Friday, October 16, 2009


There's a side of me that honestly doesn't know how we have gotten to
this place in our society. Of course, all the talking heads can give
you various answers. It is a little like CA: largest state in the
union, very complex and contentious. Plenty of answers but few willing
to take the hard path.

A dose in perspective would help all those who seem to know all the answers, however. I was on the bus today and sat beside this lady who had one of these POW bracelets that we use to see. I commented on it and she said my son's commander sent it to me. My son was killed in Afghanistan last year. I was absolutely floored. Speechless was more like it. Immediately, I thought of what Dr.Boyce, my seminary professor told us once: sometimes there is a sympathy so great for people that you simply don't know what to say. Or, there is nothing to say. Talk about "getting it," today I did.

God bless you my brother.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Claude brings up some good points. and something I'm wondering if it is being addressed at the chaplain's school. It should be and with the idea of what role the media plays. Claude, for instance, had enough smarts to play it
cool and understand that the media would distort or put the chaplains in a bad light. Knowing Claude as we do, we know that he was just too smart to get trapped. Today, the media is much more sophistigated as well as the chaplains and soldiers. They have Internet, email, instant everything. Today's chaplains have a lot to navigate. Maybe, here's where the indorser has to come in. What think? God bless. Jerry


Set down clearly what you think the schools should teach about the media; I have UM contacts in all the schools and will pass on to them.


Tom Carter
Director of Endorsement

Tom, thanks for giving me this say. Here's what I think off the top of my head.
1. Should invite some media types in: both print and Internet, etc. like Slate. What do they report, how do they go about it, etc. Relate some stories like we're talking about. Maybe a good hard hitting round table.

2. Some way to educate commanders. Unfortunately, so many of these guys have the same problem we have, rarely can they speak the truth. I mean, politics aside, in both Iraq and Afghanistan, we are in a mess. Let anyone dispute it. I'm listening.

3. Let the chaplains discuss what they believe their role is; personality does play a part, i. e., an SJ will approach different than an NT for instance but all will face, "loyalty to Pentagon or to God."

4. Chaplains should have a proactive PAO person, probably at the Chief's office. Much like Dave had when he was at Fort Bragg. The Chaplains got more publicity than Britney Spears. This person could be on top of the scene when chaplains are involved, not to interfere but the idea of, what is the role confusion issue? Chaplains have to be free to express opinions and say what they believe. I have read so much stuff from WW 11 chaplains and did they ever have it easy. All they had to do was minister.

5. Has to be emphasized that we are not spokespersons for the military and we are ministers in uniform and more likely than not, soldiers still trust us.

Tom, if I can think of anything else, will fire it off to you. God bless. You're doing good work. {{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{Jerry}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}

Tuesday, October 06, 2009


Today, I did what Jackie often says to me "you are now free to move about San Francisco." And, I did, went to the Blues Festival for a bit, like an ADD type might. As I was making my way back across the City, I saw hundreds of breast cancer survivors apparently finishing their three day participation in a walkathon. It was pretty inspiring, people were cheering and clapping all across town. They began by camping out all night on the Marina in little pink tents. Quite a sight. At UCSF (University of CA at San Francisco which is the medschool and all the health Sciences) UCSF is always listed as one of the top hospitals in the world when it comes to treating and fighting cancer. UCSF has these quilts made by survivors all over the hospital. I'll post a few. They are great.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


I was watching a rerun of M*A*S*H. I heard a quote by Frank Burns that I thought was so funny. Had to go out to Internet to find it. Thought I would pass along. Unless we all conform, unless we follow our leaders blindly, there is no possible way we can remain free.

This is funny. Mash use to be on my daily schduled activities. I've seen all the shows. Ujongbu which they are constantly referencing in the show is where I was for two years. 2077 Mash was about a mile away from Camp Red Cloud where I was. Our running group, The Camp Red Cloud Thinclads would run by where it use to be every morning. The only part of Mash that was actually filmed in Korea was the opening with the helicopter coming in with the mountains in the background. Thanks for sharing.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Email Exchanges on grief, family, war

***I suppose this is a busy weekend for you. It is a difficult one for me as my
emotions seem to be divided up between honor and anger. I continue to
concentrate on my brother's memories so they do not fade as I grow older. I
know it is hard for the loved ones of those killed in Vietnam to figure out
a good reason for their death because of the way our government pulled out
of there when we could have been victorious, but I keep referring back to my
brother's letter where he wrote "we don't belong here...these boys should be
back home....but if it means it keeps my little brother from having to come
over here....then it is all worth it! As usual...he was always thinking of
others. I miss him dearly.

