Saturday, June 25, 2016

Submarines and Sailboats

The not-so-little country church to which the Colonel belongs, here at the shallow northern end of deep southern nowhere, held its annual Vacation Bible School (VBS) this week.

The Colonel spent the week following a group of fifth and sixth grade boys around.

One does not "lead" a group of fifth and sixth grade boys.  Herding cats is a breeze by comparison.  

And, fifth and sixth grade boys aren't going to sit still for flannel graph Bible stories nor willingly participate in dancing and singing.  They would rather be fishing or wrestling or swimming or wrestling or playing sports.

Or wrestling.

So, that's what the Colonel's kids do.  One evening we take 'em fishing and then we tell 'em the story of the Greatest Fisherman (Luke 5, 1 - 8).

Another evening we run 'em through an obstacle course and then we tell 'em the story of the Greatest Warrior (Joshua 5, 13 - 15).

We take 'em swimming and tell 'em about the depths of God's love for them. 

This year, on the first evening we brought 'em out to the Colonel's Man Toy Storage and Sawdust Production Facility and let them put the finishing touches on a submarine silhouette.  They wrote "Submerged in Christ" on the sub, slapped on a couple of coats of polyurethane, and glued a cross on the conning tower.

"Submerged in Christ" became the overarching theme for the week.

You might not think so, but there's a spiritual lesson in comparing submarines to sailboats.

You see, a sailboat rides on top of the water.  The water influences it some, but the wind is the far greater influence.   

A submarine, submerged completely, is influenced only by the water that surrounds all of it.

So, the question becomes: are you a sailboat Christian or a submarine Christian?   

A sailboat Christian floats on a foundation of faith, but is blown hither and yon by the winds of popular opinion, cultural dogma, or political correctness.

A submarine Christian is completely submerged in the will of God as expressed through the teachings of His Son, Jesus.  Submerging in Christ insulates one from the whims of the world.

The Colonel knows it's not a perfect analogy -- nor even a very good one, for that matter.  

But, it worked for fifth and sixth grade boys.


Thursday, June 23, 2016

Playground Politics

The Colonel is absolutely disgusted by the ever-sinking level of political discourse across the Republic.

He has always been uncomfortable with the sophomoric name-calling.  He is dismayed to see normally mature, intelligent fellow citizens become nothing more than nattering nine-year old playground denizens when referring to the political opposition. 

Can we just stop using the following (and their ilk), please?






Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. 

It is beneath us.  Far, far, far beneath us.

Come on, people!  We aren't Venezuela, for crying out loud. 

Can we just stop gleefully cheering on the gutter-crawling, mud-slinging from those who purport to be our leaders?  This ain't a mud-wrestling match, fellow citizens! We are debating the future of our Republic!

The Republic that we are going to leave to our grandchildren.

Speaking of our grandchildren -- if we caught them using the kind of foul, disreputable language that passes for our political discourse today, we would refer them to their parents for appropriate punishment and correction. 

Disagree -- of course.  Just keep out the coarseness.

Forceful defense of your political philosophy -- absolutely.  Just dispense with the ad hominem attacks.

Anyone who disagrees with the Colonel on this is a thumbsuckin', booger-eatin', pants-wetter!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Quiet Man

In June of 1966, the Colonel's dad, then a tech sergeant in the United States Air Force, went to Vietnam for a year.  The Colonel was ten; his brother seven.  

Dad was 34.

Tech Sergeant Gregory and his wife were natives of Columbus, Mississippi, so he moved the family back to Columbus for the year.  Or, forever...  They didn't know.

That was fifty years ago.  You would think that experience would have faded into an inconsequential blip on the memory radar by now.

You would be wrong.

Watching your mother deal with sending her soul mate off to war; watching your hero leave for a year, even at the self-absorbed age of ten...;  well, that's just not something that gets relegated to irrelevancy and suborned to the subconscious all that easily. 

Turns out that year was one of the most momentous years in the Colonel's life (to be eclipsed only by the summer a scant five years later when he fell in love with the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda).

It was during that year in Columbus, Mississippi that the Colonel got his first true exposure to the idiocy of racial segregation.

It was during that year, while his hero was off to war, that a surrogate stepped in as the Colonel's Scoutmaster and kindled a fire for camping and hiking.

It was during that year, while Dad was fighting in Vietnam, that the Colonel first stood toe-to-toe with another boy, landing and absorbing punches until the two of them were pulled apart by screeching teachers and sent to sit shoulder-to-shoulder outside the Principal's office.

