t mean you get special treatment. My opinion of you will be based on how you conduct yourself, for that is all I know about you. Your heritage belongs to you, and you should research it, learn about it, and appreciate the sacrifices and bravery of your ancestors. But that’s what it is–your heritage.

Don’t be a hyphen-American.

Be an American.

Once you embrace this, we can take the next step–whatever that step is. Keep on pushing the hyphen and we will stay at a standstill, never pushing forward to a better future for all of us.

I am a veteran, and when I see our Flag, the only colors I see are Red, White, and Blue, and those colors represent all of us.

Until next time, Ready or Not.

Ready or Not #7: Does the Color of Your Skin Make You a Racist?

Note: Like most of you I have been enjoying the summer and visiting family. Now, I’m back and it’s time to touch on some topics.

I was playing golf the other day with a group of my friends, all retired Navy, Marine Corps, Army, Air Force, and Coast Guard veterans. All of us are old and white. We are from the North, South, East, and West. Many of us have college degrees. The years and our experiences have shaped who we are. We are not perfect, but we make no apologies for who we are.

If you are familiar with playing golf, you know it is a game of good shots and bad shots. Like life, sometimes god things happen and sometimes bad things happen. When bad shots or bad breaks occur we exercise our right to demonstrate how many four-letter words we can string together. We we hit good shots we graciously accept the accolades of our fellow competitors.

We all try to shoot the best score we can, and we share a camaraderie that only friends with similar experiences can share. Like most writers I observe the behavior of my golfing buddies and listen to and engage in all types of conversations. I have noticed a trend in the last several outings: we are not fans of Barrack Obama; we are not fans of his policies, and we are concerned about the direction our nation is heading.

As a writer, I also like to stir the pot with questions that elicit responses–both thoughtful and emotional. After one heated discourse about the 6 or so years, I threw this question out: Are you against Obama because he is Black?

I was surprised but not surprised at the moment of silence. Those of us who have served in positions with potential harm learned quickly that the color of one’s skin does not matter. What matters is one’s integrity and one’s ability to perform one’s job. As one who who worked the flight deck of an aircraft carrier, I depended on those around me to be professional at all times. I cared only about one’s ability to do his job, not the color of his skin. To a man, the group was offended that I had asked the question. Like me, they were past skin color. Their replies had to do with actions and performance.

Yet I wondered if a Black man were in our group would we have even said anything? Then I wondered if the color of our skin makes one a racist? Are Whites racist? Some are. Are Blacks racist? Some are. Are Browns racist? Some are. Yet we always seem to focus on the Whites. Read the newspaper. Watch the news. George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin. A White man killed a Black man. Then the uproar at the verdict. And the aftermath that followed. Yet the violence that ensued was deemed to b justified. Are you kidding me?

And now many are afraid to speak out in fear of being labeled a racist. However, I ask you to look at Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, two perceived parasites living on the suffering of their Black brothers and sisters. If we were to say some of the things they have been purported as saying, we would be arrested under the hate crimes law. Makes you wonder about that freedom of speech thing, doesn’t it.

Rodney King, the man who was brutally beaten and kicked by police, asked, “Why can’t we all just get along?” That’s a good question.

As long as there are economic and social divides we will not all get along. As long as some of us have to pay for those who don’t want to contribute or can’t contribute, we will not get along. As long as we have different rules for different people, like no prayer in schools except for Muslims, we will not get along. As long as you have to show your face to get your driver’s license, except if you are female and practice Islam, we will not get along.

A tempest of unrest is not swelling. The tempest is here. Ask yourself is you think you are racist. Of course most of us will deny we are. Now look at the color of your skin. Ask the question again.

One thing about questions, they lead to other questions. Truth will always find the light of day. Better we deal with truth now and search for resolutions than reach the point when bodies begin to pile up.

Until next time, Ready or Not.