Ruth, it is so great hearing from you. I think of you so very often.

One of the things I've learned about grief over the years is that
there is no timetable. I'm sure you miss your brother terribly and in
many ways, it is just like yesterday. Plus, there is no right way or wrong way to grieve. Whatever way you do it is the right way.

Today I had a wedding. In fact, I decided that it was the last one I'm
going to do. And, I will have to say that it was a good one to end on.
An African American couple who wrote their vows and he sang his to her.

My connection to the bride was through Rose, that I drove to her chemo appointments every week for almost two years. (I've kept a blog called, Rose died last Oct. Charlotte,
the bride, lived in the same apartment building and was so kind
to Rose and when she asked me to do her wedding, I couldn't refuse and
did it in honor of Rose. I still miss Rose terribly but feel her
spirit is here as I'm sure you do with Tim.

I was watching the Memorial Concert tonight and as usual, it was
wonderful. But, I couldn't help wondering about the young soldier who
had lost half his brain and was so severely impacted--they featured
him on the program. I just wondered if the soldier had been given his
choice, what would he want? To die on the battlefield or to be in the
state he is now, hardly knows he's in the world. His mother and sister
giving up their lives to care for him. Is that what he would want.
What do think?

Ruth, so great hearing from you, a wonderful Memorial Day gift. Thank
you. God bless.


Jerry, I am sad to hear about the passing of your friend, it sounds like she had a
difficult battle towards the end. In the last 12 years I have visited my mom
in the nursing home I have come to one conclusion and that is I will never
let myself live to the point where I am in my own world that can not be
shared with others. That would be such a lonely place to be.

I don't understand the fact that we will put our pets out of pain and misery and yet
we let our love ones live on in a place no one but them understand or do
even they? They say life is suppose to be a journey and where can one go if
they are tied to a wheel chair, slumped over and seem to be caught in between
two would seem like they were lingering and the loved ones are
to selfish to let them go and the nursing home is still making a buck on

I am sure if these people would know before hand they would be caught
in limbo, they would ask for the same mercy we give our pets. I think Dr
Kevorkian had the right idea but just the wrong process. Everyone should be
able to make choices. People speak of suicide and how it is a sin, but I
don't think the God I know would view it as such, why would he want anyone
to suffer unnecessarily. Are we so selfish in wanting them to stay? We are
asking them to be in our world and under our conditions...yet we can not
share their world as we have no idea where that is.

It also angries me, the media does little to cover the wars and conflicts where loved ones are dying on a regular just seems as no one cares anymore. They give no reports of the number of soldiers who come back with PTSD, missing limbs, brain dead or many other traumas. It seems like Paris Hilton and Britney
Spears and their parties or rehabs of taken over the news, now how silly is
that or should I stupid is that? Memorial Day is no longer what it
was set up has just become the "first summer holiday" for three
days of boozing or boating, fishing...the first week-end back to work no one
talks about what the did to honor someone on Memorial Day but rather where
did they go out of town. I feel sorry for the young man you were talking
about, what a sacrifice he has made. But if he was able to tell his family
how he felt, I have no doubt he would ask them to let him go. I would not
want to see his family giving up their lives to tend to him. In early wars
they did not have the medical expertise that they do now. If someone had
half his brain blown away...he would have died.Bottom it greed
from many sources that keep these people in limbo keep living?

My reborn again sister is still living outside of the world of reality. She
says she believes in the rapture. She told me on the day...if the pilot of
a jet was a Christian and the passengers were not....the pilot would be
taken by God and saved and the rest of the non-Christian people in the plane
would crash and die. She goes to a church that talks in tongues. She is up
set with her kids as she does not think they go to church enough. It is
almost like she loves them more if they attend church.

