9-2-2016 1-23-29 PMAthens Now on several occasions has sounded the alarm with respect to the erosion of the religious freedoms of our soldiers at bases all over the country. The great irony is that we have been put in the position to do all we can to protect them while they are in the business of potentially laying down their lives in order to protect our 1st Amendment guaranteed rights.

There was the Army Chaplain, Joseph Lawhorn who was issued a reprimand because, in a suicide prevention class that he was conducting to protect our soldiers, he dared tell how Scripture helped him through some dark times in his own life. The caliber of the reprimand stopped his career from advancing. A sailor asked Chaplain Wes Modder about same-sex marriage, and because he gave his answer based on Scripture, Modder was nearly kicked out of the Navy. Air Force Academy cadets who had scriptures written on the white boards outside their rooms were forced to take them down because they might “offend” someone passing by. Another Air Force Sergeant by the name of Phillip Monk wouldn’t affirm same-sex marriage, and was threatened with the ruination of his career by his commanding officer. Bibles have been removed from the drawers of nightstands in R and R hotel rooms because someone might open the drawer, see them, and again, be offended. The list goes on.

9-2-2016 1-23-38 PM

However, in South Korea, the exact opposite is occurring in a most public manner. Just a few weeks ago, roughly 5,000 Korean troops were publically baptized by immersion as a profession of their faith in an event sanctioned by the South Korean military command. It was the largest mass baptism event in Korean history. There were 40 local churches involved, 22 American leaders as well as Korean chaplains on hand, and it was held in Yeonmu-kwan Auditorium, located at the Korean Army Training Center. The baptismal garments worn by the Korean soldiers had red crosses right in the middle of their chests, and it did not appear that any Buddhists or anyone else were “offended.” If they were, they were thankfully ignored.

By contrast, when Iraqi interpreters became Christians and were baptized in one of Saddam’s swimming pools. We and they knew that to make a public declaration of their faith could mean their death, just as it was with the early church. I am forever grateful that the Iraqis I had the privilege of leading to the Lord made it to the US and are safe, at least for now. With ISIS now in all 50 states, they are just as vulnerable as we are, perhaps more so.

The Korean military is not finished with publically meeting the spiritual needs of their soldiers, however. Because there is such a profound spiritual awakening occurring amongst their soldiers, the Korean Army has plans to build a chapel that will be called the Yeonmu-dae Church. It will be the largest military chapel anywhere in the world.

In reading about the scope of this event, I think what touched me the most was the coverage in a secular Korean paper called the Korea Herald. Because there were religious leaders invited from America to participate in the event, the Herald made the following statement on August 17th: “The event was also a way of thanking the U.S. military personnel for their past sacrifices in the once war-torn country.”

What a concept. Thanking the U.S. for its sacrifices by allowing Korean soldiers the public opportunity to experience the time honored symbol of new life: baptism. May we insist upon the same level of freedom, whether public or private, for our own protectors.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

9-2-2016 1-23-49 PM

8-19-2016 8-30-22 AMThe South has risen again, literally, or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that with the help of a pole, a Southerner has soared in Rio de Janiero. Army Reserve 2nd Lt. Sam Kendricks made it over the pole vault bar at the height of 19 feet, 2-¼ inches, and took a bronze medal on Monday night at the Rio Olympics. He is the first military member of the U.S. team to medal in 2016.
It was also the first time the US had taken a medal in the pole vault event in 12 years, when Tim Mack won the gold, and Toby Stevenson won the silver in the 2004 Athens, Greece games.

In keeping with the times, and demonstrating the popularity of Twitter, Army Secretary Eric Fanning tweeted the following on Monday night:

“Congrats @samkendricks! USA!” “#ArmyOlympian #TeamUSA.” On Tuesday morning Fanning added, “Still thinking about @SamKendricks’s medal last night. Now, even more energized for my trip to #Rio2016. #ArmyProud.” Secretary Fanning will be part of the delegation that will arrive in Rio as part of the Sunday closing ceremonies.

