Memorially Speaking*

I have been hard-pressed not to editorialize over Memorial Day this year. Instead, let me say simply it is a holiday with a disputed history and an often misunderstood focus. Currently, we designate the last Monday in May as Memorial Day.

For more than a century, that was not the case. It was celebrated on May 30 without regard for the day of the week. Today, the date changes annually, and the reason for the holiday is confusing to many.

For people like me, there is no confusion. Memorial Day is not the unofficial first day of summer. It is not the day the swimming pools traditionally open and is not a celebration of all who served in the military.

It is the day we honor those who died in military service. It is the day to remember those making the ultimate sacrifice, so you and I can swim, grill, and look forward to sunburns and time at the lake. As with all issues of this nature, there are still reasons to enjoy the holiday.

First, most people have a three-day weekend. Then there are all the special events, pool openings, golf tournaments, races, etc. It’s a long weekend that will let them take a break from reality and relax. It is also a long weekend that makes the significance of May 30 dim in the minds of many.

For people like me, it is the beginning of time for remembering and honoring those we lost. It is also time to remember the cost of those losses. It is a time of remembrance lasting from Friday until the 30th, which is Tuesday this year.

My brother’s funeral, KIA Vietnam, February 1969.

One way to honor and remember those making the ultimate sacrifice is through music. Over the years, I’ve found several songs that do just that. Here, I want to share a song that may not have been written to memorialize fallen members of the armed services. Yet, in many ways, it does.

As the song makes clear, we all live and die and should strive to live life to the fullest. Sadly, many of us fail to push the envelope and make memories that will stay with us to the end. Most of the men and women we celebrate and remember on Memorial Day lost their opportunity to sample all life has to offer.

If Memorial Day means more to you than hot dogs, beer, and pool time, click the link below, and check back in later, there may be more to come.

Not Every Man Lives**

*I originally posted this blog in May 2020. It seemed appropriate to share it again this year.

**If one pops up, You can skip the ad and watch the entire video in a few seconds. The Memorial Day connection takes a minute to show.

© – 2023

Posted in Holidays, Patriotism, Veterans, Vietnam | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Friday Follies: Arguing Perceptions

I love social media as much as I hate social media. Talk about a love/hate relationship. How could you not love keeping up with old friends from distant lands and ages past? Yes, it was fun decades ago to wait for the frequent or infrequent mail from someone you hadn’t seen in years and read about or see the changes in their lives.

It was also saddening to not hear from someone in a long time and wonder if they may have gone on to whatever awaits us after that last breath is taken. It was, even more saddening in some ways when you found out your worst fears had been realized.

It is especially saddening when you hear the bad news and know you allowed yourself to get so busy with the here, and now you forgot yesterday and tomorrow. I have encountered that reality more times than I care to acknowledge, even to myself.

That is why several dialogues I encountered today while researching a thought led me to share this piece. In one case, a person posted a comment concerning the changes in architectural standards for private homes over the last few decades. Another, who appeared to be more of a troll than a well-meaning participant of the group, commented in a contentious way, triggering multiple antagonistic exchanges.

Image by Phil Riley from Pixabay 

The same sort of exchange occurred in another venue. Sadly, one of the first respondents was someone who perceived the poster as attacking him. It did not matter that they did not know each other, and others did not see the situation that way. Still, the aggrieved party maintained the comments were offensive and inappropriate.

The problem is this. Our biases and responses to what we see as others’ biases are perceptual much of the time. They are based on how we were raised, how life influenced or damaged us, and how we perceive the situation.

Today’s common trope concerning bias and perception asks others not to judge someone unless they’ve walked in their shoes. The original version of this seems to include the condition phrase “walked a mile in my shoes.” Whichever one prefers, the admonition falls far short of reality.

A mile or a hundred miles is not enough time to understand someone. Neither is the idea of living the life another led for years. Each person learns differently, understands differently, and will feel differently, even if all have experienced the same situations, challenges, associations, etc.

So, what is my point here? I have two major issues, but I’ll only wind up with one now. The other may come later, but this is enough for now.

Social media is a gift and a curse, like music, writing talent, physical ability, and mental acuity. In some cases, they are great; in others, they will beat you to the ground.

Below are links to two pieces I wrote about one aspect of dealing with social media some years ago. Like this piece, they are wordy, but little understanding comes from short, pithy sayings, writings, memes, or chats. Understanding perceptions, biases, and how to deal with problems they cause you or you cause others has no six-word solution.