Ready or Not #6 : Take a Moment to Remember

Today, May 27, 2013, we celebrate Memorial Day. I am moved to ponder who really celebrates, and what are we celebrating. Are we celebrating a day off our workweek? Are we heading to the beach or mountains or lakes to enjoy time with our families? Are we firing up the grills for hot dogs, hamburgers, steaks, roasted corn on the cob, or other concoctions we’ve come up with through the years? Is this a day, or a few hours, to spend with our loved ones? If so, perhaps we should all take a moment to remember why we can do these things. As has been stated before by men and women much smarter than me, there is a cost to the freedoms we enjoy. Sure it cost money to maintain a strong military, but few of us remember monetary amounts. The most memorable cost is the lives of our fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends.

According to Wikipedia, Memorial Day is a federal holiday which occurs every year on the final Monday of May.Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.Formerly known as Decoration Day, it originated after the Civil War to commemorate the Union and Confederate soldiers who died in the Civil War. By the 20th century, Memorial Day had been extended to honor all Americans who have died while in the military service.

We as a nation celebrate Memorial Day. But do we as individuals remember the men and women who gave their lives? Do we know anything about them?

The next time you’re out shopping at a grocery store or department store, take a moment to look at the elderly men and women who are slumped over their carts, pushing them slowly through aisles. Ask yourself, “I wonder if they were in a war? I wonder how many friends or relatives they lost? I wonder if they remember them on this day?

We can celebrate the dead, and we should. However, we cannot say “Thank You” to the dead, except as we speak to them in our thoughts. And perhaps that is the essence of the purpose of Memorial Day. We can display the flags and put flowers on graves, and we should.

But today is also a day of remembrance of the sacrifices made so we can have our cookouts and visits to beaches and family gatherings.

Take a moment to remember those who gave their all, for they deserve our thanks.

Also take a moment to hug those who are still with us, and tell them thanks for their service. And if you have it in you, ask those who are still living to share stories of those they knew who aren’t with us any more. Listen, ask questions, and learn. You might be surprised at what you hear, and someday you can pass those stories on to your sons and daughters.

As you see the flags waving or wade into lapping waves or enjoy the hot dog or hamburger, take a moment to remember. And somewhere in your thoughts and words, say “Thank You.”

Until next time, Ready or Not.

 

Ready or Not #5: Wake up, America!

A friend of mine, Tommie Lyn, (You should go to her website, buy her books, and read them. A very talented writer and Lady.) posted the following on her Facebook page:

“Posterity! You will never know how much it cost the present Generation to preserve your Freedom! I hope you will make good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven, that I ever took half the Pains to preserve it.” ― John Adams

Reading this seems appropriate in light of recent headlines. The rioting in Sweden by Muslims that turned out to be a well coordinated attack. The death of a soldier in England. There are others, I’m sure, but I will not mention them. You, however, should pay attention to what is happening around you … and that means everywhere. Have we so soon forgotten 9/11?

I remember when my world consisted of the village I grew up in, my playmates in the village, and the school and church I attended. It was a big deal to drive 20 miles to get groceries. Then I grew up … or thought I had. I know I was old enough to serve my country. I didn’t want to go to Viet Nam, but I would have. I joined the Navy and made three cruises in the Mediterranean, along the way sailing the coasts of Israel, Egypt, and Libya. Even then there were rocket attacks and fighting, though the U.S. news agencies concentrated on Viet Nam.

I served with men and women who chose to take the oath instead of heading for Canada and other countries. I raised my hand and said the words. As I recall the early years I smile when I remember the men and women who touched my life, and, I hope, whose lives I touched. Lane Howell from Texas. Ken White from New Jersey. Ray Miotke from Montana. Four guys from different parts of the country who became friends and shared common goals and interests. There were many others, including some of the girls I went to school with who became nurses and served in Viet Nam. (I hope to tell their stories in a future column.) Somewhere during the final 6 months of my enlistment, I decided to stay in for 6 more years. Some stayed in, others didn’t. But we all served.

The second time I took the oath, I listened to the words as I repeated them.

I, Richard Larry Ready, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.

I repeated the oath twice more after that. I made a career in the Navy. Others I knew didn’t, but they served. When I looked at the flag, I realized it was the symbol of freedom, and no other country on Earth has the freedoms we have. I saluted the flag with pride. I still do.