8-19-2016 8-30-30 AM

While Kendricks led the competition after the qualifying rounds, he was bested by Brazil’s Thiago Silva and France’s Renaud Lavillenie in the finals.

Silva won gold with an Olympic record of 19 feet, 8 inches with the deafening support of Brazilian fans. They were so loud that defending Olympic champion Lavillenie, who is also the world record holder, complained about the crowd booing him on his final jump. “There is no respect. There is no fair play. It’s the Olympics. So if we have no respect in the Olympics, where can we get respect?” Lavillenie makes a fair point, and there was a time when that kind of behavior was unheard of, especially at the Olympics.

Kendricks is from Oxford, Mississippi, and set the state high school pole vaulting record in 2009. He graduated from Ole Miss in 2014 and is the five-time U.S. champion. He also represented Team USA at the 2012 London Olympics.

I appreciated the fact that Kendricks is cognizant that “the whole world is watching,” and sets a standard for his men and all members of the armed services. He said, “As a military man and as a U.S. athlete, I keep my haircut in order to put the best foot forward for all the soldiers who are watching. Those guys are really proud of me and have given me every chance to continue as a civilian.” He added that he was proud “to represent the Americans on two fronts, as a military man and as a U.S. athlete.”

While writing this article I learned something interesting about Olympic pole vaulting, and that is that it is one of the least regulated of the sports. The pole can be any length or diameter that the vaulter finds comfortable. It can be made out of anything, and can be wrapped in tape at both ends. The only hard and fast rule is that the surface be smooth. Well, we in the South think Sam’s performance has indeed been pretty smooth in a good way, and he has done us proud as a soldier, as well as an athlete. Congratulations, Lt. Kendricks, and may both your careers be long and filled with honor.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

8-19-2016 8-30-42 AM

8-5-2016 10-55-28 AMEric Bonner is a former military K9 handler, one of the most dangerous jobs there is in a combat zone. In Vietnam, the “walkers” trained their dogs so well that they would go on alert when they heard the sound of the wind vibrating a trip wire. It is estimated that the dogs of ‘Nam saved more than 10,000 lives. In Iraq, the dogs sniffed out bombs, bodies, insurgents, and more. They pulled Entry Checkpoint (ECP) duty with their handlers in 130 degree heat, and had to wear special boots in order to keep their paws from getting burned while standing on the nearly melting pavement. My favorite dog in Iraq was named Python, which was fitting, because if he liked you, he would want to get as close to you as possible, and seeing as he was really big, it could feel like a “big squeeze.”

Apparently the woman who is running for President does not share my belief about the “coolness” of these dogs, the ones who put themselves in harm’s way for us. And, now that Eric is no longer in the military, he has the freedom to speak more freely about a would-be CNC. He made a Facebook post about why he is not going to vote for her, and made it clear that it was not about politics, it was about good manners and gratitude. His post is shown below, and has been sanitized in some spots, for reasons that will be apparent. It is also being shown exactly as he posted it.

8-5-2016 10-55-44 AM

“I’m not Voting for Clinton.
It has nothing to do with her views. It really doesn’t even matter about all the laws she broke. It’s because She actually talked to me once. Almost a sentence. But first, some background. Being a K9 handler in the Military I got to do a few details involving Distinguished Visitors. Mostly Generals, DOD Officials, and Secretaries of Defense. I was lucky enough to pull two awesome details. George W Bush, and Obama.

GW looked at me, said “Man, who’d you p— off” high fived me, and continued on. I was climbing down from a catwalk I stood on for 4 hours with nothing but Dust and a radio to keep me company. The radio died early on. It was pretty sweet.

Obama, as he was walking out to his plane in Turkey, said “What the hell kind of dog is that?!” In reference to Suli.