So Far As It Depends On You – Part 1

So Far As It Depends On You – Part 2

© 2023

Posted in Civility, communication, Daily Life, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

A Question of Involvement

Ah, another week, another writing challenge. Yes, my little online muse touched another nerve recently. At first glance, the prompt was simple enough, “What do you do to be involved in the community?” My mind races when I read something like this, and that is one of my curses. I am OVERLY analytical at times.

Overly analytical or not, the thoughts triggered by the above question deserve some attention. No, not my thoughts necessarily. If you do not tune me out about now, I will share some thoughts with you. Still, the thoughts I think are important are what others might think when they respond to such a question.

For many, the answer to the question above may be something like, “Huh?” In saying that, I am not taking a shot at folks for being unable to answer the question. The truth is that many people are involved in their communities but don’t think of it that way. No, they’re just living their lives, being a good neighbor, helping a friend or cause when possible, and hoping to keep food on the table.

Others may have a list of ways they feel they are involved. Whether they volunteer somewhere, donate to a community cause or agency, or do their share of keeping the community clean, uncluttered, and safe.

The last two paragraphs are based on study and experience. They are also based on some quick research I did before writing. The vast majority of my professional life has involved public service. That service ranged from decades in law enforcement to university-level teaching and volunteering in various organizations or entities supporting the community.

About now, some of you have a quizzical look and are muttering, “Do what?” under your breath. If so, I completely understand. For reasons I will explain in the follow-up to this piece, many people do not think of public servants such as police and fire personnel when asked about community involvement or service.

Friends, if your local cops, firefighters, emergency medical teams, animal control personnel, and other public servants are not involved in the community, you have a problem. Still, many people see the folks mentioned in the last sentence as low-level public servants who cannot get real jobs.

Have you ever wondered why that is? Stay tuned.

© 2023

Posted in Commitment, Daily Life, Family Vaules, Police, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Rule 39: Yes, or No?

One of the muses in my online life posed a writing prompt the other day. “Do you have a quote you live your life by or think of often?” My first thought was something along the lines of, “Are you kidding me? “Do you know how many so-called quotations aren’t and how often the person sharing them has no idea what they mean?”

At first, I thought to dismiss the prompt as a fledging AI attempting to show how great it was. You know, something like the sixth grader who made a “three-pointer” for the first time in basketball and is embarrassed trying to repeat the shot during practice the next day. After all, many of the quotations cited on social media are not outstanding bits of wisdom or legitimacy.

The quotation above is something one can hear regularly in some circles. If you do not already recognize it, the problem with the phrase is two-fold. First, it is highly debatable in the minds of many as it may be based on one faith system or another.

Second, attributing the comment to Leroy Jethro Gibbs is compounding the possibility of making a false assertion. If you are not aware, Gibbs is a character in a television series, and the comment is Gibbs’s “Rule 39.” At best, the term in question is the product of a scriptwriter or possibly a bit of plagiarism.

The preceding aside, I have concepts that might stem from misunderstood or fictitious situations. The no coincidences saying is one of those. If you research the thought, you’ll find it attributed to some members of the intelligentsia. You’ll also find it attributed to people of faith from one faith-based system to another. And today, you’ll find it attributed to a Tik-Tok guru with 600K followers.

You will not find coincidences or a clear example of a coincidence that wasn’t. Still, I, like many people, will look at an unlikely “coincidence” and wonder if the universe or some higher power has something to do with it. However, I do not live my life assuming every coincidence was orchestrated by something or someone.

On the other hand, I closely examine such circumstances, attempting to understand if there is more there than meets the eye. In more than a few instances, I believe there was something more than coincidence or luck at play.

For example, I know of one couple who grew up a few miles from each other and never met. They went to rival high schools and had friends in common but never met. After high school, they left their hometown for colleges hundreds of miles from each other. Both married, raised children, and divorced, swearing they would never marry again. Years later, they attended a Life Skills training program several years apart but never met.

Then years later, they were invited to a special event and celebration for someone involved in the training. Both were scheduled to be somewhere else that weekend, but strangely enough, both were forced to cancel those plans and reluctantly decided to attend the event.

The details from that point forward can be summarized like this. They were introduced to each other at the party, but they never spoke again beyond the greetings. A year later, they were married and have been together for twenty-nine great years.

Yeah! Meeting at that party was just a coincidence. Talking her into going out with me took every bit of negotiation skill I had.

© 2023

Posted in Christianity, Commitment, Humor, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Friday Follies: The Joy of Camping

I, and a slew of other bloggers, were challenged to write something based on the question, “Have you ever been camping?” My first reaction was to go on about my business of the day and see if anything more exciting came up from the prompting source. Then, my twisted way of looking at things clicked in, and here we are.

