Monday, August 31, 2009

High Hopes

Next weekend my Rebels will take the field to begin perhaps the most anticipated and expectation-filled football season since the too-long past national championship contending teams of two generations ago. Ole Miss is ranked as high as #8 in the national preseason polls--frighteningly high; gut-wrenchingly high; get-ready-to-have-your-heart-broken-once-again high. We haven't had a preseason ranking this high since Peyton's and Eli's daddy was at the helm in Oxford, and I wish for the world that we were entering the season un-ranked.

Faithfully following Ole Miss football this past half-century has not been a past-time for the faint of heart. The highs have been the highest and the lows have been the lowest. There have been amazing upset wins against eventual national championship game teams--Georgia in '76, Notre Dame in '77, Florida in '08 come to the Colonel's mind immediately. There have been incredibly disappointing losses against national championship contenders who escaped with extremely narrow wins. And, there have been losses to teams that should have been sure wins--in my first season on campus the fall of '74, South Carolina came to town for Rebel Homecoming and beat us 10 to 7. The Gamecocks went 1 and 10 that year.

There are many Rebel faithful predicting that this is the year we finally play in the SEC title game (we are the only SEC West team not to have--even Mississippi State has been to Atlanta). Some even believe it is possible that we will run the tables and play for the national championship. Well, anything is possible... The probabilities strain the handicapping abilities of even the most proficient odds-maker.

I am so looking forward to this season--and so dreading it.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Day's Day

Back a few years ago, the Colonel was in his last command in the Marine Corps, serving as the leader of the Corps' recruiting effort in the Southeast. Told that I had a call waiting from Colonel "Bud" Day, I caught my breath before picking up the phone. I knew Colonel Day only by reputation, and he was one of my heroes.

George "Bud" Day left high school and enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1942. Following the war, he went back to school, earning his bachelors and a law degree. He had joined the Army Reserve after his World War II Marine service, and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Iowa Air National Guard in 1950. Following flight school, he served two tours of duty flying fighter- bombers in the Korean War, and then stayed in the Air Force as a career military officer. Although approaching eligibility to retire, Day volunteered for service in Vietnam--his third war. Because of his extensive flight experience and leadership ability, he was tapped to lead an experimental force, flying a two-seat variant of the F-100 Super Sabre, that was given the mission of high speed forward air controllers ("Fast FACs"). The F-100 was fast becoming obsolete, but Day's group of volunteers, all of whom were highly experienced pilots, soon gained a superb reputation for courage and competence.

Forty-two years ago, today, Day and his crew mate were directing air strikes just north of the DMZ when their aircraft was hit and disabled by ground fire. Severely injured as he ejected, he was captured and tortured for several days by the North Vietnamese militia unit that held him in a cave awaiting transportation further north. On his fifth night of capture, and although hindered by a broken arm and eye and back injuries, Day escaped from his captors and spent the next two weeks eluding them as he made his way south toward friendly lines. Within sight of a Marine base south of the DMZ, Day was discovered by an enemy patrol. Shot in the leg and hand in his recapture, Day was brutally tortured daily as he was slowly transported north to his eventual incarceration in the infamous Hao Loa prison--nick-named the "Hanoi Hilton" by the American POWs held there. My brief retelling of this story does it no justice. Day later received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions during this time.

Shortly after arriving at the Hanoi Hilton, Major Day and his cell mate, Air Force Major Norris Overly, were joined by a third POW. The Navy pilot was in such bad shape that Day and Overly were afraid for his life. They tended to him the best they could and he survived. That man was John McCain.

