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Audiobook Review – About Face: The Odyssey of an American Warrior

I discovered About Face: The Odyssey of an American Warrior as a private in 1990. I saw Colonel Hackworth do an interview to support the book, and I was fascinated by his quiet demeanor as he talked about a lifetime of service and combat. When I saw the book on display at the PX, I scooped it up and devoured it. It’s been on my “Read This Often” reading list ever since.

About Face is a memoir, but it’s one that’s been tempered with the viewpoints of many of the people it talks about. Colonel Hackworth and Julie Sherman did a good job of coordinating his recollections with those of his friends and comrades from 3 decades of Army life.

The book is made up of in-depth discussions of Hackworth’s views on politics, the military, and leadership, all punctuated by mesmerizing tales of combat and the men he served with.

The final chapter, in which Hackworth talked about his views of the United States and her military circa 1988, is, to me, the most interesting of all. When the authors wrote those words, we were on the brink of the Berlin Wall falling, but were still poised for World War III starting somewhere in the Fulda Gap. The First Gulf War, Somalia, the Balkan War, 9/11, and the War on Terror were still in the future. Hackworth’s insights are a remarkable look back at where we were. They lead me to look at where we’ve come and how the Reagan military he discusses was and was not prepared for the world we fell into in the years after his writing.

The narration by John Pruden is spot on. The book is liberally salted with military jargon, and it was very rare that it wasn’t used or pronounced correctly. Pruden paced the story, over 40 hours long, very well. You could hear the emotion come through where it was appropriate, and his characterizations during the combat sequences painted a vivid picture.

If you already know Hackworth and Sherman, you’ll enjoy this opportunity to experience this seminal work again. If you haven’t read About Face or any of Colonel Hackworth and Ms. Sherman’s other works and you enjoy good living history, you’re in for a treat.

A Modest Proposal

Recently, it came to light that about half of the Agriculture Department employees who have been tapped to relocate from the Washington, DC, area to Kansas City have either refused to move or have not even given us, their employer, the dignity of a reply.

In this age of instant telecommunications and data sharing, it is wasteful to concentrate so many talented and dedicated people in the federal capital. Put them in places where their salaries will go further, as will the budgets for their departments. Put them closer to the universities, businesses, and other institutions that connect with their areas of expertise, so that we can finally see a renaissance of public-private-academic synergy that typifies American ingenuity.

However, it seems that the effort to move personnel out of the extremely expensive real estate that is DC is ruffling some feathers. I mean, what kind of folks wouldn’t want to move out of the effluvial swamp that is our nation’s capital to the relatively inexpensive and clean Midwest?

Ungrateful bastards, that’s who.

So, taking a cue from the “You don’t want to do it my way? Really? Then we can get crazy!” school of leadership, here are my proposals for where to put several federal agencies that makes more sense than Gehenna on the Potomac.

  1. Army Corps of Engineers – 9th Ward, New Orleans. Maybe we’ll finally have to stop worrying about those damned flood walls failing every time it sprinkles.
  2. Department of the Air Force – Minot, North Dakota, because only the best go north.
  3. Department of the Navy – 29 Palms, California. Heck, they could just convert the MOUT site over to office buildings.
  4. Department of the Army – Fayetteville, North Carolina. Let the civilians go to Fayettenam for a change.
  5. Department of the Treasury – Radcliff, Kentucky. Put the accountants right next to the gold vault and the trailer park.
  6. Department of the Interior – Denali or Death Valley. Their choice.
  7. EPA – Bakersfield, California – The most polluted city in the country. Clean up your own back yard for a change.
  8. Social Security Administation – Phoenix or Boca Raton. Put them with their customers in heaven’s waiting room.

Maybe once they’ve had a taste of a few of the places I mention, these long-serving, whining, over-paid deserters from a traveling porcine bordello will smarten up, shut up, and just do their job where they’re told to do it and be grateful that we still cut them a check.

Or, they can quit and get a job commensurate with their skills and work ethic. I hear that there’s good money in being a human guinea pig for chemical castration experiments.

Either way, they’ll be out of DC.

