Monday, June 15, 2009

The Generals

**I can understand why you don't have any use for those generals. A colonel at Pope was taken off the job, when according to the folks he worked with, he was one of the best officers they had ever worked with. Apparently the general got mad or for some other crazy reason and decided he would get him out of the way. The only explanation the general gave for his action was that the colonel wasn't effective. Some body is lying and I don't believe it is the people who worked with the colonel. My love to you.

**A note from my older brother who will take up a "cause" in a minute. One of the reasons that this is very interesting to me is that the "girlfriends" and I were recently discussing the issue and I was telling them that the thing that worried me about our president was that he seemed to be listening to the Generals too much. One of the GFs expressed what many felt: who else can the President rely on for military type stuff? My comments to my brother...

Brother, you are in the ballpark on the generals and it is going to get worst. Rumsfelt's gift to the country was to reorganize the Army in his own image. Naturally, Bush let him do it and so he closed really good military posts and moved them to places like Fort Bragg, which will eventually have 28 generals which is ridiculous. 28 generals on one Post will be a nightmare. Each of them thinking they are somewhere in the Trinity--God, Jesus, Generals and not always in that order. They wouldn't be where they are if they had not been political. Once a general gets pasts one star, it is as political as any politician anywhere. He has to have sponsors, somebody at the higher level looking after him. I can assure you of this, the best leaders in the Army are not the generals. Most of the really good leaders never make it. They size up what is ahead and mostly leave the Service. We are the bigger losers. It isn't that the leadership is bad, just they are not the best. The Generals surround themselves with people who tell them just what they want to hear. They get to believing it and consequently, things happen to the Colonel you're talking about.

If I live long enough, I'm going to write about this sort of stuff: it is terrible. I can't tell you the number of times that I have gone to generals with what I considered ethical and real problems and they gave me the "nobody is home look." Rocking the boat is not a pastime of a general officers, trust me.

It is the one thing that I worry about our president, listening complete;u to the generals. The generals always want more troops and I'm still not convinced we will easily get out of Iraq. What I tell people all the time is that Westmoreland said to Johnson in 68, send me more troops and we'll be home by Christmas. LBJ ramped up the numbers of troops and we did get home by Christmas, unfortunately, it was ten years later. I think the President is smart enough to keep his own counsel. I hope and pray so.

Saturday, June 13, 2009


My therapist hero, now gone on to his just rewards, Al Ellis, says something like, "you own your life." Meaning, your literal life. To take it is self defeating and also often very selfish but in essence, your life is yours, according to Ellis.

I doubt that few would subscribe to Dr. Ellis views completely. And, suicide is a tense topic today because military suicides. In January, for instance, there were more suicides in the military than were killed in war. During April, there were nine suicides at Fort Campbell, home of the famed 101st Airborne Division.

There's a kind of national disturbance with those Americans who care (and not all do) about the rash of suicides with American servicemen. There has never been a conflict so instantly covered as Iraq and Afghanistan. And, let's face it, instant assess fosters complacency, plain and simple. In the commo worlds of cable TV and the Internet, the wars have become at best marginalized.

The "girlfriends" and I have discussed it often. Our views are all over the map and some truth in all the views.

Larry. I think it is the nature of the kind of soldier we are bringing into the military. As a Marine in Vietnam, we did our jobs, tried to survive, until we made it home.

Gary. All this calling home, emails. I don't know what all that means.

Ed. All these repetitive tours have to have something to do with it. Just think, 3 or four times. Family problems, finances, it has got to be tough. And, finally the immature kid says, enough and in a moment of stupidity does himself in.

Ray. In Vietnam, we would go out on operations for months at a time. Eating C rats. Some of these guys in Iraq go out on patrol in the morning, come back at night, all the comforts of home--that being said, still is very hard, has to be. (In Vietnam, servicemen relied on letters and the occasional MARS phone call. Troops today have laptops, video cameras, satellite phones and every iteration of services like Skype. They have Facebook. Their news is from the iPhone, Comedy Central, and blogs. They also are at war.)

Michael. I have a buddy, John, (a physician) you guys have met him. He's doing work with some folks who are trying to get to the bottom of this. I'm calling him. (Michael calls him and John calls us back and Michael hands the phone to me).

Jerry. Good to talk with you, John. What can you tell us or what is your view of what's behind the suicides in the military.