One of my Last details was for Hillary when she was Secretary of State. She was in Turkey for whatever reason. I helped with sweeps of her DV Quarters and staff vehicles. Her words to me? “Get that F-ing dog away from me.” Then she turns to her Security Detail and berates them up and down about why that animal was in her quarters. For the next 20 minutes while I sit there waiting to be released she lays into her detail, slamming the door in their faces when she’s done. The Detail lead walks over apologizes and releases me. I apologize to him for getting him in trouble. His words “Happens every day, Brother”

Hillary doesn’t care about anyone but Hillary.”

There is something that I learned about soldiers when I was in Iraq. They have a sense of who in leadership has their back, whether it is a politician, and officer, or the contractor that is cleaning out the outhouses. They know who will serve them so that they can serve others, and as far as security is concerned, K9 handlers and their canine fellow soldiers will stand resolute at their post in the face of such verbal abuse, entitlement, and ingratitude. If I were a dog, I think the chances are good that I would have bared my fangs and emitted a growl. But, God made me a woman, and this woman is not voting for the other one because she treated one of our finest like he was a dog.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

8-5-2016 10-55-58 AM

7-16-2016 9-07-09 AMThe embarrassing decay of the Veterans’ Administration has been a widespread subject of discussion nationwide and in this column, and as is so often the case with scandals in the federal government, there seems to be a spike in coverage, and then it fades away. And, whatever you may think about the presumptive GOP Presidential candidate, Donald Trump, I must admit that it does my heart good to hear that he has committed himself, should he be elected, to dig into the mess and begin to give our troops the care they deserve beginning in January of 2017.

The Republican Convention is nearly upon us, and Mr. Trump made a speech in Virginia wherein he made some sweeping promises with respect to repairing the VA. Normally I am cynical when it comes to political promises, but I think that if anyone can bring some improvement to a failing government agency, it just might be the Donald. Why? Because even though he isn’t ex-mil, he did attend a military academy, and I believe that if one has an open heart, the things that are instilled in a military academy student are the same as the things that are instilled in a soldier. There’s something else: he isn’t kidding when he says he’s “really good at things like that,” meaning fixing businesses that are in disarray, which is essentially what we have with the VA. It is a poorly, yea, scandalously managed “business” that is an extension of the United States government, and it will take sound business practices to turn it around.

7-16-2016 9-07-18 AM

However, rather than having the goal be to turn a profit or please the stockholders, the first order of business is to begin to do whatever is necessary so that the benefits veterans are promised when they agree to go into harm’s way for us actually reach them, and in a timely manner.

“The VA scandals are widespread and totally inexcusable,” Trump said, while in Virginia Beach. He also discussed the agency’s continual failure to treat soldiers’ physical and mental health disorders, the internal conflict in the agency, its toxic corporate culture, lack of accountability and poor management practices.

He underscored the need for an immediate improvement of treatment for vets suffering from mental ill health, and with regard to the suicides that are occurring, especially amongst older veterans, Mr. Trump said, It is a “national tragedy that is not talked about.”

He promised that every veteran will have a choice when it comes to selecting and seeing their physician. In the Trump Administration, vets will be able to go to a private facility if they prefer. Mr. Trump has also vowed to help vets find jobs. It seems that his desire to help veterans stems from the fact that he truly appreciates them, rather than viewing soldiers as a somewhat necessary evil. Undoubtedly, if he can keep the promise he made, he will have the devotion of soldiers everywhere.

“You defend America, and America will defend you,” he said. And I say, “Make it so, Mr. Trump, make it so.”
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

7-16-2016 9-07-31 AM

7-1-2016 1-35-04 PMRecently I subjected myself to viewing 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, an extraordinarily difficult movie to watch for a number of reasons. As is always the case with films of that genre, the language is predictably dreadful, and I understand why guys in those kinds of situations get to the place where they use it. I am not saying it’s ok, I am just saying I understand it. I have been around them, either before they go out, or after they come back from missions, and sometimes “golly” or “darn” just don’t support the depth of what they experience.