Musings

  • Things I am not allowed to say aloud at the mall:
    • If that woman gets one more face lift, she’s going to have a goatee.
    • Look, sweetheart, they’re having a sale at the maternity store!
    • Do you want weasel on a stick or deep fried weasel wrapped in pretzel?
    • Is that the sushi bar or the foot massage place I smell?
  • Only Satan would put the Lego store next to the Apple store. But, I will forgive them for the new Apollo 11 set. Now, how do I justify $100 for a bunch of legos?
  • If I walk past four empty booths to get to your hostess station, don’t tell me there won’t be a table-for-two available for 35 minutes.
  • They say don’t eat your feelings. I say eat something so that your feelings don’t slip their leash and consume the world.

America Invicta

On this day in 1776, a group of men stood together to declare that they were more than subjects of a faraway power. They declared that there were certain things worth fighting for, worth dying for.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. 

Now, 243 years later, we need reminding that we are descended from such men. We need reminding that, as citizens, we rule those we choose to serve in government. We need reminding that, should we not hang together, we shall certainly hang separately.

No matter how much we disagree, or how deeply our disagreements cut, that we are all Americans. We breathe the same air, rise from the same soil, bleed the same lifeblood for our cause. Yes, we come from a myriad of peoples and experiences. Yes, there has been injustice in our history, as well as our present.

We do not always meet the standard we set for ourselves, but it should never be for lack of trying.

Now, we stand apart from one another, and we risk destroying all that has been built and achieved in 243 years of strife and striving.

Even as we teeter on the edge of the abyss, we must hold one another up. We must stand together, unconquered, unbowed. No matter what the world, or even we ourselves, throw at us, we should never forget that we are Americans, by birth or by choice.

Together, there is nothing we cannot accomplish, nothing we cannot defend. Only we can bring down this shining city upon a hill, only we can destroy what the blood of patriots has purchased.

I wish all of you the joy of this Independence Day, no matter how you choose to celebrate.

America Invicta, so long as we stand together.

Musings

  • “Come down off the cross, use the wood to make a bridge, and then use it to get over it.” is probably a good thing to remove from a work email.
  • At some point, vendors are going to learn that wasting my time is not worth the cost.
    • And, no, a generous swag table doesn’t help.
  • While Boo and Irish Woman went camping this weekend, I took advantage of the situation and took care of some things around the house.
    • When they arrived home, the house was immaculate, the laundry was caught up, folded, and put away, and I had even cleaned the basement. 72 hours later, I can only tell that I did all that work because the hardwood floors are still kind of shiny.
  • My body is telling me I need to either break my three-year hiatus from arthritis treatments, or just lay down and die.
    • Life is all about choices.
  • Summer is here, and the sound of lawnmowers is only drowned out by the sound of Irish Woman cussing as she mows the lawn for the first time after two solid weeks of rain.

Musings

  • It’s not often that I get to use the term “ball of cat hair and bubble gum” to describe a situation at work, but today was that day.
  • Note to self – When one makes the promise that one will be able to spend a weekend away with the family, with no internet or cell phone coverage, one should make sure that one is not scheduled for on-call that weekend.
    • Subnote – If one finds oneself in this particular pickle, one should start looking for someone to carry on-call for oneself more than two days before beginning of said time away with the family.
  • Since I wasn’t going to the family camp out this weekend, I offered Irish Woman use of my truck to haul all of her and Boo’s stuff. You see, it is rather difficult to fit air mattresses, sleeping bags, inflatable 12 foot kayak, cooler, groceries, clothing, and sundry other things into a small sedan.
    • Already agitated by me not going, she ‘nicely’ declined the offer.
    • I then got in touch with my favorite rent-a-wreck chain and reserved her a small SUV to use instead. When one has messed up as bad as I have, one does not quibble at the cost of easing your wife’s path.
    • We acquired said small SUV, and started loading it, only to discover that the inside was rather fuzzy with dog hair and reeked of cigarette smoke.
    • My darling wife, being a lifelong non-smoker and not a fan of stale cigarette smoke, asked me ‘nicely’ to call the rental company and acquire another vehicle. I did so first thing this morning.
    • Said company was only too happy to swap out the SUV of Many Odors. Irish Woman took herself down to their local office to make the exchange.
    • Imagine my surprise when she pulled into my driveway with a slightly newer, but same make and model, of pickup as I had offered her for free.
    • When she called later to tell me that she really liked the truck and that I was welcome to buy myself one like it, I ‘nicely’ told her that I <already> owned a similar truck. We have a wordless agreement to not speak of this.

Thought for the Day

On this day of days, I thought we’d just have a quiet moment to reflect on the bravery and sacrifice of the thousands of men who fought not to conquer, but to liberate.