It was during that year that the Colonel's mother entrusted him to walk little brother to school and back; and it was that year that Mom let them go to a Saturday matinee on their own.  Barrow Elementary and the Princess Theater were an equidistant three whole blocks from home, but it felt to the two boys as if they had been commissioned to explore the Louisiana Territory.

One Saturday the matinee was a Western.  "Lewis and Clark" sat front and center as a tall man, larger than life, filled the screen.  His posture and countenance did most of the talking for him, but when he did speak it was direct and to the point.  He called a man -- who wasn't even wearing a black hat with a big buckle -- "Pilgrim." 

The Colonel turned to his little brother and whispered, "Bruce!  Who does that big man remind you of?"

"Daddy!," they both exclaimed.

It was the first John Wayne movie the Colonel ever saw.  For years afterward, the Colonel had a suspicion that his dad had a side job as an acting coach.  

The Duke had Vernon Gregory down to a T. 

You might be nostalgic for John Wayne.  The Colonel ain't.

Senior Master Sergeant A. V. Gregory, Jr., USAF (Retired) turns 84 today.  Still a quiet man to match The Quiet Man.  

Still as big as Big Jake.

Still as principled as McLintock.

Still as strict as Sergeant Stryker.

Still as gritty as Rooster Cogburn.

Still the Colonel's hero.

Happy Birthday, Dad!                  

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Discount Denial

The Colonel doesn't like discounts.

It's not that he particularly enjoys paying full price.  He just isn't comfortable with the concept of getting better treatment than his fellow citizens.

He gets it.  Companies that offer discounts to veterans are, if their motives are to be given the benefit of the doubt, attempting to show appreciation for service to the nation and defense of the Constitution under which their capitalistic venture is made possible.  There's nothing wrong with that.

It's just that the Colonel didn't dedicate the first three decades of his adult life for a buck-fifty off the price of a hammer or a buffet.

Make no mistake.  These re-United States owe veterans, and their families, a debt they couldn't possibly repay.

Think about it.  What's it worth to you to have someone else go to war in your stead?

But, that young American didn't go off to war for a paltry discount.  In fact, one of the motives for military service most expressed by young Americans with their right hands in the air is the defense of the concept of equality treatment.     

Seems to the Colonel that the money spent on discounts for all veterans could be redirected to the care of the few veterans who really need it.  Most veterans the Colonel has ever seen taking advantage of a company's discount weren't particularly needy.

No judgment intended.  Just an objective observation. 

Frankly, veterans in real financial or physical distress aren't frequenting Lowes or Golden Corral.  The veterans who really need help are having a hard enough time navigating the federal government's bureaucratic labyrinth.  

Parenthetically, this post wasn't intended as a diatribe against the Veterans Administration.  The are very good people doing very good things for veterans at the VA.  But the inherent inertia of a federal bureaucracy means the VA as a whole provides substandard care and service to the nation's veterans.  If the Colonel were in charge -- and he hears the loud collective frightful inhalations at that prospect -- the VA would exist in a form whose sole responsibility would be the determination of eligibility for and the disbursement of the financial benefits required by law.  

Want to see the very best medical care given to veterans?  Close the VA hospitals and enact law giving veterans head-of-the-line privileges at any hospital in the land.

But, about discounts.

The Colonel stopped taking advantage of "veterans" discounts a long time ago.  He guesses the next honorable step is to figure out how to steer his passed-on discount to someone who really needs it.

Putting on the thinking cap.  Will report findings at a later date.


Thursday, June 09, 2016

Lions' Challenge

Thirty years ago this month, the Colonel was wrapping up his assignment as an Instructor at the Marine Corps' Basic School (TBS) in Quantico, Virginia.  It had been more of an education for him than for any of the second lieutenants who passed through the "Crossroads of the Corps" on their way to the Fleet Marine Force. 

Forty months previous, the Colonel, then a first lieutenant selected for captain, had come back to Quantico for the third time in his brief career.  He had been there twice already -- for Officer Candidate School (OCS) in '77 and for TBS and the Infantry Officer Course (IOC) in '78.   

After graduating from TBS and IOC, the Colonel's initial posting was as a rifle platoon commander in the 2d Marine Division at Camp Lejeune.  Three years at Lejeune had been followed by a year in the Western Pacific with a Marine Amphibious Unit.

Now he was back at Quantico, feeling not just a little bit cocky and sure of himself.  In fact, he was certain he was in possession of a set of orders to Quantico because he was perfectly suited for duty as an instructor teaching brand new second lieutenants all they needed to know to be successful in the fleet.  

