Tuesday, August 23, 2016

My Love-Hate Relationship with Russia and Ukraine

A Map of the Former Soviet Union. 
Ukraine is the yellow country on the far west.

The kind of person we are inside shows itself both in what we do and how we react.  I had a soul-revealing moment when I heard the news in 2014 of Russia invading Eastern Ukraine and taking Crimea. The summary of the thought that raced through my mind:  “You Go Vladimir (Putin)!”

Cheering for Russia in a military dispute with Ukraine is like cheering for the New York Yankees against a high school team.  Nevertheless I had a vivid moment, not of loving Russia, but hating Ukraine.

The face that came into my mind was my grandmother.  She and my grandfather escaped Ukraine, then part of Russia, at the turn of the 20th century when more than a million Jews were slaughtered in Ukraine in a series of attacks called pogroms. My grandparents had the double good fortune of making it all the way to America.  Many other Russian Jews fled to Eastern Europe.  Those who fled to Eastern Europe and their children were killed by the Nazis 40 years later.

The Holocaust in Ukraine

My grandparents would have described themselves as Russian Jews, not Ukrainian Jews.  For the last thousand years Ukraine has been Russia a lot more than it has been an independent country.  Mark Schauss covers the sad history of Ukraine and Russia in The Russian Rulers History Podcast, available on iTunes. 

While Russia, Poland and much of Eastern Europe has a long history of hating Jews, Ukraine is the most anti-semitic country in a very nasty region. 

Next August, when I ride across what my grandparents called Russia, my trip will begin in Odessa, Ukraine. I won’t be in Ukraine long, but I expect to have the same experience arriving in Odessa that I had when I first set foot in Germany:  “Can this beautiful place really be home to those who slaughtered so many of my people?”

I am re-reading Vassily Grossman’s “Life and Fate,” a haunting book that is “War and Peace” set in World War II, particularly in Stalingrad.  Currently I am reading the letter a Jewish mother in Ukraine is writing to her son in the Russian Army.  The Germans just took over her town.  The Jews are being rounded up, robbed and will soon be killed.  Most of the neighbors are happy and cheer the Germans on, taking the possessions and houses of the Jews.  The mother writing the letter describes women who were friendly for 50 years suddenly turning on her with venom. The neighbor thinks the Jews are getting what they deserve. 

My love-hate relationship with Ukraine and Russia extends through my whole life.  My first military job was live-fire testing of the US Air Force missile inventory, everything from the Sidewinder wing rocket to the Minuteman multi-stage nuclear missile, the main weapon delivery system in the US Cold War arsenal.  Then I was a tank commander on the East-West German Border waiting for World War III to start. 

When I went to college after the Army, the literature of Russia and the literature of Florence, Italy, became lifelong passions.  Chekov, Dostoevsky, Lermontov, Pushkin, Tolstoy and later Solzhenitsyn wrote the books I loved most, along with C.S. Lewis, Dante and Machiavelli.  Now I am studying the Russian language so I can read the authors I love most in their language.  Russia is currently home to many brilliant authors, but who knows when they will be forced underground. 

From my grandparents persecution, to my Cold War childhood and military life, through finding the beauty of Russian literature in college, to my current plans to travel across Russia and neighboring countries, I continue to intensify my love-hate relationship with Russia and all of its sad and brilliant history.  At this age, my love-hate relationship with Russia and Ukraine is a permanent part of my life.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Who Fights Our Wars? Flight Medic Returns from Another Deployment

Staff Sergeant Pamela Leggore on her second deployment to Iraq

When Task Force Diablo first deployed to Iraq in May of 2009 most of the unit was setting up facilities and operations after a last-minute base change.  We were slated to be at Balad Air Base, we were switched to Camp Adder, also know as Tallil Ali Air Base.

While the transport and maintenance operations moved into new facilities, the MEDEVAC unit was on site and in full operation.  Charlie Company, 1-52 Aviation, an active Army MEDEVAC unit, was already on site and in operation at Tallil.  Pennsylvania pilots and medics joined Charlie Company operations.

Dust storms grounded many flights during the summer at Tallil, making the daytime sky a so thick with dust, it was hard to see the next truck in a ground convoy, let alone fly.

Soon after we arrived, Leggore was on a MEDEVAC mission to rescue soldiers badly injured in an attack on their convoy.  The mission was successful and it was a very fast start to what has become a long career in Army medicine.  In the years since 2010 when she returned from deployment, Leggore has earned a nursing degree and has recently returned from another deployment to Iraq.