First, camping was not one of our regular recreational activities when I was growing up. Once I became an adult, I only went camping when I felt obligated to put myself through the wringer for a friend, a job, or whatever.

Before finishing high school, I spent half my life living in rural settings. If I wanted to experience many of the “joys” of camping, all I needed to do was open the window to my bedroom, sleep on the back porch, or get up and walk outside to eliminate the fluid and solid waste my body generated during the day.

So, the idea of going somewhere to camp when I could have many of the same experiences within a few steps of my bedroom seemed silly. My short time in the Army National Guard was the last nail in the coffin of any desire I had to go camping.

It was ludicrous in several ways. However, it was especially damaging to any ideas of camping I might have harbored. Of course, the army did not call it camping. It was bivouacking. My first and only experience with bivouacking was in New Jersey in the late fall and early winter of 1968.

By the time finished basic and advanced infantry training at Fort Dix, I was damn well certain any camping was not one of my things. If I did decide to go camping in the future, it would be a nice little camp with sturdy heated cabins. Also, it would be within a short drive to a restaurant or bar. Of course, I’d settle for a nice place with RV hookups and good satellite reception today.

Yes, camping is a joy for some and a downright horrible experience for many. The Fort Dix experience was a two-fold folly for me and some others with whom I served. We were training for the jungles in Vietnam, during a winter period when the temperature during the day was around 5 degrees Fahrenheit.

Don’t believe me? Click here to read another’s piece about his Fort Dix experience.

© 2023

Posted in Humor, National Defense, Politics, Uncategorized, Veterans, Vietnam | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Friday Follies: Serendipity or Intervention?

Have you had one of those “small world” moments? You know, you’re on vacation or a business trip, and you meet someone for the first time, and circumstances or something leads to an information exchange that leads to, “Dang, it is a small world!”

Admittedly, some small world moments are not magical or surprising. For instance, at my high school class reunion a few reunions ago, I felt a hand on my arm and looked around to see an attractive lady with a big smile on her face. I had absolutely no idea who she was, but she knew me.

No! It was not some forgotten one-night stand or after a rugby match beer party acquaintance. I was older than her, but we’d lived in the same neighborhood years earlier. So, this was not a big, small world moment.

It was simply two people who had known each other at one time, crossing paths unexpectedly. What makes it a small-world sort of event is that it was my reunion, she was a guest of one of my classmates, and I had been living in another part of the state for years. Then there was the incident that started out as a “funny seeing you here” happenstance that ended up very meaningful.

It started with a trip to Costco with my wife. As we were walking up to the entrance, she stopped and said, “Joan?!” A lady I’d never seen before looked up and said, “Candy?” Of course, the small world moment did not end there.

As the two ladies changed directions slightly and were coming together, I looked past “Joan.” Walking behind her was a man I knew. One I had not seen in years. I said, “Scott!?” Scott said, “Eric?” The two ladies looked at each other, looked at us, and said simultaneously, “You know each other?”

Yes, we knew each other. We’d worked together for several years before Scott moved out of state for a promotion. While he was out of state building up his resume to allow him to seek an even higher-level position, I moved back to my hometown.  

Unbeknownst to me, a few years before we ran into each other, he’d landed the new position he was wanting in my hometown. That is when our wives met at a Jazzercise class.

This was an amazing little, small world or coincidental meeting that turned out to be much more than that. For several years, we were a foursome. We did all the things friends do together until four years ago.

Yes, four years ago, we had our last meal together. It was a Valentine’s Day dinner and the last time we saw Scott. A few days later, they joined another couple for a Caribbean getaway, and Joan came home a widow.

Scott’s loss was difficult. His best friend and colleague took his death extremely hard and considered Scott’s decision to swim in heavy tides as reckless behavior that should never have happened. His angst made him withdraw from Joan, and me, for that matter.

Joan is intelligent and resilient. She would have made it through the mourning and adjusting period on her own. However, her family was hundreds of miles away, and Scott’s oldest comrade in arms, you might say, withdrew from her world.

Think what you will. Whether it was a chance meeting, a gift from the universe, or the God of the Bible had a hand in it, the meeting at Costco was more than an accident. Candy and I have been blessed to be there for our friend.

Image by Denis Fomin from Pixabay

Photo by Sebastian Arie Voortman: Rough Waves

© 2023

Posted in Christianity, Family Vaules | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Subjectively Painful?

Relatively Painful was a rant, expression of bemusement, and chapter of a personal saga. Another blogger’s response to that piece led me down a path of discovery that I will share at another time. However, a post by another writer the day after Easter moved me to say something now.

My point in Relatively Painful was pain’s subjectivity getting in the way of categorizing pain effectively. At least, it can when it comes to treatment. As I discovered by doing a little research, I am not the only person who feels that way. Several medical and academic works seemed to reach similar conclusions.