When the Colonel reported in with the G-1 (Personnel Officer) at the Commanding General's HQ, he had his assignment speech well-rehearsed.  First he was going to wow the G-1 with his heel-clicking adherence to the letter of Marine Corps customs and courtesies, then launch into a quick synopsis of his accomplishments over the past four years, and then sum up with a succinct argument for immediate assignment to TBS as an instructor.

The major to whom the Colonel reported didn't give him a chance to get past "Good Morning, Sir."  He sighed wearily, "Stand at ease, lieutenant.  Lemme see you orders."

The Colonel handed over his orders and Officer Qualification Record (OQR) book.

"Gregory," he said, scanning the orders.  "Wasn't expecting you for another month or so.  Weren't you in the Philippines?"

"Yes, sir.  I was with 31st MAU.  We were pulling out of Subic headed into the Indian Ocean and they sent me back a few weeks early from there instead of trying to get me out later from Diego Garcia.  My relief was already aboard and I had trained him..."

The major cut the Colonel off with a wave of his hand, "Asked you for the time, not how to build a watch."

"Yes, sir."

"Okay, lieutenant.  A couple other officers have an appointment with the C.O. of the Basic School in an hour.  I'll call his X.O. and add you to the list of interviewees.  TBS gets first dibs on new officers.  If Colonel Deegan doesn't want you, come back here and we'll see if anybody else does."

Colonel Gene Deegan was one of a legion of legends in the Corps. Known as "Clean" Gene, he was famous for his circumspect conduct and his expectation of the same from his subordinates.  He would go on to retire as a major general and the Colonel had the great professional pleasure to serve under him on two later occasions.

When it was his turn to be interviewed, the Colonel reported in and was told, "Stand at ease, lieutenant.  Why are you here?"

The question took the Colonel a bit by surprise.  He thought it was obvious why he was there.  


"Why are you here, Lieutenant Gregory?"  Colonel Deegan was studying the Colonel like a hawk studies a mouse.

"I, uh..., um, to interview for a job, sir."

"Got that, lieutenant.  But, why are you here?" 

"I want to be an instructor here at the Basic School."

"You and every other company grade officer in the Marine Corps," Colonel Deegan growled, and then looked down at a folder on his desk.

The folder wasn't the Colonel's orders.  It wasn't his OQR, either.

It was his Basic School record... and it wasn't stellar.  

It wasn't even planetary.  

More like dark side of the moon.

The Colonel began to mentally stash his dream of working at TBS.  "Looks like I'll be making coffee for majors at headquarters," the Colonel thought to himself.  He began to subconsciously assume the position of attention preparatory to his certain immediate dismissal.  

He was yanked back to full consciousness by Colonel Deegan's question, "Care to explain why your TBS academic record is so poor?" 

The Colonel really didn't care to explain, but he had to answer; and, all was lost anyway, so he lamely said, "I guess I wasn't challenged, sir."

The Colonel kids thee not.  That's what he said.  The most idiotic thing to say to a superior.  He has regretted that answer ever since.

He regretted it the greatest the moment it escaped his lips.  The Colonel fully expected a withering redress followed immediately by a summary dismissal.  

In other words, the Colonel was expecting to get his butt chewed and shown the door in a rapid one-two punch.   

Instead, Colonel Deegan quietly sat back in his chair and studied the Colonel with the look you give something repulsive that has stuck to the bottom of your shoe.

Then the look changed, and danged if a slight smile didn't cross Clean Gene's face.

"Well, lieutenant," he said slowly.  "Let's see if we can challenge you this time around."  

"Sir?"  For a terrifying moment, the Colonel feared that he was about to be assigned, not as an instructor, but as a student. This interview was going from bad to worse to worser at a rapid clip.  

"See the Adjutant.  Tell him I said to assign you to the Command and Leadership instructor group.  We'll see how you do on the boards and then look at putting you into a company as an SPC (staff platoon commander) later in the year."

Colonel Deegan must have seen the look of abject terror on the Colonel's face give way to a look of complete befuddlement, "Welcome aboard, lieutenant.  Now get out of here before I change my mind."

Turns out Colonel Deegan was true to his word.  The Colonel was challenged more over the next three and a half years than at any time before or since, and the challenge came from the competition of his peers.