Between deployments she trains other medics with the skills she learned in combat and through advanced education in the Army and as a civilian.

Staff Sergeant Pamela Leggore training medics 
under simulated combat conditions at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pa.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

George Orwell: Brave Soldier, Great Writer, So Wrong Predicting Post-War Politics

Last week on vacation I read "Why I Write," four essays by George Orwell.  I read the book for the first essay, from which the book gets its title, to remind myself why anyone would want to write a book.  Orwell says the four reasons are Vanity, Love of Language, Historical Impulse and Political Purpose.  I have all four. Orwell says that after fighting in the Spanish Civil War against the Nazi-supported Franco government, he was primarily writing to bring about political change.

As a political writer, Orwell has few equals.  The last essay in this book is his most famous "Politics and the English Language." This lucid essay describes the how bad thinking leads to bad use of language and how bad language leads to bad thinking.

The third essay, "A Hanging" is a devastating comment on "justice" dispensed by Colonial masters.

The second essay, "The Lion and the Unicorn: Socialism and the English Genius" is 2/3rds of the book, 84 of its 120 pages. It was written in the middle of World War II.  The essay asserts that by war's end or shortly after England will become a socialist nation. Orwell sees this as inevitable, fully nationalized industries and all.  Orwell is wonderful at describing politics, nowhere better than in his 1945 book "Animal Farm."  But as a predictor of political future, he is no better than Dick Morris predicting a Mitt Romney landslide in 2012.

I read the entire essay to remind myself that an insightful, brilliant person who wants a specific political result can use his considerable writing skills to build a mound of rubbish.

Friday, August 12, 2016

War Books About Before and After Wars: Three Books by Kazuo Ishiguro

This summer I have read three more books by Kazuo Ishiguro.  I have just two books to go to read all of his seven novels and a collection of short stories.

The first novel I read, and still my favorite, is "The Remains of the Day." Like the novels I will talk about below, it is about life in the years before and after World War II.  We see the world change and we see the effects when great men make great mistakes in all of these novels.

In the three novels I read recently, World War II is in the background, but we see very little fighting.  We see lives changed, relationships made and ruined and the horror of war lurking somewhere just beyond the page.

Ishiguro's first novel,"A Pale View of Hills," is set in Nagasaki just after the War.  The narrator is Etsuko, a young woman who has a troubled friend who is a single mother.  The narrator eventually marries, has children, divorces and moves to England.  The single mother, Sachiko, is erratic and Sachiko's daughter, Mariko, is very strange.

Occasionally characters in the story mention that some part of Nagasaki is looking more lovely than ever.  No one says Nuclear Blast Site, but the park or garden they praise not so long before was the site of the single biggest bomb blast in World War II.  The people of Nagasaki are trying to restore their lives under American occupation and with an invisible hazard no one really understands.

Was the troubled child a radiation victim? Did the narrator's daughter eventually commit suicide as an adult because of being born in Nagasaki just after the war?  Losing the War, the Bomb, and American Occupation haunt the narrative and deepen the tragedy of this beautifully told story.

The second novel is "An Artist of the Floating World" The first-person narrator is an aging artist named Masuji Ono. The story is set in post-war Japan in an unnamed city.  We hear the story of Ono's life in his memories and through conversations he has with old colleagues and with his family, especially his daughters.

Ono started as a commercial artist churning out paintings for sale to tourists.  He eventually finds a "master" and spends several years with an artist who paints the pleasure world of Imperial Japan--Geishas and the places they work.  As the war nears, Ono becomes political and is rejected by his master.  Before and during the war, Ono's propaganda paintings have a wide audience, but in the Japan of democracy and US Occupation, Ono hides his paintings and his past.  Again, the war is not at the center but hovers everywhere in the background.  The "Floating World" of the title is the euphemism for the pleasure zones where men gathered for drink and games and women.  

The third book is "When We Were Orphans," is a detective novel set in Shanghai in the years before and after World War II.  We follow the narrator, Christopher Banks, from his childhood in Shanghai in the 1920s through the 1950s and the resolution of the mystery.

Christopher is the child of English expatriates working and living in Shanghai. His best friend is a Japanese boy, Akira, whose family is also in the expatriate community in pre-war Shanghai.  When Christopher is nine, his parents disappear, first his father, then his mother.  Christopher goes to England to live with relatives and grows up to become a great detective.  On the eve of World War II, Christopher returns to Shanghai to solve the mystery of his parents disappearances.