Ruth, thanks for the family slitrep. Families can be something else to
say the least. My brother and I have just finished our family memoirs
of our growing up years on a tobacco farm in eastern North Carolina.
It has been about seven years in the making and my family is pretty
much opposite than yours.

Religious right wing types are somewhat of a phenomena: they proof
text the scriptures, meaning they take one little portion and zero in
on it and that is all they give credence too. As my seminary professor
use to say, "you can prove anything you want by the Bible but you
can't prove anything you want too by the whole Bible. "

In writing our family memoirs we were often badgered with religion of
the right wing type but what made a vast difference in our family is
that my Dad who in present day terms would be spiritual but not
religious. We laughed lots about it and my aunts who were so involved,
along with my Grandpa who was a Pentecostal preacher. My Dad would
often laugh at their antics and they laughed at themselves and that
made all the difference in the world. My brothers tell stories of my
aunts shouting and falling onto the floor. It was something like an
earthquake since my aunts topped the scales at close to 300 pounds. We
still laugh and talk about it.

God richly bless you.

*** To read more of Ruth's writings go to READ RUTH'S BOOK: FACES BEHIND THE NAMES

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Email to Chaplain working in the area of suicide prevention

Have you all been able to determine from research much about the increase in the suicide rate? I have been in several discussions which seem to focus on the trend increasing related to those who enlist, i.e. those from the lower categories seem to have fewer life skills to cope or seek help. In a conversation with a CH at the Fort Jackson hospital, there seems to be fewer in the psy ward with the summer enlistees who are mostly high school graduates than later in the year when the recruiters are enlisting whoever they can sign up. I know this may be only one of the factors added to repeated deployments, single parent families, etc. How does the Army rate compare to the Air Force and Navy? I’m interested in any general thoughts. TC

The following is from a chaplain that is working in the agency responsible for developing programs, etc. for suicide prevention. He is confirming some of the discussions I have been having, starting with chaplains in Italy and Germany, and then continued with you all and chaplains at Ft Jackson. tc

Thanks for the interest in this area. As you can imagine there is a whirwind of activity around this topic right now. The observation of high school vs. later year enlistees is in fact reliable, although some will try to explain it away through other factors. The Army rate is the highest among the services and a concerted effort of Army and DoD agencies is finally beginning to develop and rely upon statistical analysis and measurements to get a broader and at the same time more specific handle on this entire phenomena. Although the stress remains high for Families and Soldiers, many suicides are occuring with Soldiers who have never deployed. This begs the question of what additional factors - rather than the immediate focus of deployment - contribute to suicidal ideation, attempts and completions. Actually, as morbid as it sounds, it is a fascinating subject.

For instance, we have wrestled with the idea of the decline in the importance of the Church as an institution to condemn suicide as a means of ending ones own life and/or pain. Rather, culturally it seems we have quasi-adopted the stoic warrior mentality, thus being more accepting of suicide.

I just completed reading a book by Thomas Joiner entitled, "Why People Die by Suicide", (Harvard Univ Press). Some very current research and theory on this topic. Absolutely riveting discussion regarding burdensomeness and feeling valued/loved as indicators or warning signs of increased risk of death by suicide.

Sorry for going on, but a very compelling and interesting research area, in addition to developing methods to save lives.

I didn't quite understand from your chaplain, was he saying that young high sch enlistees with less a value system were more likely to take their own lives than an older more seasoned soldier. So, if soldiers are committing suicide apart from the stresses of deployments, etc., this means they are bringing this into the service with them . Consequently, we/rexruiters are not catching or seeing this before they get in or they are and are choosing to ignore.

I'm going to order the book he mentioned. In terms of discussion, I can't help but contrast the breast cancer survivors that I've been volunteering by driving them to treatment and their attitudes. They will do almost anything to survive; suffer any pain, indignity and yet here are these youngsters, lives ahead of them and they do themselves in.