Tortured beyond the limits of human endurance on a regular basis by the North Vietnamese, Day remained defiant and provided incredibly forceful leadership example to the mostly younger American POWs. One anecdote from that dark experience has always been particularly inspiring to me. Towards the end of their captivity, sometime in 1971, the number of Americans held had grown so great that instead of the small group and solitary confinement under which most had been kept for years, the POWs were crowded in larger groups in somewhat larger rooms. When the North Vietnamese guards burst into one of these rooms to break up a religious service, Day stood defiantly and began to sing the Star Spangled Banner. When the guards attacked and silenced Day, another POW, James Stockdale (later Ross Perot's VP running mate) stood and took his place. The guards retreated as the entire room stood and sang. Day received the second highest military honor, the Air Force Cross, for his conduct and leadership as a POW.

I had read his story and those of the incredibly brave patriots who suffered in the Hanoi Hilton many times and had recommended its reading to many others. So, as I picked up the phone, I tried to think of something appropriate, not fawning, one colonel to another; but, yet, expressing my admiration and appreciation for his service and heroism. Didn't get the chance. Colonel Day wasn't making a social call.

Day was representing the father, another retired Air Force colonel, of a young man who had unfortunately died immediately following the running of a physical fitness test administered by some of my recruiters. The young man was applying for a Marine commissioning program, and had collapsed at the end of the 3-mile run portion of the test. Day wanted to know what the "government" in general, and the Marine Corps in particular, was going to do to recompense his client for the loss. His client was particularly insistent that his son was due the benefits of a military member. What I should have told Colonel Day was that the matter was still under investigation and that there was nothing I could do or say about the issue, and left it at that. But, I have never been very adept at "leaving things at that" and I went on to volunteer that, in my opinion, his client's deceased son would probably not qualify for any military benefits because he had merely applied, and not yet been accepted, for participation in the commissioning program. Colonel Day commenced to chew my posterior. Mind you, he never raised his voice. But, having been the recipient of more than my fair share of butt gnawings, I know one when I hear one, even when the gnawer is doing so in the most polite way.

I was disappointed. Not in Colonel Day, but in the circumstances under which I was talking to one of my heroes for the first and probably last time. Sure wish my conversation with him hadn't ended on such a note.

This Colonel, sole authority in such manners here aboard Eegeebeegee, capital of the Tallahatchie Free State, located at the northern end of southern nowhere, does hereby declare this day, August 26th, Day's Day. This day shall henceforth be celebrated with quiet solemnity aboard Eegeebeegee in deep appreciation for Day's service and the selfless service of his compatriots.

Friday, August 21, 2009

And the Rest is History...

Everyone told us not to do it. Everyone said it was a bad idea. Too young. Too exclusive. Our parents played it straight, hoping we would split up on our own. Our friends waited on us, knowing it wouldn't last. But, when God shows you "The One" there is only one viable course of action.

Thirty-eight years ago, today, the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda and I had our first "date." I was 15. The comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda was [number deleted to prevent unkind calculations]. We started our sophomore year in high school the next week.

By the end of our first month of "dating" it was becoming clear that there was a special chemistry between us. We fought about something every day. It was miserably fun.

For some reason--probably because everyone was rooting against us--we began to keep track of the number of months that had elapsed since our first date. We celebrated the 21st of every month as Our Day. In those halcyon hair-centric high school days, I spent countless hours maintaining my fine blond head-bone covering. My most important possession was a black, plastic comb. We began to mark the 21st of every month with a solemn ceremony during which I carved a small notch in the spine of my comb with my pocket knife (this was in the days when carrying a knife to school was not only condoned, but required).

Two years out of high school, and two years into my matriculation at the "Harvard of the South" (so-named as part of little-known reciprocal agreement whereby Harvard is allowed to refer to itself as the "Ole Miss of the North") the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda and I wed--21 days shy of the five year anniversary of our first date.

Besides the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda, there will be a handful of readers of this post, wasting valuable rod and cone time, who were along on that "first date" and who may take umbrage at the fact that I can gleefully tell you that you were wrong about my best friend and me. We made it.

Still making it.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Rights and Lefties

Broke out my copy of the American Citizen's Owner's Manual (aka Constitution) the other day and looked in vain for my "right" to health care.

