This Sunday is the 15th anniversary of the day that forever changed the fabric of our nation.  The 9/11 attacks which killed 2,977 people touched the lives of every American.  While I personally did not know anyone who was a victim of the attacks, I spent the next 13 years experiencing the further effects of that day.  Prior to 9/11, it had been many years since I had seen the towers, even though I grew up seeing them on a very regular basis, from the New Jersey side, with the Statue of Liberty in clear profile with them.  The only time I have seen the area since has been from an airplane taking off or landing at Newark International Airport while heading out TDY somewhere for the Army.

My sister-in-law, whom I did not know at that period in time, lovingly changes her Facebook profile photo each year to that of her dear friend from school, Tonyell McDay, who lost her young life during those senseless attacks.  While I do not know anyone personally who died, everyone I know from that day forward either lost someone on 9/11 or during combat action in the years following.  9/11 is not a day that requires anyone to go more than two or three degrees of separation in order to connect any individual to someone directly affected.

In the days, weeks, months, and, early years after that day, there was a loud call from the citizens of this great country to come together in support of the survivors, the friends and families, as well as the recovery efforts in the time that followed.  Patriotism became a unifying banner across the nation as we identified the perpetrators of this horrific attack and began to take action to avenge the fallen.  As the days unfolded, we as a country experienced Patriotism in the truest sense of the word; it encompassed empathy and compassion for our Nation and those directly and indirectly affected by the attacks, and, in the sense of pride in our Armed Forces as we moved off to war to avenge this senseless attack.

In subsequent years that all-too-real, yet indefinable feeling has waned.  Not for the victims of the attacks or remembrance of the attacks themselves, but for the idea that is this great country as a whole.  For a very short period of time of the last decade and a half, the nation stood as what I can only imagine the Founding Fathers envisioned when they created the concept of what this nation should be.

Instead of building and improving upon that brief moment, we have let it slip us by, and we have squandered an opportunity born of tragedy.  I have been fortunate enough to witness the rise of some truly great leaders, both in the military and civilian world.  I speak of people capable of transformation, advancement and vision, yet, it does not seem as if it is possible for them to rise to the point, either from circumstance or personal belief, that they can move to the position where they can truly influence this nation on a different path; a path that will take us away from being a country that can only seem to come together as a result of tragedy rather than as a way of life.

As we draw closer to the 15th anniversary of this infamous day, we are being sucked further into the circus that is our run-up the the Presidential election, and I have to say that it is a bitter disappointment that we, as a nation, can only present to the world a shallow pool of candidates as a representation of a nation which at one time stood together in solidarity in the aftermath of tragedy.  Today we stand fractured with the narrative in control of a two-party system and a media which refuses to recognize that there are viable candidates beyond this crop of weeds that presents itself as a garden.

Patriotism is a feeling, an ideal, an intangible that means something different to everyone but has a common thread that runs through it which evokes a passion and emotion particular to each individual.  Unfortunately, in its inability to be defined, patriotism is  susceptible to the vitriolic narratives of party candidates, presented in a never-ending stream of sound bites to a gullible public by news outlets on a 24 hour loop.  We as Americans, are responsible for this because we are willing to accept what has been placed before us as our only options, latching on to the buzzwords which speak to the issues we see as personal to us, rather than demanding the service required by their offices they hope to achieve instead of leadership and service.

This Sunday we should reflect and remember, and pray if that is what you need.  As we do so, do not do it just for those we lost on that day.  Also do it for what we have lost since then, that brief period when we as individuals came together as one, regardless of the differences we possessed or the beliefs we harbored.  Open your heart and soul, clear your mind and really try to get in touch with that day and the emotions it evoked.  When you wake up Monday morning and get ready to start your week, as you read your paper, watch the news or listen to the radio, think about your reflection from the day before and ask yourself if this is the best we can do, are these people who are pushing our buttons to try and draw us to their side, the best we can do or is it okay to settle because they are all their is?  If you are even remotely capable of capturing a small part of what you felt on September 11th, 2001, then you will probably say that we are headed for disappointment instead of greatness, stagnation rather than excellence.

Remember our fallen and those who still suffer from that day and all the days since.  They deserve better from us, they deserve the us that rose from the ashes in the aftermath, not the us we have allowed ourselves to become.

BTAR

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I have never been comfortable saying Happy Veterans Day, “Thank you for your service” has always seemed a more appropriate sentiment.  I do recognize and appreciate the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day; one memoralizes our loss, the other acknowledges our service.  This service and the sacrifices that come along with it are why I have never been comfortable giving thanks on this day.

I understand the sentiment and take no offense at receiving it.  This is especially true when it comes from those who have not served.  It is indeed the sentiment and the appreciation that counts, and, I at least, accept it for what it is.

All of us are taught right from the beginning about Duty, Honor, Sacrifice, Service and all those other terms the Drill Sergeants begin to verbally assault us with in Basic.  Indeed, that is what Basic is all about; stripping us down, peeling away the individuality and bad habits, and then building us back up into trained individuals functioning together as a part of a team, which in turn is part of some bigger and greater than itself.

We all have our own reasons for putting ourselves through the suck and volunteering for service.  Some of us are legacies, like LT Dan of Forrest Gump fame, members of our families have given it their all in every war our country has ever fought in. I myself, had both of my grandfathers serve, my father, both uncles on my mom’s side, a bunch of cousins as well.  I did not serve, initially anyway, because of this legacy, I did it for reasons strictly personal and selfish.  I went in with eyes wide open, looking to give my all, but that was more to do with paying my way for the benefits available, rather than a sense of blind patriotism or valor.

As I grew into what would turn in to a career, a lot of that changed.  I learned what it meant to belong, to be a part of something greater than myself.  I was fortunate that I had awesome mentors and leaders right from the beginning who helped put a slacker onto the path that would lead me to working at the very tip of the spear with people who would give the Spartans someone to fear and emulate. I was able to work with professionals, doing work that prior, I had only read about or watched on dramatized T.V.  I was privileged to befriend people, some of whom would pay the ultimate sacrifice, people who understood brotherhood and sacrifice.  Men and women who never think of themselves as brave, but continue to master the basics in order to prevail over the obstacles placed in front of them.

It is because of people like these that I have never been comfortable wishing a veteran a “Happy” day.  I do not judge or cast aspersions on anyone who does though.  It is a great honor to live in a country which recognizes us with our own special day.  For many though it is not a happy day.  Many who have seen the most extreme of horrors which war can produce are thankful to still be here, but suffer the guilt of doing so.  Gunshots are deliberate but the bullets are indiscriminate.  Why did I survive when the person next to me did not? How did I make it out of a blast zone unscathed when those around me were maimed or killed?  Was it all worth it in the end?

I will not speak for all Veterans, just for myself.  Today is our day, and I truly appreciate the recognition.  Along with the pride that comes with that recognition is a healthy measure of solemnity and a little bit of guilt.  I grew up in an era of war in which there are no lines of opposition.  The enemy is ruthless and we no longer fight to conquer and vanquish them.  We lose our friends in actions in which the objective is to preserve life but not to destroy the enemy who is creating those circumstances.  American Service Members do in other nations what those nations cannot or will not do for their own people.  That is our calling, our service. and we bear the burdens of this profession for the remainder of our lives.  I thank you for the recognition of my service, especially this solemn day.  To my Brothers and Sisters, past, present and future, Thank You for your Service and Sacrifice.

I have been struggling this last year to write anything of worth.  I just do not seem to have it in me since I went out on retirement leave last October to put thoughts to words.  Writing my annual 9/11 piece seems to be just as difficult a process as anything else I have to to put down over the last few months.  Do not get me wrong, the thoughts are there in my head, the act of getting them down has been failing though.

In my first year of civilian life I had hoped to write this one with just a little bit different perspective to influence my words.  After all I started this whole thing three, almost four, years ago to help clear the anger out of my head and do something a little more constructive with my limited creative side than simply allowing dark thoughts to take up space and fester in my head.  At the end of the day, if it were not for 9/11 and all that has changed because of that day I do not think I would have entered this medium as a form of therapy.  Chances are good I would have never realized that I needed some sort of outlet and like many other Americans would have lived a much different life.

Something I have come to realize in the 14 years since the attacks is that we not only need to remember what happened that day and those we lost, we need to also remember the person we were prior to that day as well.  We all changed, for some it was a significant change, while for others it was hardly noticeable. Some of us in the ensuing years have come to realize the type of person we really were, while others, too many others, have become lost in themselves and barely resemble the who that they were before the attacks.

Many, too many, of my Brothers and Sisters have chosen to end their story long before the last chapter is written.  It is commonly accepted that 22 Veterans per day end their lives.  22 souls who could no longer wander, trying to get back to who they were or come to grips with their experiences but were unable to.  It may be that for some, they either could not remember the events that led to their experiences nor the thoughts and reasons why they took those steps in the days and years after.  It is possible for many it is the polar opposite, they remember all too well how they were changed that day and forever are tied to their actions in the ensuing years, unable to make a break away from their personal changes or simply unable to accept them.