The violence portrayed is what it is, and most likely it is not as bad as what actually happened. But what is different about 13 Hours, as opposed to other films about the life and actions of the Special Forces teams such as those portrayed in Lone Survivor or American Sniper, is that 13 Hours does a superb job of portraying the maddening frustration of our Personal Security Detail teams in not being able to save Ambassador Chris Stevens, not being able to get clearance to go help, not getting support that could have turned the tide. It is heart breaking to imagine what they went through.

7-1-2016 1-35-13 PM

It exposes the fill-in-the-blank disastrous actions, or more importantly, disastrous inactions of our State Department during the watch of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee for the President of the United States. If she wins, she would be the Commander in Chief, and I cannot begin to get my head around what that would be like for all of our soldiers, and most especially for the Special Forces.

It is stunning to me that this woman is not already behind bars, but yet another statement was made recently by Mrs. Clinton that I don’t think can be rescued or reframed by those who would claim that her other famous boo boos were taken out of context. The fact that it happened on the heels of my having seen 13 Hours put it solidly into the realm of the surreal, and much more difficult to endure while keeping a civil tongue in my head.

Here is what she said: “Libya was, uh, a different kind of, um, calculation. We didn’t lose a single person.” “We didn’t lose a single person?” Wasn’t Ambassador Stevens a person? What about Glen Doherty? Sean Smith wasn’t a soldier, but he was an Information Officer, and by most people’s definition, an IT guy is a human being, even if you wrongfully label him a geek. Tyrone Woods had a one year old little boy, and had been a SEAL, as had Doherty.

I don’t have any ability to even guess what it was she was thinking, or perhaps, more importantly, what she wasn’t thinking when she made her statement, but I will do my best to resist what I have come to call the “Benghazi Brain Melt.” It is the strategy that if you just drag something out long enough, or obfuscate skillfully enough, eventually everything will go away, and you won’t be held accountable for your actions. While I have a sickening feeling that she will skate and avoid prison the same way her husband did, I am comforted by the deep conviction that she will have her day of reckoning, and that Someone much more just than am I will not cave in to her current command that “It’s time to move on from Benghazi.”

Hopefully we won’t have to wait until then.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

7-1-2016 1-35-27 PM

6-18-2016 9-08-03 AMRebecca Landis Hayes served in the United States Navy for 8 years. She is married to a veteran who served in the United States Army. She had parked in a spot that is reserved for veterans, and found a note saying, “This parking is for veterans, lady. Learn to read and have some respect.” Apparently her detractor assumed that because she was in civilian clothes, and perhaps, because she was female, she didn’t qualify. She decided to respond with the following, written on her Facebook account, and with a picture of the note intended as a rebuke:

6-18-2016 9-08-11 AM

“To the person who left this note on my windshield today at the Coddle Creek Harris Teeter in Concord, NC:
I know I parked in one of the Veteran Parking spaces today, it was hot. I had been in and out of my car several times already this afternoon, and I was only going to be a minute. Besides, the parking lot was full, so I just did it. It was the first time, and I won’t do it again. I’m sorry…
I’m sorry that you can’t see my eight years of service in the United Sates Navy. I’m sorry that your narrow misogynistic world view can’t conceive of the fact that there are female Veterans. I’m sorry that I have to explain myself to people like you. Mostly, I’m sorry that we didn’t get a chance to have this conversation face to face, and that you didn’t have the integrity and intestinal fortitude to identify yourself, qualities the military emphasizes.
Which leads to one question, I served, did you?”

Mrs. Hayes told a local news outlet that her husband had parked there many times, and people would often come up and thank him for his service. They assumed that he would not park there unless he was the “real deal.” She also told them, “Veterans come in all shapes, sizes, genders and colors,” and, “More veterans don’t fit that stereotype than do.”

Here is what I find so fascinating about the whole situation: it was the cowardice of the note-leaver. This person saw her pull up and go in to her destination. This person apparently had the time to vent their frustration in the form of leaving a note on her windshield, but did not have the courage to go up and at least find out if she had seen the sign that designated the parking spot as for veterans only. This person did not have the courtesy to ask questions first, and perhaps say politely, “Ma’am, are you a military veteran?”