The Preamble to our Constitution reads thus: "We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America." The closest thing to the stealthy "right to medical care" in the preamble is the phrase "promote the general Welfare." Note the word is PROMOTE, not PROVIDE. Government promotion means advocating the concept, and ensuring the environment in which, in this case, our nation's citizens as a whole can reasonably be assured of an acceptable standard of living. Under our Constitution, the government's role is to ensure the environment in which we may fairly pursue the blessings of liberty.

The remainder of the original Constitution, beyond the Preamble, contains only instructions for the organization and functioning of the Federal government. The only mention of individual rights that I can find in the main body of the constitution is an implied right to trial by jury found in Article III. At the urging of Washington and others, Congress proposed a Bill of [Individual] Rights that were ratified in 1791 (in the first successful test of the Constitutional system) as the first ten Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Provided verbatim below:

I. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

II. A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

III. No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

IV. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

V. No person shall be held to answer for any capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

VI. In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district where in the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.

VII. In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

VIII. Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

IX. The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

X. The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

No "right" to health care anywhere in the Bill of Rights. Hmmm... What about in the rest of the Amendments to the U.S. Constitution?

Let's see, the Eleventh provided immunity of states from suits from out-of-state citizens and foreigners not living within the state borders; the Twelfth revised Presidential election procedures; the Thirteenth abolished slavery; the Fourteenth clarified citizenship, applied the Bill of Rights to the States, and denied public office to anyone who has rebelled against the United States. No right to health care in any of those.

The Fifteenth Amendment provided voting rights regardless of race, color, or previous condition of servitude; the Sixteenth allowed a Federal Income Tax; the Seventeenth took the power for appointing Senators away from state governors and allowed direct popular election; the Eighteenth prohibited the production, sale, and consumption of alcoholic beverages; the Nineteenth provided women the right to vote; the Twentieth changed the dates of commencement of congressional and presidential terms of office.

The Twenty-first allowed state and local governments to decide whether to prohibit or limit production, sale or consumption of alcoholic beverages; the Twenty-second limited the President to two terms; the Twenty-third allowed representation of the District of Columbia in the Electoral College; the Twenty-fourth prohibited restriction of voting rights due to non-payment of poll taxes; the Twenty-fifth clarified Presidential Succession; the Twenty-sixth lowered the voting age to 18; and the Twenty-seventh dealt with congressional compensation.

No “right” to health care found anywhere in our Owner's Manual. No need to establish a huge federal bureaucracy to run health care.

Want to improve our health care system? Simple enough--enact true tort reform, allow sale of insurance across state lines, and crack down on the crooks abusing the system. Government’s constitutional role is to REGULATE the system, not run it.

“Health Reform” is a power grab by the political elites—nothing more.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Monday Morning MOTOs Vol. II, Ed. 5

Good Monday morning from Eegeebeegee, capital of the Tallahatchie Free State, a virtual republic established as much hand on wallet as tongue in cheek. It is time once again for a regularly irregular installment of the Colonel's Monday Morning Mastery of the Obvious (MOTO) Awards, bestowed for the recipients' steel trap grasp of the obvious despite loss of touch with reality.

The Colonel awards the Monday MOTO bronze medal to Venezuelan strong man Hugo "Castro Lite" Chavez for his "ya think!" assessment of President Barack Obama's foreign policy. According to Reuters, Chavez achieved one moment of clarity in an otherwise rambling radio address, saying that, "President Obama is lost in the Andromeda Nebula, he has lost his bearings, he doesn't get it." Seems it takes one deceitful, power-mad leftist to know another.

The Monday MOTO silver medal goes to South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford who, according to the McClatchy News Service said Wednesday morning during a speech to the Twin City Rotary Club in Batesburg-Leesville, SC that, "A lot of folks were convinced that I was running for president. My political days are over.'' A lot of people were, Governor, and, yes, now your political career has come to a screeching halt. Too bad you weren't a democrat and governor of Arkansas--you would have been a shoe-in.

