Thursday, December 27, 2012

Xmas In Vietnam

In Vietnam, the saddest time of all were the holidays, being away from families, thinking about all the holiday activities back home. When we were back home, we might have thought the holiday season and all that comes with it was an enormous hassle; but in Vietnam, we would never admit such blasphemy.

40 plus years later, those Vietnam memories are cherished ones. I remember one very traumatic Christmas in Nam which made all of us sad and mad. The helicopter bringing the Christmas mail in a sling--a type of contraption that literally was swinging under the helicopter--hit some turbulence and the the mail was dropped. Help! Before the soldiers could get to the mail, the Vietnamese had gotten it and were nowhere to be found. Could have been the enemy, but more than likely, the friendlies, local villagers. Regardless, it was very tough to have our mail stolen at Christmas and had the troops been able to get to the ville another MyLai insanity would have been in the offing. More likely than not, the villagers innocently took our mail because it was a target of opportunity, goodies to sell on the black market.

Usually in Nam, there was a stand down, meaning that suddenly the fighting stopped. This always sounded a little crazy to me to stop the war for Christmas. If you can stop a war for Christmas, why don't you just stop

I also remember one very sad casualty during a Christmas stand down. Our FO, forward observer, stepped on a booby trap and was killed. Very sad. He was such a great guy and had a super sense of humor. Tall and handsome, 22, a graduate of St. Bonaventure University. Talk about a wasted life. As poet, Phil Woodall, says, "He may have died in vain, but he lived in honor."

This is such a difficult time for soldiers and their families. Soldiers are still in harm's way in Afghanistan. They, like in Vietnam, are in a misbegotten war.

We now celebrate the One who is the Prince of Peace, a difficult thing to think about during this time; we might use Jesus' words of peace--"peace, peace but there is no peace."

We have to see the bigger picture of Christmas, I believe: the realization that God can and does break through all the turmoil of our world. There is an enormous sadness that envelops those of us who care because of the unthinkable tragedy at Sandy Hook School in New Town, Connecticut. We can't put it down. The loss is too great. The grief is overpowering.

American soldiers who had their lives taken and the Sandy Hook youngsters and adults who had their lives "taken" are alike in this, "they may have died in vain but they lived in honor." And, for me, soldiers who died and the Sandy Hook victims will continue to live in my heart forever.


I still miss my good friend Sharon who transitioned from this life to the next a month or so ago. Early one morning, my iPhone flashed on and it was a message from Sharon. No, not really, (would have surely liked it), but from her husband, the greatest guy, wishing us a Merry Christmas. He was using her phone. A nice surprise. I have been trying to coordinate with Sharon's doc a little get together to kind of come to "closure"--Yeah I know, closure is a misnomer, whoever comes to real closer in the loss of a love one, especially someone who goes before their time. Surely no one I know.

Anyway, the doc hasn't responded which is not a big deal but it did get me to thinking. Sharon's doc is really great but she gets way too much stuff going and she can't do it all. Long story but the example to me and this isn't a hit on her, (after all, the chaplain is a professional too), just fact. If we ever think that we are more than a "file" to professionals usually, we might as well be whistling Dixie. Not so, they are doing their job. When we see a lawyer, the minister or Priest or doc, we are in their "sights" but when it is over, they go on to their next patient/client. And, this is good I think. Life goes on even we don't in the loss of our friend. Next case. God bless us all.

Thursday, December 13, 2012


Out of curiosity I “googled” the approximate number of churches/congregations in the US….460,000…Somewhere b/w 3500 and 4500 close their doors per yr.

How many homeless: 760,000..

The churches could begin with solving the homeless problem……Less than two per church. Dave

Dave, this is good thinking. How to bring this about is the issue. Plus, so complicated. If I were a pastor, I would adopt my "two." Now, that I am thinking about it, I am going to adopt my two and "play like" I am a Church. The first one is not homeless but close, actually a chaplain, seminary graduate. Long story that I don't know but think mental illness involved.

A couple of years ago, Meg, talked me into this annual program in the City, where all kinds of helping agencies show up for a day long attempt to reach the homeless. I was on the interviewing team. After about ten people, I wanted to kill 'em: most ruined their lives with drugs.

I came away, which I'm sure I've mentioned before and everyone was right with it, leaning forward in the foxhole. I think the so called homeless fit in three groups. The first ones are those who love the lifestyle. Drugs probably, they have learned the system, probably we could use the old term: bums. Forget them, we are not going to reach them. A little different than this next group who are basically addicts. Rarely, can we help but with patience, we can maybe reach one or two--lots of energy and resources wrapped around them: rehab/problems of recidivism. Then, there is a third group, families, in particular--if we are willing, we can help 'em. We have to get them in housing and help them with a life plan.

The problem of homelessness is not going away. We are not going to solve it. The old BS of platitudes, force them to work, no welfare, on and on won't hack it. We are not going to let even the sorriest among us starve. We are not a third world country. San Francisco has a welfare to work program that does fair. Homelessness is like emigration. We have to do the best we can but we cannot solve it and, it was Jesus who said, the poor we have with us forever and seems He was their champion.


Thursday, December 06, 2012


I am always a fan of Chaplains because they are so hard to categorize. Consequently, when I see an issue like the treatment of Bradley Manning, I am always wondering, "Where are the chaplains?" I consolidated a few tweets who said something like this,

They are protecting themselves and their careers! I worked for, gosh, 30 chaplains maybe, over my career??? Most would NOT go beyond protocol and standard issues. I would want to do something and most would freak out and worry about Commands responses.


Usually the Chief of Chaplains is worthless and that is where some courage should start. Unfortunately, if he hadn't laid in the weeds for years, he could never have made it TO Chief.

We need about one chaplain per vet. I see these guys at VA, self medicating, etc. Let's keep fighting. We can't give up. I like the "fuck you very much" approach. I use it all the time. God bless. Keep charging.