I think that my theory might be just as good as any now that I'm thinking about it. However, although the military would not adopt it as they always want an answer or take the Marine philosophy, a two day class, problem solved. But, I believe that most who take their lives momentarily go crazy. They are walking across the GG Bridge and suddenly get the impulse to jump. Their lives are not where they want it to be. Money problems, wife or family difficulties, whatever, they lose it, they jump. And unfortunately, if they are successful in their attempt, there is no turning back.
GusDavis Aughtry


Sunday, March 08, 2009


I have talked to a few of our chaplains concerning the suicide increase. In summary, most attribute it to the following….not necessarily in order

1) Post-war traumatic Stress

2) Break down in family relationships. (Divorce among military Married Couples is at an all time high

3) Too many “hardship” tours

4) Overwork/stress/lack of sleep dpp

Dave, this is good. Thanks. It is interesting to me whether the calibers of the Volunteer Army has anything to do with it. The stuff I read indicates that for those who are prone to suicide, the more emotionally sophisticated they are, the quicker they will seek help. Many who take their lives probably do so because of some or all of the reasons you mentioned, yet if they don't seek help, is it because they are less emotionally sophisticated, i. e., possibly come from lower socio economic classes ( which is the elephant in the room that we never talk about).

When we had a draft army, mixed in with the kids from all walks of life were doctors and lawyers and Indian chiefs sons. Now, they are not there, I don't think or are they? gda

I wouldn’t doubt that there is truth to what you say. The problem is…it is not measurable and very difficult to identify. I would suspect another factor is the lack of a faith commitment. The highest percentage of enlistees are non-churches…so say the chaplains. Having said that there are a significant number who are coming to faith in Christ, attending Bible Studies, etc. Also, the troops seem to be doing a fantastic job, highly motivated, etc. dpp

Sunday, February 01, 2009


ARE THEY UP TO THE TASK. A very belated, but heartfelt Happy New Year to you. Do so hope 2009 will be better than the past year, and yes, I agree we have always been a resilient people who seem to always be able to survive adversity and claw our way back up. Somehow, I am a little unsure about this generation having the backbone to sacrifice what it takes for the good of all, but surely pray I am wrong. Are we as strong as the "Greatest Generation"? Guess we'll find out. Oh well, inauguration was great: a new beginning, and hope again is evident everywhere, so we will all support our new president and his administration with our prayers and best wishes and thoughts - they will surely need them.

Your Dad was right about those who mess with the Jews, they will ultimately get zapped! But like you, this latest conflict has been heart wrenching to watch. At least there seems to be a cease fire for now, but we all know that will not last. The Jews are so despised by the Arab world, and Israel does have every right to defend themselves, so even though the whole situation appears hopeless right now, there will come a day when your Dad's prophecy will be fulfilled, because it comes right out of God's Word! bbc

What a mess, on every hand. And, we have to hope the new President is doing the right thing, mainly that he is doing something which has to happen. We have to get people back to work. I am often in the fog. For instance, if a company says it is not doing well, what it looks to me, they just aren't making as much profit. So...they are paying their bills, breaking even, people are working. So, what is the big deal? I relate it to a doctor buddy of mine who was griping about the economy recently. He went to easily making from a half million down to $200,000; his idea was because of the government, HMOs, etc., private doctors could no longer make the big money. So...2 hundred thousand didn't sound so bad to me. See what I mean, I can't get it.

I have debated my Dad's philosophy a good bit. His greater one was "to always do what is right," and truly that is no small thing. Personally, I think it is one of those problems like immigration, insoluable. Simply, can't be done. The politicians and "talking heads" never talk in those terms but until Jesus comes again, have to do the best we can. Last Sunday night's Sixty Minutes carried a piece of the settlers living in the West Bank and how in a sense, they abused the Palestinians. Now, that is an example of my Dad's "doing what is right" is involved. Oh well...ja

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


My brother, Raz's, first coaching job was in Gibsonville, N. C. In fact, I remember it quite well. My brother is thirteen years older than me and I was in the 6th grade. I went to live with him and his wife, Ireni, for most of a school year. My Mom had gotten really sick and so it seemed to be the best option for me to be assured that I toe the mark and do what I needed to do. It was a good time, even if I did occasionally chafe under the discipline. And, from this aged perspective, what a wonderful charitable act theirs was.