There were approximately 80 captains assigned to TBS as instructors.  By and large, they represented the best and brightest -- the Colonel being a glaring exception to that rule, of course.  A disproportionate share of that group went on to distinguished careers and general officer rank -- again, the Colonel being a glaring exception.  The current Commandant of the Marine Corps was one of the Colonel's peers (and he uses that word in the loosest sense) on the TBS instructor staff.  The point is the Colonel's education the second time around at TBS was far greater and had more lasting effect than any other time in his career -- and it came from the example of his peers.

The Colonel learned some great leadership lessons from some great bosses throughout his career.  But, the lessons learned from the lions of the Corps at TBS from 1983 to 1986 shape him still.               

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Glad Cad

Forty years ago this summer, the Colonel was halfway through his undergraduate studies at Ole Miss.  

Well..., the Colonel uses the word "studies" in the most general and non-descriptor fashion possible.  As the Colonel's college transcripts will attest, he was not exactly the model student.  Unless by model student you mean that he spent the vast majority of his matriculation at the "Harvard of the South" participating in every activity imaginable outside of actually studying.

And, the Colonel doesn't really claim to have attended a college -- he went to Ole Miss.  There is a vast difference.

But, that's not important right now.

What is of the greatest import with regard to this post is the fact that the most fantastically amazing change was about to take place in the Colonel's life.  He was about to get hitched for life with the love of his life -- the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda.   

There are those among the spare readership of the regularly irregular posts on this blog who will ask, "I thought hunting and fishing was the love of the Colonel's life?"

Those folks know him -- just not as well as they think.  It is true that the Colonel had a well-worn habit of introducing himself with, "hunting and fishing is my life -- the Marine Corps is my hobby...and, I'm passionate about my hobby."  But, that was a half-truth, at best...

Hunting and fishing was the Colonel's first love to be sure.  But the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda quickly and easily supplanted the pursuit of fin, feather, and fur.

Some among the readership of this blog -- you faithful few with nothing else of any measurable worth to do with your time but to spend it perusing posts hereon -- will ask, "I thought Ole Miss football was the love of the Colonel's life?"

Ah, but there is another layer of love, which, when peeled away, reveals the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda at the center of the Colonel's passion.  Make no mistake there aren't many things that will quicken the cold, flinty cinder that passes for his heart more than the melody of "Dixie" -- if buried not-so secretly under another more politically correct tune -- as the Colonel's Rebels take the field.

Yet, more often than not, in his lengthening life, the Colonel's Rebels have disappointed; let him down; crushed the cold, flinty cinder that passes for his heart; pushed him downtrodden out the exits; left him more bitter and further hating Bama and LSU.

In all the Colonel's years with the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda -- approaching a half-century -- she has never let him down.

The Colonel wishes that he could say that he has reciprocated -- but it just ain't so.  The Colonel is a cad.

He's a glad cad.

Glad that the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda saw something in the Colonel that the Colonel himself couldn't see.

Glad that when God said to the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda, "that knucklehead over there is the one" she followed His direction just as she has every day since -- providing the Colonel a rock of faith in his life against which every storm imaginable has crashed without impact.  

Glad that out of the 3.5 billion women on this planet, the Colonel found the only one who understands him, and loves him despite that understanding.  

Forty years ago, the Colonel and the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda decided they couldn't wait any longer to become man and wife.  In spite of all of the advice to wait until he graduated, they decided to dive headlong into the matrimonial morass -- clueless and unafraid.  They set a date -- July 31, 1976.  And, they kept it. 

If he could go back, the Colonel would do it all over again.

Well..., maybe he's try to limit the times he made her cry...      

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Destructive to Morale

     "We're not accustomed to occupying defensive positions.  It's destructive to morale."
         --  Lieutenant General H. M. "Howling Mad" Smith, USMC, 1945

The Colonel is vehemently opposed to Donald Trump's campaign promise to "build a wall and make Mexico pay for it."  

But not for the mendacious motives espoused by the national-suicide socialists masquerading as classical liberals.  They would have the gullible and uninformed among us believe that building a counter-migrant wall on our southern border is heartless -- they would have the entire nation become one borderless sanctuary to countless millions who would, in their gratitude, vote their morally rudderless and ruthlessly intolerant party into permanence.     

Trump would have the gullible and uninformed among us believe that building a counter-migrant wall on our southern border will fix the problem of growing crime in our streets, and panders to countless millions who would, in their gratitude, vote his morally rudderless and ruthlessly intolerant neo-party into office. 

Know this, dear readers:  Walls, as stratagems of grand national strategy, are emblematic of empires in decline.  

So are wide-open borders.  

