From the Ranch

From the Ranch

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Which Ideals and Principles Will Endure

 Our son Jared who went to Afghanistan and Iraq twice working as an electrician.
 An account on a web site titled Foreign Policy, which was written by a now retired colonel, who last served with the Army Reserves, was pointed out to me recently.  It was yet another story of wrong doing by the Army.  As you will be able to tell if you follow the link to the site, I am a very strong supporter of the Army and those who serve.  Not so much of a fan of those who lead at the top however, so this story really caught my attention.




 Our daughter Beth who served for 8 years in the Texas National Guard and the Army, with our two grand-daughters waiting for my son-in-law to return from his third deployment to Afghanistan.  He has deployed also to Iraq and Korea during the last 10 years.

I felt an old anger surge, to borrow a current military term.  I know of more and more of these instances of leadership failure, and they trouble me so deeply.  Almost every good Soldier I know has a story like this to share.  Either it happened to the Soldier, or they have observed it happen to someone else and felt shaken to their core.  Part of the problem I think is how one of the Seven Army Values is taught.  If you aren't familiar with the Seven Army Values, they are worthy guideposts for anyone's life, and taught to every recruit.  The one that is most often listed by Soldiers as of greatest importance is loyalty, and in all their materials the Army always lists loyalty first.  I agree with that, but not as many serving interpret loyalty as devotion to all things honorable first and foremost, they want to make it about individuals who might be doing questionable things.  A Soldier can get the impression that he or she is to turn a blind eye to wrongdoing, in loyal support of leadership.  After all, in most of the "military movies" that is important of all the heroes.  Certainly if every order is questioned by every Soldier, the military mission cannot go forward.  I'm talking about something else, I'm talking about situations which come to light that become clear breaches of ethics, flagrant in fact.  They are almost always orchestrated by leadership who fear no accountability, indicating the behavior is a demonstration of power mongering, for whatever reason.  In fact sometimes it appears to be solely for the amusement of that abuser.  What is most likely the reason is leadership that is self serving in nature, and the career of the individual is at stake.Without honor as its' foundation, loyalty is no longer a virtue.  Many times it is taken as a sort of "what happens in the Army, stays in the Army" sort of deal.  That isn't what constitutes honorable loyalty to me. The Army's official web site states it this way:

Loyalty

Bear true faith and allegiance to the U.S. Constitution, the Army, your unit and other Soldiers. Bearing true faith and allegiance is a matter of believing in and devoting yourself to something or someone. A loyal Soldier is one who supports the leadership and stands up for fellow Soldiers. By wearing the uniform of the U.S. Army you are expressing your loyalty. And by doing your share, you show your loyalty to your unit.    http://www.army.mil/values/index.html

 If a Soldier is taught to look the other way, or hide wrong doing as a part of the context of "loyalty" it surely creates an ethical dilemma that the other six values cannot support.  If it is taught that as a Soldier you accept wrong justice for yourself or another Soldier, again the other six values become tainted and invalid.


Our daughter and son-in-law who was seriously wounded in 2003 in Iraq, and can no longer serve.

Here is how the official Army site defines the other six values:

Duty

Fulfill your obligations. Doing your duty means more than carrying out your assigned tasks. Duty means being able to accomplish tasks as part of a team. The work of the U.S. Army is a complex combination of missions, tasks and responsibilities — all in constant motion. Our work entails building one assignment onto another. You fulfill your obligations as a part of your unit every time you resist the temptation to take “shortcuts” that might undermine the integrity of the final product.

Respect

Treat people as they should be treated. In the Soldier’s Code, we pledge to “treat others with dignity and respect while expecting others to do the same.” Respect is what allows us to appreciate the best in other people. Respect is trusting that all people have done their jobs and fulfilled their duty. And self-respect is a vital ingredient with the Army value of respect, which results from knowing you have put forth your best effort. The Army is one team and each of us has something to contribute.

Selfless Service

Put the welfare of the nation, the Army and your subordinates before your own. Selfless service is larger than just one person. In serving your country, you are doing your duty loyally without thought of recognition or gain. The basic building block of selfless service is the commitment of each team member to go a little further, endure a little longer, and look a little closer to see how he or she can add to the effort.

Honor

Live up to Army values. The nation’s highest military award is The Medal of Honor. This award goes to Soldiers who make honor a matter of daily living — Soldiers who develop the habit of being honorable, and solidify that habit with every value choice they make. Honor is a matter of carrying out, acting, and living the values of respect, duty, loyalty, selfless service, integrity and personal courage in everything you do.

Integrity

Do what’s right, legally and morally. Integrity is a quality you develop by adhering to moral principles. It requires that you do and say nothing that deceives others. As your integrity grows, so does the trust others place in you. The more choices you make based on integrity, the more this highly prized value will affect your relationships with family and friends, and, finally, the fundamental acceptance of yourself.

Personal Courage

Face fear, danger or adversity (physical or moral). Personal courage has long been associated with our Army. With physical courage, it is a matter of enduring physical duress and at times risking personal safety. Facing moral fear or adversity may be a long, slow process of continuing forward on the right path, especially if taking those actions is not popular with others. You can build your personal courage by daily standing up for and acting upon the things that you know are honorable.

  
 In this photo Soldiers and family members applaud the team at Family Day that won the Hoo-ah Contest.  The children of these Soldiers are holding up the trophy the team won.  Family members should always be able to take pride in the service of their loved one, and be able to count on the integrity of the leadership of the Army at every level.  I don't think any of us would surrender our loved one willing to leadership that reflected anything less than absolute devotion to the Seven Army Values.  Never should any family member find themselves in fear of what corrupt leadership has the ability to do with the power afforded them.