The blog inspiring today’s post brought up a more immediate concern. Pain is not always physical. Certainly, if you have a normally functioning nerve system, you will feel something if nature calls in the middle of the night and you stub your toe while trying to make it to the toilet without waking your bedmate.

However, physical pain may not be the only pain you feel when your toe runs into an immovable object. If you were doing your best to hold in whatever woke you up until you reached the toilet and the pain overrides your control, you may feel a new form of pain.

The new pain might be caused by your embarrassment and fear of admitting what happened to the person you were attempting to avoid waking. Yes, according to some sources, pain is not only physical. It can be psychological as well.

My buddy Sinn

The post moving me to share this piece discussed such pain. Pain that is not caused by an injury, infection, or microscopic organism attacking your body. Rather, it is caused by circumstances, psychological issues, and thoughts.

Some may think such pain is not real. Others may think it is real, but we should remember the childhood chant from ages gone by ending with “Words will never hurt me.” They will think such pain is only real if you let it be real.

I can attest to the fact pain triggered by an injury, as well as pain triggered by circumstances, can be felt. Does that mean the pain I felt when my parents had my closest childhood friend put down because the veterinarian thought that was the humane thing to do hurt less than the pain I felt flying over the handlebars of my motorcycle and landing face down on a gravel road?

No! Both of those incidents hurt deeply. The difference was the nature of the pain. Hitting the gravel road at speed was standing under a shower of hot rocks peeling the skin off your face and arms. It was the pain you felt when you skinned your knee falling on the sidewalk, magnified a few hundred times.

Walking into the house after school and finding out your best non-human friend, protector, and snuggle-buddy on a cold night was “put out of his misery” was different. It was a sickening feeling in the stomach and a hollowness in the chest. It was the feeling of trying to breathe, but the pain in your chest was so bad you couldn’t.

There was another difference as well. The pain from the wounds inflicted by the gravel lasted for days, and the signs of the encounter were visible for weeks. The pain of losing Sinn is always there, hiding behind some other memory, just waiting to remind me there is more to hurt than nerve damage.

© 2023

Posted in Medicine, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Friday Follies: Stranger Danger?

Many, many years ago, as a relatively young police officer, I was part of one of the best municipal police pistol teams in the country. I was not the best shot, but I could hold my own well enough to compete at National Police Pistol Championships a few times and win several awards at smaller competitions. Once, I did so well the first time I entered a match out west that the sponsoring department asked me not to come back. They thought I was a sandbagger.

The sandbagger story has a folly side as well. However, that will need to wait for another day. Today is about one of my trips to the national competition and the strange situation a teammate and I encountered.

While we’d been to the competition before, we’d not strayed far from the pistol range or our lodging. On this trip, we decided to be adventurous and headed to the largest nearby city for a cold one where nobody knew our names.

Unfortunately, we didn’t know the city very well. Also, this was long before smartphones and map apps. We had no idea where some nice little bar might be located. So, we headed down the main drag looking for something inviting.

After looking for quite a while, we gave up and started to return to the motel. It seemed everything in the part of town we found was factories or warehouses. Then at a stop light, a flashing sign caught our eyes. It simply flashed, “BEER,” which was enough for us.

Pulling up to the building with the flashing sign, we had second thoughts. There was a brick wall with one door, windows high up toward the roof, a flashing sign, and a couple of cars parked across the street. Inviting was not a word that came to mind, be we’d come this far. We decided to see what it was like.

What it was like was a scene from an old Western movie. You know, the scene when two strangers step through the bar door, and time stands still. We stepped through this door, and the place was almost empty. Two guys were at a pool table. One guy was standing at the bar talking to the bartender, and a lady of the evening was sitting at the bar. They looked over at us and froze.  

Time stood still! We were one step inside the bar, and you could hear a pin drop. No one said a word. The people in the bar just stared at us as if they were waiting for our next move. We glanced at each other, looked back at them, and backed out the door. Then we drove to the highway, stopped at a convenience store, bought a six-pack, and returned to our room wondering what had happened.  

I still think the bar was a front for illegal activity. Those folks never expected to see two strangers walk through that door.

© 2023

Posted in Humor, Police, Sports, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Speaking of Prognostication*

Not long after the election of 2016, I wrote Tweet This. It was a long-winded rant about the new president’s penchant for fighting back when attacked politically. That has often been a terrible strategy for someone in public office.1

They are supposed to be above the fray. Either that, or they were supposed to find a more subtle way to deal with the matter. Primarily, they are supposed to find a way to minimize coverage of the accusations, falsehoods, or outright gossip thrown at the person being attacked.