Through Christopher Banks we see China torn by the communists and the nationalists and the horrible atrocities committed by both.  We also see the beginnings of the Japanese invasion. The return of Akira to the story was the most implausible moment of an otherwise brilliant book.

As with "The Remains of the Day" each of these books present the atmosphere of the period before and following World War II from a very different perspective.  For people like me who are interested in war and its effect on history, these books show how profoundly wars change the lives of those who survive the war, especially those on the losing side.  

Monday, August 8, 2016

Video Comparing Russian and US Army Field Rations: Beef Stew from Both Countries

Earlier this year, I ordered Russian Army field rations (Индивидуальный рацион питания/ИРП) from eBay.  This video compares the Russian ration rations with US Army MREs.  I compare the contents and have my kids compare the taste.  

Thanks to Teb Locke of Franklin and Marshall College for filming the taste test in the studios at F&M.  

Friday, August 5, 2016

Like Watching a Dinosaur Sit in a High Chair

The Refueling Crew at Camp Garry Owen in Iraq in 2009.
Soldiers from Echo Company, 2-104th General Support Aviation Battalion

I made two trips to Camp Garry Owen during my deployment to Iraq in 2009-10.  This small base was close to the Iran-Iraq border and was hit by rockets regularly.  When I flew up it was on a Blackhawk helicopter taking carrying a team that was looking for smugglers along the border.

When I got to the base, I took a tour of the tiny facility and wrote about it here. Matt Kauffman (3rd from left, 2nd row) took me on a tour.

When we got back to the fueling area, I watched a Chinook helicopter land in the tiny space between the blast walls of the base.  When I say a query on twitter from Maiken Scott of WHYY's The Pulse about moments of Awe, I called right away.

The lead pilot on that Chinook was Chief Warrant Officer 4 Jeff Hatt.  At minute 14 on the link below, I describe as best as I can remember the watching Jeff Hatt land that big bird in that small space by turning 90 degrees at the last moment.

He made the same maneuver on take-off.  It was just as impressive to watch in either direction.

Seeing any expert do their best work is something I love.  Whether it is sports or flying or racing or dance or writing, seeing the best at work is wonderful.


Thursday, August 4, 2016

Going to the Top of the Chain of Command

Today I talked with one of the soldiers I served with during for the last several years.  I told her about asking Congressman Joe Pitts to help me get the 11 months and 9 days of service I need to complete 20 years.  He couldn't help.  So she suggested I write to the President.

So I did, on www.whitehouse.gov

Here's what I wrote.  I will let you know what happens:

On May 3 of this year, I left the Army at age 63.  I first enlisted in 1972, served for 11 years on active duty and in the reserves then left the military to pursue a civilian career in 1984. In August of 2007 I re-enlisted at 54 years old, made possible by a temporary increase in the enlistment age.  I knew the mandatory age for ending my enlistment was 60.  I deployed to Iraq for a year in 2009-10.  I volunteered to go to Afghanistan in 2012 with the 55th Brigade of the PA Army National Guard, but the deployment was cancelled.  I got two extensions past age 60, in part because I scored maximum on the fitness test and was in a shortage job skill.  Earlier this year, I asked for, but did not get an extension to serve another year.  As a result, I left the Army with 19 years and 21 days of service.  As you are aware, military retirement requires 20 years.  I am a bicycle racer and finished an Ironman Triathlon at 61 years old.  I am physically able to serve and good at my military job. I live in the Congressional district of Joe Pitts and asked for his assistance.  He was unable to help.  At this point, I believe only President Obama could help me.  I would be happy to serve and know that medical personnel get waivers up to their late 70s.  Since I have six kids, three adopted and three the old fashioned way, the retirement income would be put to good use.  But I also would like to maintain my connection with the soldiers I served with in Pennsylvania and in Iraq.  Without an official connection to the military, I cannot go on military bases.  My service and all of my discharges were honorable throughout my career.  I have many awards and decorations.  My tour in Iraq was with the 28th Combat Aviation Brigade, Pennsylvania Army National Guard.  While I did not serve in the Vietnam War, I served during that war and was temporarily blinded in a missile explosion in Utah.  Thank you in advance for anything you could do to let me complete my long career.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

BFFs Army Style: My Platoon Sergeant 32 Years Later

Army version of BFF: Best F#ckin' Friends

Ron Lamm, Command Sgt. Maj. Retired

In his book "The Four Loves," C.S. Lewis said one mark of friendship is that after any passage of time, the conversation between friends picks up right where it left off.  I have not seen Ron Lamm since I left Alpha Company, 6th Bn., 68th Armor in May of 1984.

Last weekend, in one of those coincidences turbocharged by Google, I met Ron at the reunion of Charlie Company, 6-68th Armor.  On Friday of last week, I was looking up when 68th Armor was deactivated and found a Facebook link to the reunion.  The reunion was the following day.  I showed up at the Charlie Company reunion and found a few people from Alpha, including my former platooon sergeant, Ron Lamm.

My son Nigel and I were in Pottsville that morning at the city's annual bicycle race.  After the race we drove to Fort Indiantown Gap and went to the reunion. I met several people I remembered then found Ron.  We sat at one of the picnic tables for a half hour and talking about our mutual interest in World War II.  We talked about our fathers' service during the war and then talked about Ron's recent ride in a restored B-17 Flying Fortress bomber.  Ron told me about a project to restore the original "Memphis Belle" one of the most famous B-17s.  Ron was talking about how they used staggered waist guns in the 1990 movie, but the actual Memphis Belle was a B-17F waist guns opposite each other, not staggered as in the later G model.  We are both the kind of guys who know that staggered waist guns and chin turrets are modifications made in the G model of the B-17.

Ron told me about the rest of his career after I left Alpha Company.  He made Command Sgt. Major in 1990 and stayed with 68th Armor until the unit was disbanded in 1995.  He also volunteered for the Gulf War, but would have had to take a reduction to E5 to go, so he turned it down.  Ron has been retired 21 years.  In a few years he will be retired longer than he served.

Talking with Ron reminded me how very sure I was that I should leave the Army in 1984.  I really liked Ron, I liked the unit, I had the papers for OCS filled out, but was sure I needed to move on.  I have Ron's email now and we have tentative plans to go to an airshow.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Worst Retirement Plan Possible

In May of 1984, I had a total of eleven years and two months of active and reserve service.  At the time I was a staff sergeant, a tank section leader and had just filled out the application for Officer Candidate School (OCS).  

At that critical point, I had to decide whether to stay and finish 20 years or more of service, or get out, grow a beard and be a real civilian.

SPOILER ALERT!  I grew the beard.  

How did I make this momentous decision to leave the military with nine years till retirement? 

Because of advice from my uncle Jack, the only other recent veteran in my family.  Jack retired in 1978 from the Air Force after 20 years of service.  He had three full tours in the Vietnam War and three temporary duty (TDY) assignments to that war that stopped short of the 180-day line of counting as a full tour.  He flew back seat in an F4 Phantom fighter and was also a navigator in a refueling plane.  When he was not in Southeast Asia, he was often assigned to Thule, Greenland.

Jack said that if I stayed in I should go to OCS.  But if I stayed in I would be in a desert war before I got out.  More importantly, he reminded me that with a reserve retirement I get no money till age 60 and I would be subject to recall to duty any time until age 60 if I was enlisted, age 63 if I was an officer.

He went on to describe the most unhappy people in the Vietnam War as retired aircraft mechanics reactivated in their 50s and taking incoming mortar fire while trying to fix aircraft.

Jack said, "If you take the retirement, here's the choice.  You either go to war or forfeit all pay and benefits for life."  


With all that clarified, I left the military, grew a beard and got a job with an ad agency.  You may think I could have gotten the job anyway, but not really.  During the three years I was in the 6th Battalion, 68th Armor in Reading, Pa., I worked on the loading dock at Yellow Freight near Lancaster, Pa.  I was a Teamster.  With a union job, I could simply sign out for reserve duty any time I needed to.  As a section leader, I had monthly meetings on Wednesday nights, drill set up on Friday, and other additional duties beyond reserve weekends.  In a union job, the extra Army time was no problem.  In a white-collar job, that meant choosing between work and Army.

Most reserve and National Guard leaders are government or union workers.  

My decision was rational, but the irony is sadly funny.  At 54 I re-enlisted.  At 56 I go to the desert war Jack predicted and at 63 I get out one year short of a retirement and three years past the date I would have started receiving my Army reserve retirement pay.  

The 68th Armor did not mobilize for the Gulf War, and not many tankers were activated for Iraq and Afghanistan.  As a reserve tank officer, I would almost certainly have missed the Gulf War, and most likely would not have gone to Iraq or Afghanistan since I would have had almost 30 years service by then.  

As a military career move, I should have stayed in my reserve unit.  But if I did stay in the reserves, I would have had a lot of reasons to either stay in the Teamsters union or try to get a government job. I could not have had the world-traveling civilian career I had during the 90s and first decade of the 2000s.  

Jack and I talked in 2005 about all the places I had been in the world, versus all the places he had been with the military. My job took me to the capitals of every thriving economy in the world.  The places I went most were Paris, London, Hong Kong, Singapore and Sao Paulo.  Jack's big destinations were war-torn Asian airfields with winters in Thule, Greenland.  

I would have liked a military retirement, but the travel with my civilian job really was amazing--and incompatible with reserve service.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Soviet Armor vs. American Armor, Israel 1973

In July and August 1975, I went to the U.S. Army Armor School in Fort Knox, Kentucky, after three years in missile weapons testing.

We learned the basics of armor and about our tank, the M60A1.  We also learned about a serious flaw in our tanks that was fixed at great cost by the Israeli Army.  The Israelis fought and defeated the armies of Egypt, Syria and Jordan using the M60A1 among other tanks.  It turns out the hydraulic fluid in our tanks was prone to catch fire.  After the Israelis lost crewmen to these fires, the hydraulic fluid was changed.

We also learned how important mechanical reliability is to combat tank crews.  The Arab countries used Soviet tanks, primarily the T-55 and T-62 main battle tanks.  We learned the difference between "live" and "dead" track.  Soviet tanks used dead track, like bulldozers that does not use rubber bushings.  In hard use, especially at high speeds, dead track is more prone to break.  According to one report, the Syrian Army lost one-fourth of its tanks before they reached the battle in the Golan Heights due to automotive failure.

After the 1973 War, the Israelis installed American-made drive lines in captured Soviet tanks to make the Soviet armor more reliable.

To people who have never trained and lived in a tank, they can seem like the indestructible behemoths of movies.  But real life in a tank is a life of wrenches and rags.  As a tank commander of one of the most reliable tanks of its time, my crew and I spent five hours or more maintaining our 54-ton tank for every hour of operation.  Each of the 80 track blocks on each track were held together with a center guide and two end connectors.  Each of the 160 center guides and 320 end connectors could work loose and had to be checked, often.  The center guides ran between six pairs of road wheels, three pairs of return rollers, the drive sprocket and front idler wheel for adjusting track tension.  Each of the wheels had inner steel plates bolted to the aluminum wheels.  The road wheels were attached to torsion bars.

We tightened bolts all the time.  Our tanks would received major service at 6,000 miles of operation, usually including a refurbished V12 diesel powerplant and transmission.

And our tanks were so much more reliable than the Soviet counterparts that the Israelis ditched their drivelines and installed American-made drivelines to make the Soviet tanks more reliable.

War shows strengths and weaknesses.  Reliable, effective armor is definitely an American strength.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Laurus, Book 19 of 2016: A Tale of Old Russia that Stretches to Florence and Jerusalem

Eleven of the books I have read so far this year are by Russian authors writing about life in Russia from the present back through the last two centuries.  This book goes several centuries further back into Russian history.

Laurus by Eugene Vodolazkin showed me a Russia that I have seen only in fleeting glimpses. We follow the title character, Laurus, from when he loses his parents as a child until the end of his long life as a healer and a holy man between the mid 1400s to the 1520s. 

This is a medieval book by setting and by the parade of wretched, reverent, hopeful, fearful and foul characters that people the pages of this wonderful book.  After Laurus (Arseny in his early life) loses his parents he moves in with his grandfather, a healer named Christopher.  Arseny follows his grandfather and becomes a healer, but as his life progresses, Arseny relies less on the herbs and lore of Christopher and more on the healing gift he has from God.

Arseny becomes adept at healing plague victims.  He heals a young woman from far away named Ustina.  They fall in love and live together.  Ustina gets pregnant then she and their son die in childbirth. 

At that point, Arseny becomes an itinerant “Holy Fool” in the city of Pskov. (Pskov is the northwest corner of modern Russia.)  He shares Pskov with two other Holy Fools.  One is Holy Fool Foma, who is very territorial.  Foma is one of the many brilliant bits of comic relief we get on the long life of suffering of our very Russian hero Arseny/Laurus (also at various times Ustin and Ambrosius). 