I fundamentally disagree with the UCMJ.  I am but a grain of sand on the beach of service in the Army, and I have personal knowledge of enough abuse of power through use of UCMJ that it must be rampant, and unchallenged everywhere.  There is an old saying, for every rat you see, there are fifty you don't see.  Why does the military think that ordinary people could not understand those Seven Army Values, and apply justice according to those principles?  Why is it that only the military can judge the actions of those in the military?  That is a very presumptuous stance, that frankly appears to work in favor of those in high places wishing to protect themselves and their careers.

At a West Point reunion several years ago with my husband's class of 1981 in a meeting with the class members and the then Commandant of the Academy, my husband asked of the Commandant if he had noted any discrepancies in the actual administration of UCMJ.  I will never forget knowing what a great man was at the helm of that institution when he replied without anything but a second of silence, "Yes, I have, and I cannot get support from the generals to change that."  What honesty, what moral courage, he too placed himself and his career in jeopardy when he dared to make such an honest answer to my husband and the class of 1981.  West Point and a committee of generals is the seat of authority concerning maintaining the standards of all things and all matters of the honor and integrity of the United States Army.  The Commandant is the chairman of that committee.  The enemy is within.
 
 Austin County Rodeo Parade, Bellville, Texas, 1st Place Float.


What follows is a link to the site I went to, curious about the experience of yet another who has faithfully served.  Also I have included an edited for grammar version of my last entry in the discussion.  This discussion remains for me of the utmost importance.  It should be to you as well.


 http://ricks.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2012/07/25/toms_all_for_relief_but_here_s_the_story_of_how_i_got_relieved_unfairly_in_iraq#lf_com


This was my last entry:


Larry, for my son, fixing those electrical issues was about his birthright, a privilege which there are no words to describe, about being a citizen of the greatest nation the world has ever known, flaws and all.  It was about being an American.  It was about the debt he feels he owes to those who will stand the wall of freedom for every citizen in this country.  (They protect those who are ill informed as to the threats to our survival as a nation, those who cheat, lie, and are without values, just as they protect their own children and loved ones, we all share the benefits of their sacrifices, fools, crooks, scoundrels and all.)  

I still work with these men and women and their families every day.  We have established a small retreat at our little ranch in Texas, and they come from Ft.Hood, Ft. Sam Houston, and really from all over the country.  They stay in our little cabins, sit on our porch, fish, canoe, ride horses, I feed them my best home cooking, our latest little escape for the girly girls among our military families, the Barbie Barn, and I listen as they tell me of their sacrifices.  They really won't readily do that except to one of their own.  They inspire me every day, and break my heart at their stories of failed leadership.  I believe that failed leadership is such a prime factor in PTSD.  I have thoroughly researched all the academic work on PTSD, do so daily for the latest science, and have years of experience with those who suffer from it, beginning with 12 years of raising foster children.  

  Some of my favorite Veterans

 My husband has always had a mantra which motivated his pursuit of excellence, "If the man in front of me can do it, so can I."  He was mentored under generals early in his career he would have followed to hell and back, even if he knew the "back" part wasn't happening, and they were men a man could confidently follow.  He will tell anyone he owes the blessings of his life to God's using the United States Army to bring them to him.  He still believes he owes that organization unyielding support, and like you he retired after 30 years.  You are standing for the honor not only of yourself, but the United States Army.

 I will never forget the pain I saw my husband experience as he discovered just how corrupt "the man in front of him" could be.  That can break a true Soldier...  or as in his and your case, refine him as fire does gold.  Never give up your pursuit of justice, my husband will not.  You guys are men the enemy within do not understand, because it is not in your best interest to pursue these matters, it will only bring you trouble and retribution.   They are only motivated by self-interest, and don't even have the capability of understanding your "rabid bulldog" refusal to give in.  What encourages me so is that the fundamental principles West Point seeks to instill in its graduates are alive and well in at least two men, and as my personal experience has taught me, hundreds of thousands of others who are looking for just such men and women to follow.  Even in retirement, your influence will bring the battle to the enemy within, give strength to those who are facing the same type of corruption, and defend the constitution.  My husband says not everyone who is "IN" the Army, "BELONGS" to that  band of brothers and sisters... the real Army... they are just "paid government employees."  The difference is too vast for words.  The Army belongs to those whose souls are pledged to the Seven Army Values.  In a society where ideals like those you embrace are considered "cheesy," and not really to exist anywhere, men such as you and that other 06 you have served with, know them to be the hope of humanity.   Honor, devotion to sacred duty, and a steel determination that no matter how they are viewed, or by whom, or what their devotion brings, they will stand, separates you from so many, and gives young Soldiers, "the man in front of me.". 




My son addressed ever shower he found because he is a proud American, not proud of our corruption and the corrupted, but proud of the values our country was founded on, proud of the principles that those men and women of long ago established as our corner stone, which caused them to write the foundational document where the words are found, "that all men are created equal, endowed be their Creator with certain inalienable rights."  That document is still worth the greatest of sacrifices to defend, devoted duty to, no matter what enemy, whether they are within or without, and defending no matter what the cost, as you, my husband, and men and women through its’ history have pledged, to the death


As the sign on the gate says at our little ranch, "even a Soldier needs a quiet place to rest."  May I extend to you our invitation to visit the ranch soon.  Hospitality has always been my greatest talent, we will treat you well.  So load up the family, make the trip, rest, talk, and find that bond that those who have never served, can never understand.  While those young brave men who rout out the enemy are the tip of the spear,  men and women such as yourself  are the staff that gives it strength and direction, and without that, their efforts are wasted.  The country is still in need of your services, your voice, and your dedication.  The porch light is always on, and the flag always flies.  I think you know where to find us.  Best regards to you and yours.  Soldier on.