The Monday MOTO gold medal goes to Hillary Clinton, who, while visiting the Democratic Republic of Congo responded to a student's mis-translated question with a most un-diplomatic, "My husband is not the Secretary of State. I am." Obama was a genius--putting his rivals in positions where the press would catch them, tired and off-guard, saying what was really on their minds. Guess it'll be Biden's turn next.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Will the Real Colonel Reb please stand up?

Greetings Patriots. The Colonel bids you well this morning. I am compelled, in light of recent liberal progressive government hyperventilation regarding the resurgence of militia groups here in these re-United States, to point out that, despite tongue-in-check protestations and references posted herein, I am no "'lutionary"--revo nor counter-revo. The Colonel does not and will not associate himself with camo-clad delusionals; the exception being my duck and deer hunting buddies who regularly don camo and indulge in delusional behavior regarding their prowess at apex predation. My assessment of the militia movements in this country is that the vast majority are made up of "wannabes" who failed the American manhood test (failed to volunteer for military service) early in their adult life and use their militia association to either assuage their lack of manhood or as an outlet for their ignorant racial discriminatory beliefs. I harbor neither need. To paraphrase the late Gidget, the Taco Bell Chihuahua: "I'm a real Colonel."

Given the banishment of the Ole Miss athletics mascot by a university administration participating in the intelligence death spiral of "political correctness," the Colonel also feels compelled to point out that he is the "real" Colonel Reb. The evidence is simple and direct. My military "call sign," granted by my fellow operators, was, not surprisingly given my pride of matriculation at Ole Miss, "Rebel." So, I claim, without a tinge of humility, that I am Colonel Reb.

Okay, maybe I am a bit deluded after all.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Guadalcanal--Gettysburg in the Pacific

One of the most bitterly fought campaigns of the Second World War began this date, 7 August, sixty-seven years ago. The island chain eventually wrested from Japanese control was the first in a two-pronged strategy that rolled back the Axis tide in the Pacific. One of the later islands seized in this drive, Tinian, possessed excellent airfields from which the long-range strategic aerial bombardment of the Japanese home islands culminated in the atomic annihilation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (and the unconditional surrender of Japan) exactly three years (to the week) after this date's 1st Marine Division landing on Guadalcanal.

A few of the Marines who landed on Guadalcanal's beach and began to push inland through the dense jungle had experience with a similar type of terrain--they had fought in the so-called "Banana Wars" of the twenties and thirties. But chasing the likes of bandits like Sandino in the jungles of Nicaragua could prepare no one for the brutal fight that awaited the 1st Marine Division on "the 'canal." The environment's hostility was surpassed only by the fierce tenacity of the Japanese--twenty percent of the Marines fell prey to a severe strain of dysentery within the first two weeks on the island. Guadalcanal lay strategically astride the supply lines to Australia. The fate of Australia and New Zealand would be controlled by whoever controlled Guadalcanal. Japan's expansionist dreams depended on control of the South Pacific (including, eventually, Australia and New Zealand), and they fought ferociously to throw the Americans off of their foothold in the Solomons. Over the next several months, the Japanese landed reinforcements on one end of the island while the Marines dug in and expanded their beachhead on the other. Fierce battles raged on pieces of terrain that would become immortalized in Marine Corps lore--Lunga Point, Alligator Creek, Edson's Ridge, Matanikau River, and Henderson Field. Marines got their first, but not last, taste of the human wave banzai attack. At sea, the American Navy began to stand up to and lick their Japanese naval rivals, and in the air American pilots defending the 1st Marine Division learned valuable lessons in dogfights against the vaunted Zero.