That was not, and still isn’t, former president Trump’s style. He is a brawler, and as his son made clear on a morning news show recently, he is not likely to change. I tend to agree with the younger Trump’s opinion on the matter. However, as I wrote in Tweet This, the former president is heading down a rough road.

Who’s the crook here?

If he can prevail in the political conflict surrounding his every move, he may change the face of politics in the United States in a way it is hard to imagine. If he does not, the media will rule this country, and no president in the future will be willing to take the talking heads and their backers on.

In the previous paragraph, some may feel I am too pessimistic and dramatic. If that is the case, I will gladly admit my mistake, but I am not worried about making any apologies soon. The objective news media, if it ever truly existed, was praised by everyone in times past.

Today, objectivity and news are far down on the hierarchy of what drives journalists, reporters, commentators, experts, and anyone else falling into the information business category. Today, the objective is numbers. The number of viewers one can garner, the number of clicks one receives, and the size of the paycheck is more important to those in the media today than facts, objective reporting, and honesty.

Trump is still battling; only time will tell how this works out. Many believe the indictment by the New York District Attorney is simply another response to Trump’s challenging the establishment. How that matter turns out may be a harbinger of what will come.

Whether you like Trump, loathe Trump, or think he’s crazy, he has taken on the political power brokers and is still standing. Can he remain standing and successfully run for the presidency again? Only time will tell. However, as I said in Tweet This, the outcome will set the tone for future challengers who think they can change Washington and how it does business.

That was my prediction in 2017. It is still my prediction.

*I delayed publishing this to see how the indictment hearing went. There was a chance Trump would change his tune and be a bit less challenging in his response. That was not the case!

© 2023

Posted in Journalism, Political Extremes, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Friday Follies: One Hazy Night

Being a street cop in Denton, Texas, in the 1970s was quite an experience in some ways. In the late 1960s, if I remember correctly, Denton became known as the party capital of North Texas. That reputation was partially due to the haze from little hand-rolled cigarettes hanging over the Fry Street area. Of course, Denton was also the wettest little dry town, alcohol-wise, in the area.

Yes, we had some fun times. We dealt with a bit of everything back then, from nude co-eds riding motorcycles through the North Texas campus to a huge old house that is the local Yoga center today. Back then, it was the home of one of the biggest pot dealing operations in North Texas. I was lucky enough to join the raid that finally shut it down.

Yes! After only six months on the job, another rookie and I were chosen to be involved in a major drug operation. The task force consisted of local, state, and federal officers targeting Denton’s drug trade.

That evening was not only filled with kicking doors in, searching smoke-filled apartments, houses, and what have you. It was also the first time I’d seen someone killed in a horrible and sickening manner.

No! He was not killed in a shootout during the operation. He was in a horrendous car accident near the operational area. Even cops can be rubberneckers, so the detective we were assisting wanted to check out the scene.

The details of the accident are not important. Rather, it is simply another weird event on a night filled with several strange events. As noted above, it was the first time I had seen someone dying in such a horrible fashion.

Of course, I’d seen dead people before. In those cases, they were all dressed nicely and laid out in a casket with flowers. This was as far from that as you can likely imagine.

So, after reading those few paragraphs, you’re likely wondering, “Where is the folly in this?” Well, the folly started days before the night of the operation. The other rookie and I were called into the captain’s office and told we would be part of the operation. He also told us we’d need to wear a coat and tie so we looked like detectives.

That was folly number one. We weren’t supposed to wear plain clothes. We were supposed to be in uniform and be responsible for handling prisoners as they were brought in. Someone got confused, and we got to help serve search warrants. That was a lot more fun than arrest paperwork.

Funny story two involved the huge old house where the local drug czar, according to the feds, lived and ran his operation. A few funny events occurred there, including detectives rushing into one of the bedrooms shouting, “Police, freeze, show us your hands.” The young couple using the room was in the midst of passionate sex that ended prematurely, you might say.

The best and most ironic part of this night of drug busts and terrorizing young love birds came to my attention a day later. I found out the guy owning the big house and running the drug operation was a punk from a small Texas town some friends and I visited on our way to Houston one summer in 1965.

He and his buddies did not like these “big city guys” coming around dating local girls. So after we’d taken the young ladies home, he and his friends decided to run us out of town with baseball bats. Our driver was better than his, and we lost them, returned to my buddy’s grandma’s place safely, and headed on to Houston the next morning.

You know what they say about Karma. Well, he got his dose of payback Karma that night in Denton.

© 2023

Posted in Daily Life, Humor, Police, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments