Saturday, November 16, 2013

When Pedestals Slip

A while ago, while I was still trying to get 2-16's side of the "collateral murder" fiasco out I had reached out to Joe Galloway, to ask his advise.  What truly amazed me is that the Joe Galloway, who went into Ia Drang with 1-7 Cavalry actually responded to me.  He made it clear that he was long since retired, so he didn't have contacts that I could use, but he did actually critique my work and provide useful insight.  I was star struck, and I tried hard not to pester him with questions (I was, and am still particularly interested in his view of Lam Son 719).

 Joe Galloway is one of the few reporters out there that just "get it," that understand the Soldier's mentality, on an intellectual as well as an emotional level.  There are precious few others I've seen that have this understanding.  Sebastian Junger, David Finkle, Jake Tapper, and a very select few others have been able to relay to the American people in words what being an American Soldier is all about.  This very select group of people don't just report the hard facts ("a roadside bomb went off today killing two soldiers and wounding four others") but are able to make people who have no emotional connection understand the mentality that takes boys from vastly different living circumstances and melds them into a unit that will literally die for each other without a second thought. 

Joe Galloway's work has in a large part helped heal the rift between the military and civilians that the Vietnam era caused.  The 2002 movie adaptation of his book "We were soldiers once. . . and young" helped bring to life the grit determination camaraderie and sorrow of the soldiers that went into the battle of LZ X-ray, as well as the families that were left behind.  In no small part this gave the country a very visceral reminder of the forgotten heroes of the Vietnam era.  Joe Galloway's work is right up there with Jan Scruggs' in helping bring peace to a group of service members who were often forgotten abused and mistreated by their country.  Reading about some of the homecomings that the 1-7 Cav troopers got is why I always go out of my way to welcome home any Vietnam Veteran. 

It's also important to say, that Joe Galloway really is in every sense of the word, a hero.  Very few civilians are awarded combat awards, and it's hard to say that he did not earn his Bronze Star with V device, and the fact that even after the Battle of Ia Drang left him with many emotional scars he still went back to Vietnam to cover the near disastrous Lam Son 719 after a friend and fellow UPI reporter was killed.  That took a lot of guts.  More than a few people would have sat down and said "I've had enough, count me out."  He didn't have to go back.  Nor did he have to ride with the 24th Infantry Division in Desert Storm. 

With all that said I had hoped that Joe Galloway's Facebook feed would be posting news articles of the day, and offering short incite.  I had hoped that there would be mentoring, encouragement and even positive feedback for young writers.  I had hoped that he would also share secrets of what he did to make peace with the demons war can give you.  I was taken aback to find that a lot of the tings he said were bitterly partisan.  Some of the articles he posted as well as some of the things he said about the articles left me feeling really uneasy.  This is JOE GALLOWAY.  I might be a smart ass with a penchant for sticking my foot in my mouth, but one does not simply walk up to a guy like that and say "no this isn't right." 

I do not hide the fact that I am generally Conservative/Libertarian.  I also believe that debate is important.  So eventually I started offering counterpoints to what was being said.  I offered opposing views as well as justifications.  I did my utmost to be respectful, and try to admonish the people commenting (some with truly horrid responses) that debate is essential to our Republic, and without respect debate is impossible.  This went on for a few weeks, before Joe himself banned and blocked me.  His description of me does not bare mentioning. 

So here I am.  I still greatly respect Joe.  His volume of work, nor the impact it has had can not be understated.   If he wants to be partisan, he has earned that right a lot more than most.  I am a little crestfallen that a personal hero thinks so little of me or what I have to say.  It still bothers me a little, but as always you have to pick yourself up and move on.  Despite the disagreements we had on various issues, and the way things ended I wish him peace, he really has earned it.  For my part I'm just going to walk away.  It's a little sad, but that's life.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Huray for Dysfunction

You know what's funny?  What's absolutely hilarious?  The last Republican proposal before the Government shutdown was to delay the individual mandate by one year, and repeal the medical device tax.  Fast forward a few weeks and the Affordable Care Act roll out is not only a disaster but the subject of hilarity.  Seriously, watching people try to scramble to explain how a website that has more code than the latest version of Windows, has been hilarious.  So funny that the ACA which had ONE House Republican that signed on (and failed to get reelected) has a lot of Democrats worried.  They're so worried that they're trying to. . . delay the individual mandate by a year. 

Gee.  But let's not stop there.  At it's best Obamacare was supposed to help 30 million Americans, which is roughly 10%.  Because of that 6 million Americans who actually liked their coverage (roughly 2%) are going to outright lose their coverage.  But let's not stop there.  As many as 100 million Americans are going to have their coverage altered, or their premiums are going to skyrocket.  That's 33% (roughly).  So right there roughly 35% of Americans are going to be hurt by this law from the outset, the primary effects, that the law was actually designed for.  This does not account for the 7.3% of Americans that are unemployed. 

The secondary, and unintended consequences of the law may be even worse.  Doctors are fleeing the plans that are the center piece of Obamacare.  The why seems painfully obvious.  Doctors are a highly specialized position, that takes years and years of training.  The cost to get through the training and the years of devotion are compensated by the extremely nice pay.  Even breaking even with years worth of student debt can take years, but in the end most doctors don't mind it because they earn a very nice paycheck.  Government plans are very strict in exactly how much they pay for what.  If you had to spend six figures to get a job in the hop of making (close to) six figures wouldn't you flee a plan that cut that paycheck drastically?  The practical result is you'll have to wait for a long time to see a doctor, and travel far to see specialists (even though there might be several specialists nearby).

Everyone points to the things that Obamacare covers as a good thing, but why should a single male need maternity care?  Why should a relatively healthy family with no history of substance abuse need that covered in their plans?  Yes some people will need this in their plan, and feel they need it, they will pay for it, but why would you force someone who doesn't want or need these to have them on a plan?  The obvious result will be that everyone's plans will by necessity cost more.  In a time when the economy is barely recovering, why would you want to add more cost to people's lives.  The gas prices going up half a dollar a gallon immediately preceded the housing market crisis.  So what crisis could this bump in expense cause? 

Even if it could somehow be proven that the ACA might help 10% of Americans, is this really what we want our federal government to be doing?  We're already spending over a trillion dollars a year more than we take in.  Even if the ACA works properly there'll be a massive increase in the Medicaid rolls.  If we can't afford what we have now, why would we add to that? 

One of the best talents that America has displayed is our talent as a nation to compromise.  The Affordable Care Act, is a clear example of what happens when we don't compromise.  It is an idea born of ideology and good intentions but not grounded in reality.  The implementation has been a disaster.  Perhaps the dysfunction surrounding Obamacare might actually be a good thing.  Maybe its time for us as a nation to have an actual conversation about what we want our government to do.  What is the role in our lives.  Are we it's master or is it ours?  Whatever we decide, I'm pretty sure that America will be better off if we repeal the Affordable Care Act, and perhaps start over. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Some Thoughts About Veterans Day

Every Veterans Day I am often prone to wool gathering.  I can not help but think back to times that seem almost like another lifetime.  It seems especially strange to be thanked for my service.  It's like a jarring note introduced into the contemplation.  How am I supposed to respond?  More than that, it reminds me of what I did, what I saw, and how it has changed me.  Is a thank you, even well meaning really what I want?

The simplest answer is: no, I want more.  .45% of the US population are actively serving, and roughly 10% are Veterans.  Of that percentage a laughably small percentage are actual combat Veterans (For the purposes of simplification I mean have been shot at and returned fire to an actual enemy).  How can some random person coming up and saying thank you so unexpectedly, wash away the memory of a friend screaming in pain and begging for Morphine?  How can a parade erase returning to an empty room in the barracks?  It doesn't.  For as much pride, I had in wearing the uniform, I suffered terribly for it. 

Perhaps that is why it fills me with unease seeing parents dress their children as soldiers because it's "cute."  My mind fills in an image of that same child screaming for someone to lay down suppressive fire, and I think if their parents could see that image they would weep bitter tears.  Perhaps I'm bothered by the fact that people seem to forget that America is still at war and that some of the youngest dying in Afghanistan today are not old enough to remember 9/11.  Perhaps it's just the idea that the discord in the nation caused by political rhetoric seems like a slap in the face.

I can't say exactly what about Veterans Day bothers me so much.  I can tell you that I still to this day feel guilty that I went through two tours without a scratch.  Other, worthier men came home without limbs, to broken marriages, and kids that didn't recognize them.  I wish people would recognize my Combat Medical Badge, so that when they did thank me they could thank me for something specific.  "My service" could mean picking cigarette butts out of rocks in the motorpool, or it could mean shooting at someone from the roof of the Ranger JSS.  It could mean sweating to the point of dehydration in an OP, or it could mean standing in formation listening to endless safety briefings. 

People thank me on Memorial Day, when they should go to Arlington and thank those far worthier individuals.  People thank me on the 4th of July, when they haven't even read the document that gave birth to this nation.  I don't want you to display your patriotism, in short bursts of fevered flag waving, that doesn't make me feel better about going to war for this nation.  I want to believe that the American Spirit is not dead.  I want the citizens of this country to take the same pride in being an American that I took in serving in this nation's military.