9/11 changed many things for many people.  Some of us stayed at war until we left the service; for many they remain at war even though they are a long way away from their days in combat.  The country latched on to a short-term, intense patriotism, supporting revenge, justice, vengeance or any other adjective to describe what has continued as a conflict without end.  I do not blame anyone for this, we all lost someone or something of ourselves that day and America is known as a nation you do want to have to defend your backyard from.  We need to remember that day because it is the day we all moved as a nation, from who we were to who we are now.

The lives of our current and future generations was radically altered in the days since 9/11.  After the initial closeness and drawing together, we have exploded outward and become polarizing and extreme.  The thing that initially brought us together in our grief, morning and collective desire for vengeance has also shattered our old way of life, turning it into something almost unrecognizable at times.  We always disagreed, but eventually there was some form of compromise for the country.  Now there is a hostile polarity from which compromise is only reached from a position of dominance and for the good of the party.  The ignorant have a greater voice than the wise, who are often labeled in the antithesis of what is considered an American.  People who believe everyone should have a fair shake at accessing anything as anyone are called socialist while people who would have you believe the belief system is the only way and it is how we should be governed are totally ignorant of the fact that is the same philosophy as those who decided to attack us that day.

We do need to remember.  The many lives lost.  The friends and families of those lost.  Those who witnessed the acts live or on television.  The heroes who lost their lives moving to the destruction to help others to live.  The passengers who chose a farmers field rather than to be used as a fourth weapon of destruction.

Most of all we all need to remember who we were before that day, individually and collectively.  We may not have been any better people than we are today, but we are all radically altered in the years that have followed.  Just a couple of months after the 15th Anniversary of 9/11 next year we will be choosing the next leader of the country.  We need to decide whether we want to continue the cycles and dynasties that we have allowed or if we want to try something new and see where it goes.

Remember the events of 9/11 and the people we lost that day and in years since.  History will judge our actions since then as a nation and whether that pivotal event portended our downfall or our ascension.  Patriots Day is a day of reflection brought about by noble actions in response to a most ignoble event.  Take a moment in your busy day today and think about that day, the memory is yours, reflection is good.  Time may close some wounds but it does not mean they are healed.

Hiatus is Nearly Over

Posted: July 11, 2015 in Uncategorized

Fear not dear readers, as few of you as there may be, I have not forgotten about you nor has my need to put into digits the stupid things that flow through this enormous melon that rests atop my shoulders.  I have taken a little hiatus in order to dedicate my time adjusting to working as a civilian over the last few months.  This particular topic alone has given me a huge repository of thoughts and feelings I probably should commit to the ether along with all the other drab bits that pop up everyday on our news feeds.

I am just about ready to pop back into a semi-regular bit of publishing this fluff.  After all we have flags to talk about, the newly discovered bi-racial identity syndrome, the ramping up of the next Presidential election that is already underway.  Side note: Republicans, pull your heads out of your asses and trim some of the shit from your party before it devolves any further.  The two-party system sucks monkey nuts as it is, but at least do your best to make it competitive with the other party.  I will also finally start getting some the feelings of anger and disappointment I have stored up since becoming a civilian again; it has not been all bad, even been some really good times, but there have also been some times that make me wonder why I ever volunteered to protect a document most people do not even understand.

I hope to begin to change the look of the site a bit and let it reflect the direction I want to take it.  From time to time I will have some guest writers, some will write under their own names, others anonymously in order to keep them safe in their current employment.  I no longer have the yoke of government employment to weigh me down and temper the terms I use, so anything political is fair game now, some of my potential guest writers will not have the same freedom.  Since I am gainfully employed, if horribly over-qualified and well under-paid for my current position, it is still paying the bills.  Besides, employers these days seem to think they have the right to troll personal information and social media of their employees, so I will be smarter than the dumb-asses out there who have called out their employers by name as they disparage them and subsequently lost their jobs.  I am no less immune from bad decisions than anyone else, but I am self-aware enough to know when everything looks red through my baby-blues to stay away from the keyboard.

So, stick with me as I implement some change over the next few months and knock the rust off of my feeble mind to try and put out some quality, entertaining pieces of opinion.  I may never expand my readership beyond you few loyal readers, but you deserve the best for continuing to check in during my downtime.

Here is to the future………

A very good read courtesy of Military Outreach USA.

Is 22 a Real Number?.