John. Very complicated problem. Lots of these GIs are bringing a history of mental illness into the service. And, of course we don't know that beforehand. There's no mechanism set up to deal with that information even if we knew it. One interesting thing they are discovering is that the Iraqi and Afghanistan vets cannot mix with Vietnam and Korean vets. The experience is to fresh to these guys in Iraq and Afghanistan. Whereas the Vietvets readily talk of their experiences, these guys are not ready to do it.

Jerry. It took at least ten years after Vietnam before vets talked about it. Maybe it is simply too early.

Sam. Well, what does that mean? (this is said later on).

Interpreted, John said that these guys experiences were coming to the forefront because of these psychotropic drugs often and they simply couldn't handle the stress.

CONCLUSION. Maybe what we are looking at is simply no conclusion. Not a conclusive one anyway. The military likes to wrap things up. Like the Marines, give them a two day seminar. Problem solved. Next case. Not going to happen.

The culture of the military has changed. Co-ed, smaller, no draft, repetitive tours, many soldiers less capable of coping. The chain of command may be doing the best they can: they have counseling centers, combat stress contingencies. It only makes sense to those of us sitting out here watching what is happening. Two wars, all the inherent pressures that go with it. So, what do you have? Suicides among our soldiers as part of the price of war. Sad but true. God help us and bless us.

Saturday, June 06, 2009


General Lee's story is a novel—a country boy from North Carolina who entered the military in World War I. Like the rest of the country, young Bill Lee was somewhat ambivalent about what was going on in that far-off land. Having gone to college, at both Wake Forest and North Carolina State and taken a bride, he went off to war. Serving in the trenches and facing death as a common way of life, he performed admirably remaining in Germany after the war in an official capacity as the de facto mayor of a small town. Returning to the States and to his young bride, he wrestled where to cast his lot—to choose the military as a career or pursue his love of the land. His love of country prevailed. He went on to a stint at North Carolina State teaching what we now call ROTC (Reserve Officers Training Corp), then to Panama, where he discovered he was good at the profession of arms.

A succession of assignments and schools followed. He came home at every opportunity. He went to France. Bill saw the failure of the Treaty of Versailles and the aggressive military bearing of the Germans. Their parachute training captured his imagination. Bill and Dava, his wife, took advantage of their circumstances to travel. Returning to the States, Bill attempted to convince others of the new concept of the airborne infantry as he called it.

Bill’s break came during his next assignment in Washington, DC. In a prophetic quirk of events, President Roosevelt became intrigued with German parachute training. No one at the War Department was more knowledgeable than Bill Lee about the German airborne. Either true or myth, as the story goes, Bill personally shared his expertise with the White House. Major Bill Lee was then given the Airborne Project. Bill took his first parachute jump at age 47. As a General, Bill went on to command the 101st Airborne "Screaming Eagles". He became intimately involved in the planning of the D-Day invasion from the beginning even helping to select the drop-sites for the invasion. He also wrote the Airborne Doctrine (how it was to be done).

Tragically, he would never see his hard work and planning come to fruition. On February 4, 1944 he suffered a heart attack forcing him to return to the States from England. Consequently, he would never see his "Screaming Eagles" jump into Normandy. In his honor, the soldiers of the 101st Airborne shouted "Bill Lee" instead of Geronimo as they dropped from planes onto the beaches of Normandy. There is no doubt that much of the airborne success on D-Day was a direct result of Bill Lee's hard work. He is singular in being WW II’s unsung hero.


The 101st Airborne Division, which was activated on August 16,1942, at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana, has no history, but it has a rendezvous with destiny. Like the early American pioneers whose invincible courage was the foundation stone of this nation, we have broken with the past and its traditions to establish our claim to the future. Due to the nature of our armament and the tactics in which we shall perfect ourselves, we shall be called upon to carry out operations of far-reaching military importance and we shall habitually go into action when the need is immediate and extreme.

Let me call your attention to the fact that our badge is the great American eagle. This is a fitting emblem for a division that will crush its enemies by falling upon them like a thunderbolt from the skies.

The history we shall make, the record of high achievement we hope to write in the annals of the American Army and the American people, depends wholly and completely on the men of this division. Each individual, each officer, and each enlisted man must therefore regard himself as a necessary part of a complex and powerful instrument for the overcoming of the enemies of the nation. Each, in his own job, must realize that he is not only a means, but an indispensable means for obtaining the goal of victory.

It is, therefore, not too much to say that the future itself, in whose moulding we expect to have a share, is in the hands of the soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division.

**General Lee wrote this speech on a yellow pad. He was a prolific writer and even wrote thank you notes to folks who wrote thank you notes to him.