I have had many discussions with others about the oath. Please note we swore to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. I did not swear to support and defend those who would tear our country down. I swore to obey orders … as long as they were according to regulations. All regulations support defense of our Constitution … not individuals.

We, as Americans, need to take an in-depth look at the people we send to represent us. Are they in fact representing us? If so, why are our rights eroding? Why are the rights of illegals more important? Why is it when we speak out against an individual or a group we put ourselves in danger of being arrested for a hate crime? Why can individuals or groups speak out against us and it not be a hate crime? Are there two sets of rules? Has political correctness become the norm? Would our Founding Fathers have been silent?

We need to wake up and speak out. Are we facing an evil that is trying to destroy us? Remember the words of Edmund Burke:

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

We, you and me, must let our voices be heard. We must be united in keeping America safe from all enemies, both foreign and domestic. We live in a republic, and our rights are guaranteed. Or are they?

Whatever we let slip away might never be returned to us. Look at the quote from John Adams again.

Wake up, America.

What is your opinion?

Until next time, Ready or Not.

Ready or Not #4: Mother’s Day

According to Wikipedia, the modern holiday of Mother’s Day was first celebrated in 1908 when Anna Jarvis held a memorial for her mother in Grafton, West Virginia. She then began a campaign to make “Mother’s Day” a recognized holiday in the United States. Today, May 12, 2013, we celebrate our mothers.

My mother passed away in 2000. I was in McLean, VA on a business trip when I got the call around 4 a.m., Monday, November 20.  I had seen my mother on the Friday before I flew out on Sunday morning. My sister, Gayle, called me and told me Mom had passed away. She had died in the Emergency Room of a hospital. She had not been feeling well during the day and my sister took her to the ER in the late afternoon. My mother had been an RN for many years, and like many who work in the medical profession, she never wanted to be a patient. As I was told, Mom was hooked up to machines monitoring her vital signs. Then she had a heart attack and passed away. In the ER. With plenty of medical professionals around. Nothing could have prevented it. Mom was gone. She was 74, and had died one week before her 75th birthday.

I remember getting on a plane at Dulles around 8 a.m. to fly back to Pensacola. I remember arriving, getting in my car, and driving to my sister’s house. I remember hugging my sister. I remember driving to Huntington,WV to bury Mom. I remember seeing Mom in her coffin. I remember asking the funeral home staff to close the coffin because I didn’t want to remember her like that. I remember a lady at the funeral coming up to me and saying she had played in the high school band with my mother. I never knew my mother played a musical instrument. Turns out she played the clarinet. In the midst of the sadness I wondered what other things did I not know about my mother’s life, and now would never know. I remember driving back. And life went on. The sun kept coming up. Bills kept coming in. And the years passed.

Each year I think of my Mom, and not only on Mother’s Day. There are thousands of questions I would like to ask her. I thought I would always have the time to do so. I always tried to call her on Mother’s Day if I could not be with her. I tried to get her a card, a gift, some flowers, or take her out to eat.

Now I wonder why I had to wait for a special day called Mother’s Day to show her I loved her.

For those of you who still have your mothers, look at her hands, touch her hands, hold her hands, and think of how much those hands have done for you. Look at the wrinkles on her face, and know you are the reason for some of them. Touch her face with love, and kiss the lined cheeks that touched your own cheeks with love. Look into her eyes and see the love a mother has for her child, and let her see the love a child has for his or her mother. Put your arms around her and let her feel the love you have for her. Hold her close, like you never want to let her go. These actions are more powerful than spoken words.

Before she had you, she had a life. What was she like? What did she do for fun? What were her favorite things? Ask your questions now. Someday you might want to tell your own children about her.

The time will come when you will not be able to hug her and tell her you love her. All you will have are the memories, and you cannot hug or kiss memories. Don’t wait for one day out of the year to show your mother you love her.

Still, I have to say the words, though she’s been gone for almost 13 years. I love you, Mom, and I miss you, but most of all, thank you for being my mother.