By December of 1942, it was clear to the Japanese that their land and naval forces were no longer a match for the growing American strength in the Solomons and they began to withdraw their forces and retract their strategic perimeter in the Pacific. It was the beginning of the end for the Japanese. Although two and a half more years of horrendous losses on both sides were to transpire, it was only a matter of time before the gathering strength of the "Sleeping Giant" would overwhelm the Empire of the Rising Sun. Guadalcanal was, in a way, the Gettysburg of the Pacific, and marked the high water mark of Japanese expansion.

I have had the opportunity to meet a few of the Marines who fought on Guadalcanal with the 1st Marine Division. The comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda even has a great uncle who fought on Guadalcanal. It was their accomplishments and exploits (and those of their brothers in the other five Marine Divisions that swept across the Pacific over the next three years) that made being a Marine in my time such a special privilege and honor.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

First Monday Miss

The Colonel and his bride, the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda, checked another box on our "To See and Do" list last weekend--and, despite an "Awww, look Eyud" and a pouty face, there was no puppy purchased.

Up near the state line with Tennessee in north Mississippi, the little town of Ripley (pop. just shy of 6000) continues to carry on a tradition that began over a century ago. In 1893, the American economy crashed into a depression that was to last for the better part of a decade. The bursting of a railroad investment bubble (one in a long line of investment bubbles to burst--including the recent dot com and housing bubbles) and a credit crunch caused by runs on overextended banks contributed to what is now known as "The Panic of '93." Unemployment averaged 15% for the next six years. A large proportion of the recently enlarged "middle class" lost their life savings in bank failures and, unable to pay their mortgages, walked away from homes that had been purchased well beyond their needs and means. As the depression rapidly deepened, and prices for export crops like corn and cotton fell dramatically, farming communities were hit particularly hard. To help each other combat the crippling effects of the depression, the farming community of Ripley, Mississippi began to hold monthly "swap meets" on the courthouse square. Originally called "Trade Day," the meet was scheduled for the first Monday of each month and soon became known as "First Monday." Farmers brought their produce to exchange with others and also toted along livestock and firearms to trade as well. As the crowds attending First Monday grew over the years the location of the event was shifted further and further out of the town center to locations that could accommodate larger crowds. Today, First Monday is held on the weekend before the first Monday of each month at a fifty acre site south of town.

The Colonel, remembering that last Friday was the 33rd anniversary of our wedding, took the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda out to dinner and a movie--"Squirrel!!--and asked her where she would like to go the next day for Day Trip. She said, "I wanna go see 'First Monday,'" and so bright and early Saturday morning, we snuck out of the house before the hope of twenty-first century civilization (and their parents) woke up and headed for Ripley.

First Monday is pretty much your basic flea market with the added attraction of livestock and dogs for sale. And, you haven't lived until you munch on a corn dog and a funnel cake while watching vendors stuff sold chickens in sacks. As we sauntered along the lane dedicated to dogs for sale, the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda sighted a yellow lab puppy on the tailgate of a pickup, yanked her hand out of mine and ran like a ten-year old over to pet the third most destructive force on the planet (behind a platoon of Marines and two grandsons). The man with the dog whipped out a set of "papers" and offered that this "registered, full-bred labbadoor" (sic) could be hers for only $25.

"Awww, Eyud, its so cute! He's got papers and is only $25! The boys would love him."

The Colonel was born at night--not last night. I didn't just fall off the turnip truck. I might not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I'm not crazy. I didn't just re-enlist of the way to lunch. I didn't just...okay, you get the idea. I wasn't going to buy a papered puppy for just $25. Everybody knows that if you don't pay at least $500--you ain't gettin' a good dawg.

The comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda put on her best pouty face, but the Colonel was not swayed. I stood my ground, grasped her hand, and leaned away from the tailgate-soiling pup until Miss Brenda's hand let go of the dog's neck. With her momentum going in my direction, I looked around for something much more appropriate for our attention--"Look, Sweety, that guy's got fishing poles and pocket knives for sale--two for a dollar."

It was a narrow miss. We'll get the boys a dog for a house-warming gift when they move into their own place.