In the middle of the book, we meet Ambrogio, an Italian from Florence with a gift of Prophecy as strong as Arseny’s gift of healing.  Ambrogio is convinced the world is ending soon and the only place he can get exact knowledge of the coming Apocalypse is in Pskov.  In 15th Century Florence, Ambrogio finds a trader willing to teach him Russian.  Ambrogio learns Russian with an accent perfect for Pskov in short order and sets out for Pskov.

In Pskov, Ambrogio meets the mayor.  The mayor introduces the Italian to Arseny and bankrolls their trip to Jerusalem.  All the horrors of the road befall them.  Ambrogio is killed near Jerusalem; a sword but lives and return to Pskov slash Arseny. 

Late in life Arseny goes to a monastery and finally lives in a cave.  He takes the blame for a sin he did not commit and dies rejected by thousands who he healed.  But when he finally dies, more than 100,000 people mourn his passing. 

Laurus shows from beginning to end that the life of true faith, the life truly given to others, means poverty, rejection and suffering.  Arseny, like the Bishop in Les Miserable rejects this world out of habit and choice.  Arseny, like the Bishop, illustrates the passage called the Beatitudes in the Gospel of Matthew.  I am adding that passage at the end of this review. 

Laurus is the Book of Acts set in Russia with the unrelenting suffering of the Apostle Paul set in a colder climate.  Any televangelist who read and understood Laurus would burn his mansion, his private jet and his TV studio to the ground. 

This book shows what the Christian life looks like and it is a good story well told.

Matthew Chapter 5
Seeing the crowds, ohe went up on the mountain, and when he psat down, his disciples came to him.
The Beatitudes
And qhe opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
r“Blessed are sthe poor in spirit, for utheirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are vthose who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
“Blessed are the wmeek, for they wshall inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and xthirst yfor righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are zthe merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
“Blessed are athe pure in heart, for bthey shall see God.
“Blessed are cthe peacemakers, for dthey shall be called esons1 of God.
10 f“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, forutheirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 g“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely hon my account. 12 iRejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for jso they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

"Wrong War" Conservatives: “Patriots” Who Dodged the Draft

Just 99 years ago, this was America's view of draft dodgers. 

Many strange things make America unique in the history of the world.  One of the strangest to me is that Draft Dodgers can let another man serve and maybe die in his place, and yet they can be “Patriots” later in life.  And more ironic than that, they can be patriots in the conservative party.

I know a guy who is a life-long conservative, is three years older than I am, and never served in the military.  He said the Vietnam War was the “Wrong War.”  (Really?  Who decides what is the "Right War?" You?) In his mind, those who have the means to avoid the war are free to do that.  So he went to college and got four deferments that got him through the effective end of the draft in 1973.  He considers himself a true conservative and a patriot and has no lingering guilt about avoiding the Vietnam War.

More importantly, he believes if it was the "Right War" he would have served.  Usually with this kind of assertion, there is no way to test if it is true.  But in America, we have so many wars we can  validate the experiment. America was attacked on September 11, 2001.  America invaded Afghanistan within a month and was making plans to invade Iraq within a year.  In the USA where  upwards of 100 million people claim to be conservative, the government had trouble maintaining a force of just two million.  By 2007, the Army National Guard let me re-enlist at 54 years old.  The Army, in a failed three-year experiment, raised the enlistment age to 42.  I got in with 11 years of prior service and a waiver. Where were all those conservatives?  Was Iraq another "Wrong War?"

In most any country in the world through most of history, dodging the draft was treated as treason. The draft dodger went through life known as a coward. 

Yet in modern America, the party that wants to “Make America Great Again” does not want any part of the real path to greatness, which involves suffering and sacrifice. 

With the glaring exception of John McCain, every nominee of the Republican Party in this century has avoided combat service while blaming the Democrats for the ills of the nation.  A nation that is looking back to the what they consider the best days of America, would not nominate, let alone elect, a draft dodger to be commander in chief.  There is a moral dimension to greatness.  The sort of man who will let another serve in his place as a young man will not suddenly become a brave leader as an old man. 

When Donald Trump addresses the Republic Convention tonight he will stand in front of the largest gathering of rich draft dodgers in America: the coward in chief telling thousands of other cowards how he is going to “Make America Great Again.” 

I wish I was making this up.