And, while in Gibsonville, a youngster just a few years younger than me was already a budding athlete, Kay Yow. My Brother recognized early on, how super she was and in the parlance of today's speech, became her mentor. She died a couple of days ago. Kay, having gone on to achieve all kinds of honors in her sport, Olympic gold metal, successful coaching career; but, maybe her greatest success was in living for over twenty years with breast cancer. I think I read somewhere where she was in remission for half of her time. Good for her. Eventually, however, she had no choice, the insidious disease took her.

Below is an email, my sister-in-law forwarded with a wonderful link of Kay's testimony to her faith. I know my brother is very sad but without sounding too much like a know it all preacher, she truly is in a better place and the suffering is at an end.

Hello, all --

Many of you know about the death of Kay Yow. When I was in college, I would go to FCA meetings with Amy in the hopes that Kay Yow would be there. When famous folks die, we usually don't know the status of their spiritual condition but I have no doubt -- from the many testimonies about her faith and my own personal take of what we knew of her -- that today she is cancer-free and in the presence of the Lord. I wanted to see if her personal testimony was published somewhere online -- especially as public as she was with her faith and I found it. I thought you guys might also be interested in reading certainly was an encouragement to me. The YouTube clip on the side of the page is also an encouragement as she talks about success from a Biblical perspective if you have 5+ minutes to watch it.
K and K Hilliard

Saturday, January 24, 2009


There's a saying among preachers, "He who prays much in private, prays little in public, " I don't think Rick Warren and Reverend Lowery got that at the Inauguration. Reverend Lowery gets a "pass." He was there in the beginning with MLK. Based on the historic event of a new President who happens to be African American and the good Reverend's age, he is authorized to be and say what he wants. Personally, I kind of liked the ending of his prayer, the sing song way of it. There's a name for it, mostly originating in the South, "Whoop," a kind of cadence, a sort of poetry of preaching. MLK used it almost always and definitely in his, "I Have A Dream" speech.

Now, Rick Warren is another story. His prayer bordered on egomania. I was fearful that his prayer was going to be longer than the Inaugural address. It came close. To be honest, nobody would have expected a "quickee" prayer but come on, Warren was over the top. And, what is it with us Evangelicals (My Church is the Evangelical Presbyterian Church and my Presbytery is in Denver) that insist on praying In Jesus Name. It is like some mantra that we must do in public to proclaim our allegiance. For our churches, this may be OK but for a world stage, this simply reinforces often what many believe: that we are bigots and exclusive at worse and at best, egomaniacs. Well Warren confirmed it. I don't get it and never will. Next case.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

What are your thoughts on this, Chaps.  I am in favor of ending “don’t ask, don’t tell.”  My gay friends pay their taxes, serve the community, etc.   Most of us are old enough to remember the predictions that integrating the military services would bring chaos.  Didn’t happen.  Just require the same discipline of gays as we do of heteros. 


Lamar, I take a little different tack. For instance, if gays want to marry, no sweat. I voted NO on Prop 8 which really was a "yes" that they could marry. As a Bible thumper, there's simply not enough Biblical admonition against it and, of course, Lesbians get a pass. But, love is all over the New Testament and I can't imagine Jesus being less than accepting. But, then again, the very word, marriage, traditionally connotes a union between man and woman. This sounds like double talk and so have to say for me, in light of many thing, if they want to marry, fine with me. I liked the civil union idea. And, I admit some homophobia. I get a little tired, especially here, of pandering to the gays. And, constantly have to clean up my language in reverting to NC talk and saying "fruits" etc. I do have several gay friends. Well, acquaintances but my"girlfriends" as Jackie calls them and they are a typical bunch of old farts who deride gays and my language is generous compared to what they would say. 

The military is another story. I like the "Don't ask, don't tell" policy. Mainly, it allows gays to serve without having to put up with the homophobia of the soldier. And, let's keep in mind, the military is designed to fight and win wars. It is not a social organization. And, openly having gays, especially in combat units, will create trouble and take away from the mission, I think. I know that other countries have successfully integrated gays but they are not combat oriented as we are, I don't believe anyway.  I just think it takes away from the mission. But, I also think that since we have a Volunteer Army, there's a difference too. It could be part of the "contract. " When they sign up, they accept the idea that gays will be serving alongside them. Will it solve the problem? No, just as integrating the military has not done away with racism, doing away with "don't ask, don't tell" is not going to do away with gay bashing. 