Walls are indicative of a fearful people.  Open borders are indicative of feckless leadership.

A wall, as the tactical obstacle in a strategic defense, is only as effective as the strength and efficiency of the operational forces dedicated to maintaining observation over, and integrity of, that obstacle.

When the Roman Republic/Empire, at the end of the Julio/Claudian era, transformed from an expansionist imperial power into a defensive imperial power (and began it's decline), it restructured its military to suit.  Where formerly Roman military strength had been concentrated into "multi-legion armies not committed to territorial defense" and therefore "inherently mobile and freely redeployable" (Edward N. Luttwak, Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire), the perceived need to be strong everywhere on the periphery of the Empire resulted in a centuries-long campaign of strategic wall and fortification-building.  These walls and fortifications (Hadrian's Wall in Britain is exemplary), although impressive in scale and design, were enormously expensive to build, maintain, and defend.  Far more expensive, in fact, than a concentrated multi-legion army -- a fraction of which could be deployed to quell a rebellious client state or destroy a rival's base of operations without leaving the heart of the Empire defenseless.

In Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire, Luttwak argues conclusively that the Empire's successes during the Julio/Claudian era actually resulted in long-term transformation of the peripheral "barbarian" nations by a process of "voluntary Romanization."  In other words, Rome's enemies learned how to beat Rome at its own game -- adopting systems of political and logistical organization that allowed effective resistance to, and eventual destruction of, the Roman Empire.

The Colonel would argue that, in terms of the arc of its imperial history, the American Republic has transitioned through and out of its own "Julio/Claudian" expansionist phase and is now faced with peripheral nations who have voluntarily "Americanized."

Mexico, for example, is currently reprising the 19th Century American model for continental population expansion.  Those aren't "immigrants" waving Mexican flags in California -- they are no less invaders than the American settlers who flooded Mexico's northern lands in the 1830's.   

Building a wall to "keep 'em out" not only panders to the most base of our human instincts, it will inevitably be highly destructive to our national morale.

The Colonel's answer:  A pan-hemispheric republic of American states organized and governed under an unabridged and faithfully executed Constitution of the United States.

You got a better idea?                  

Friday, June 03, 2016

Sea Story

The Colonel's flurry of activity over the past week or so, tackling long overdue chores and projects, has been reminiscent of the last two times he returned from long(er) "cruises" in the Roman's Mare Nostrum.

While the flurry of catching up on "honey-do's" has been similar, the accommodations aboard the most recent Med cruise vessel were a tad bit better than those the Colonel experienced on the Navy's BUGS (big ugly grey ships) three decades ago.  

At sea the first day the Colonel was reminded of an old Marine saying and shared it with the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda,

"Hey, you know the difference between being on a ship and being in prison?"

"No, knucklehead.  But, I'm sure you're about to enlighten me and then follow up with a largely fabricated and interminably long 'sea story'," she said in the loving way she reserves only for her man.

"Huh?  My sea stories are not interminably long," the Colonel countered.  "Anyway, the difference is that in prison you have cable television and no danger of drowning."

The Colonel's lady was clearly highly amused at his wit, "Whatever.  Now can you quickly sum up the accompanying sea story so I can get back to working on my tan?"   

"Get it?  No danger of drowning."

"I got it.  Why don't you go get some soft ice cream and leave me alone?"

"Soft ice cream?!?  When were you going to tell me about that?"

"I pointed it out to you earlier, but you were busy telling some largely fabricated and interminably long sea story about the last time you were here in the Mediterranean."

"My sea stories are not interminably long!" 

"Go tell that to somebody who doesn't know you.  Now go get some ice cream and give me some peace."  

The Colonel headed for the soft ice cream kiosk, but on the way passed a member of the crew who wished him a cheery "good morning!"  The Colonel noticed the man's name tag had Philippines below his name, "Where in the Philippines are you from?"

"Cabanatuan, sir."

"That's on Luzon, right?  I was at Subic Bay for several short stays 35 years ago.  Great country, the Philippines."

"Very good, sir.  Can I get you something to drink?"

He was clearly excited to hear that he and Colonel had so much in common.

"Eyud!," the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda hollered from her chaise lounge.  "Leave the man alone!  He's got work to do!"

"Yes, dear."

The Colonel clapped the man on his shoulder, winked conspiratorially, and whispered, "Gonna be on your boat for two more weeks.  I'll talk to you later and we can compare notes on the future of Filipino-American relations vis-a-vis the Chinese."


"Yes, dear!"