Franklin Roosevelt’s D-Day Prayer 

June 6, 1944

My fellow Americans: Last night, when I spoke with you about the fall of Rome, I knew at that moment that troops of the United States and our allies were crossing the Channel in another and greater operation. It has come to pass with success thus far.

And so, in this poignant hour, I ask you to join with me in prayer:

Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.

Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.

They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph.

They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest-until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men’s souls will be shaken with the violences of war.

For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and good will among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.

Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.

And for us at home — fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas — whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them–help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice.

Many people have urged that I call the Nation into a single day of special prayer. But because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts.

Give us strength, too — strength in our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and the material support of our armed forces.

And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be.

And, O Lord, give us Faith. Give us Faith in Thee; Faith in our sons; Faith in each other; Faith in our united crusade. Let not the keenness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose.

With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogancies. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister Nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil.

Thy will be done, Almighty God.

Amen. 

Musings

  • When you’re going to be giving someone an EKG, it’s just common courtesy to warm your hands up first.
  • My new friend, Vlad the Phlebotomist, took more blood out of me yesterday than the nice lady at the Red Cross did when I was 19 and trying to score some free cookies and juice.
  • Is it bad when the normal range for the results of a blood test is between two single digit numbers and my result is a rather high double digit number?
  • Boo has reached that age where a young bear shows his teeth to his father, on occasion. Unfortunately for him, I have bigger teeth and sharper claws.
  • Girlie Bear has reached that age where she has to work, pay bills, and put up with people’s crap on a continual basis, also known as ‘I’ve got my first apartment and roommates.’ I will try hard to not remind her that she only has 60 or 80 years of that ahead of her.
  • I’ve decided that if I reincarnate, I’m going to be a drunken reprobate in my next life. This work ethic and sense of duty stuff is killing me.

Thought for the Day

The Prayer of the Paratrooper

(Translation by Robert Petersen)

I’m asking You God, to give me what You have left.
Give me those things which others never ask of You.
I don’t ask You for rest, or tranquility.
Not that of the spirit, the body, or the mind.
I don’t ask You for wealth, or success, or even health.
All those things are asked of You so much Lord,
that you can’t have any left to give.
Give me instead Lord what You have left.
Give me what others don’t want.
I want uncertainty and doubt.
I want torment and battle.
And I ask that You give them to me now and forever Lord,
so I can be sure to always have them,
because I won’t always have the strength to ask again.
But give me also the courage, the energy,
and the spirit to face them.
I ask You these things Lord,
because I can’t ask them of myself.

For all of the men and women who gave their last full measure, and the families that forever have a hole in their hearts, thank you.

Review – Avengers: Endgame

Avengers: Endgame, the latest product of the Marvel money-printing machine, is taking the world by storm. Millions of fans, many of whom cannot remember a time before the original Iron Man movie, have flocked to theaters worldwide to find out what happens after the events of last year’s Infinity War.

While I enjoyed the movie, I wasn’t impacted by it in the way other folks in the theater were. The young lady, seated next to me, and Boo, who sat on the other side, went from laughing, to crying, to cheering over and over again. A good portion of the audience clapped and cheered when the movie was over, either because they loved it or because they could finally go to the bathroom after three hours and a gallon of Coke.

To me, the plot dragged quite a bit. The first hour was spent on “We gotta do something!”, the middle hour was a pretty good heist movie, and the last hour as packed solid with “Bam!” and “Smash!” and “Kaplooey!” The first hour could have been cut down quite a bit, and the last hour could have been trimmed some to make this a better-paced story.

The acting was pretty good. This shouldn’t surprise anyone, but the portrayals of Captain America and Thor were my favorites. As always, Robert Downey, Jr., did an excellent job channeling Tony Stark.

As for special effects and action, it’s everything you expect from a Marvel movie and more. I don’t think I’m spoiling anything by saying that you’ll see enough CGI faces get punched and things get blown up to satisfy even the most degenerate action-movie junkie.

On a parental note, I did notice a bit more rough language in this one than in earlier MCU movies. Nothing too graphic, but just a few words that were unexpected in a series that has been mostly clean.

While this isn’t my favorite episode in the Marvel series, it was enjoyable and worth the cost of admission. Now that the main story arc of the last decade is done, let’s hope that Marvel doesn’t squeeze the lemon too hard and tarnish the series ala Star Wars/Trek.

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