I think the new president will end, "don't ask, don't tell" but I think it is a mistake. So, there you have it. 


Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Chaps, we are having our 3rd service of anointing and laying on of hands for the sick this coming Sunday. The service has been remarkably well received.


My real feelings are that the oil and laying on of hands is not going to hurt. If it comforts someone, super. If, however, you claim this literally does something, hmmmmm. Making God too much in our lives reduces Him/Her to arbitrary, i. e., who should be healed. Too much of a problem.

If I were back with a congregation now and thank the Lord, I'm not, I would be wanting them to deal with the Gaza conflict, the Biblical interpretation of all of this, i. e., did God really give the Jews this land? And, how literal can we deal with the Old Testament with the Christian idea that God will always do what is right.

Also, My experience as a pastor was that few Christians were willing to probe the greater truths but rather opted for very surface stuff. Maybe what you see you are doing is trying to move them to greater depths. More power to you. Power in the blood. God bless you in your ministry.

This is just feedback and opinion. You are out there in the "arena" fighting away and I affirm you for it.

It does something, Jerry!  At our first such service I asked Merle to anoint and lay hands on me for the anger I have held against Alan for ruining his life.  Grew to almost hate him.  I am at peace with that now.  What was it, the oil and hands, or me naming my problem and seeking God’s grace.


We do this only after we have prepared the folks.  It is low key.  I tell the folks that God’s word won’t return void, that no obedience to God will ever be wasted, however they must understand that God will give them what he knows they need.


Example, the friend who had her nurse call asking me to talk with her husband and help him to let her go.  I stood on one side of her bed and Dave stood on the other.  I felt in my spirit that I needed to tell her that she would have to accept whatever God gave (Dave was listening intently), that he would give something.  Later, I realized that the grace God gave was to Dave, helping him come to peace about her going.  Yes, I believe that it is real.  What we do is not Oral Roberts, but we reach the point of anointing after hymns and liturgy lead us to the point of faith.  It is working, Jerry.  With my Pentecostal background I have shunned such things, but it is in the Bible.  This UCC congregation and co-pastor are seeing good things happen and asking that this service be quarterly.  And our adult Bible teacher lives quietly and faithfully with his male partner.  Can you believe it?  We have arrived at a good point, not by reducing our faith to mere nothing, but by showing love and acceptance in Christ’s name.


Eileen was remarkably improved, sat up the next day, had four good days at home, then the infection came back.


Shirley and I visited Eileen this afternoon in Hospice, sang to her and prayed for her.  She is on her way out, but I don’t fell that our efforts were wasted.  She had four more days at home and Dave is now at peace with her going. 


I am a better pastor now than ever.  Why did it take me so long?

MORE RESPONSE: Lamar, you are having a wonderful ministry with your healing services. How do you pray for people? Do they come forward and ask for specific healing? I have done it different ways. After they kneel I have asked them in private what it is they need healing for and I have had them fill out cards and hand them to me as they kneel. I don't think we offer this healing service enough in our churches. People have deep needs that they don't know what to do with and a healing service gives them an opportunity to name them, be anointed and prayed for. God bless your ministry.  Bernie

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

HEROES-email exchange

I love the last line of “Band of Brothers” where the real life surviving ranger is asked by his grand-daughter if he was a hero in the war? His answer, “No, but I did serve with the real heroes of the war.”

I love that line as it says so much about the military.

Though some of us did not see combat, or experience any hostilities, we were fortunate enough to serve with those heroes that did!

I've thought lots of heroes and bravery. Surely lots are, soldiers who are in combat or even the threat of combat; but, I will have to say that over the last couple of years I've been involved on being basically the driver for Rose, fighting breast cancer for 10 years: diagnosed at 30, died just shy of her 41st birthday, my views have changed. I watched her die slowly and during the time I was with her, met lots of cancer survivors. Now, with soldiers, sometimes it's hard to gage. But, with Rose and these many that I met, from my perspective, there is no doubt, we are talking bravery and real heroes.