While I appreciate a protective posture toward our veterans, and champion the desire to see that they are, in fact, treated with respect, I would just about be willing to bet that the note-leaver did NOT serve, and here’s why. The training all members of our military receive when it comes to dealing with civilians is a politeness and level of professionalism that runs deep, nearly to a fault. Not only that, but they fully understand that they have a duty to protect even the ridiculous. Ex-mil or not, the note-leaver needs to learn some skills, the very least of which is not being rude and disrespectful while preventing rudeness and disrespect. Three cheers for the “squid” who set ‘em straight.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

6-18-2016 9-08-21 AM

6-6-2016 9-00-00 AMOn June 1st, it was revealed in the Economic Times that British Special Forces are engaging in an especially fascinating form of psychological warfare against terrorists in Libya. They are subjecting ISIS to “auditory torture” (my words) by incessantly playing Top 40 Bollywood music at high volume levels. The practice was suggested to them by a UK intelligence officer who was born in Pakistan. The reasoning behind the operation was that due to the fact that ISIS considers music to be “un-Islamic,” if they exited the area to get away from “all things infidel,” it could expose their numbers, strengths, weaknesses, as well as their movements.

6-6-2016 9-00-09 AM

The Brits had intercepted ISIS communications which made it very clear that according to Sharia imposed law in and around a Libyan town by the name of Sirte, music was considered to be “western and frivolous,” therefore it must be banned. So, they devised a plan to get the most “pound for their sound.” Besides playing the music non-stop, Libyan and British soldiers also dumped two cars in town that were blaring Bollywood tunes from loudspeakers. I must admit, at first I thought that was too risky, because the cars could possibly get turned into VBIEDS (Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Devices), but then I realized that no self-respecting Sharia-ite would sully himself by drawing near to something that is forbidden.

It must be understood that there is more happening than just causing the annoyance of “Would you turn that thing down?” If someone is a “true believer,” then they must do everything they can to escape contamination, and as was mentioned above, that movement could be a priceless source of intel, and not a shot would have to be fired.

When I was in Iraq, there was an officer who used to walk back and forth near Saddam’s birthday palace at sunset playing “Amazing Grace” on his bagpipe. Every day I could not wait for him to play after the last call to prayer, which was always so poor musically that it was a relief when it was over. I cannot say that the officer was motivated by anything other than bringing a touch of home to the American, British, and Australian soldiers as the day was drawing to a close, but it certainly comforted me, so in a reverse manner, I can personally speak to the power of music in a combat zone.

The strategy seems to be working, as the ISIS operatives are using their walkie-talkies to discuss their dismay regarding the “Bollywood bombs,” and thereby they are giving away their exact locations. British soldiers are in Libya in a non-combatant role to teach Libyans who are interested in liberty to rout out the rascals. Thankfully their rules of engagement seem to be much better than what our soldiers are currently being subjected to, and that is, the Brits are able to return fire if they are fired upon first. May God bless them and all who are willing to put themselves in harm’s way to keep us from being swallowed up by Sharia insanity.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

6-6-2016 9-00-23 AM

5-20-2016 11-17-38 AMThis is about the heart of a warrior that is beating in the body of a brave, 13 year old stage 4 cancer survivor, and the hearts of soldiers to both join him in his battle, and honor him when he won. In this era of “The Battle of the Bathroom,” it is refreshing to be told a story of soldiers and families coming together to defeat a vicious global enemy, the “Big C.”

This past Monday, 20 soldiers marched in formation through the neighborhood of Christian Lopez, who lives in Dorchester, Massachusetts. They were in parade formation, sounding out the distinctive cadence songs of their unit, the sight and sound of them crying out, “That’s the way we do it here now” bringing people out of their houses. That included Chris, who was completely surprised. Led by Christian’s aunt, Mariana Shorter, herself a retired MSG (Master Sergeant), they marched straight up to his door, carrying a parade style banner which said, “It Came, We Fought, I Won.”

5-20-2016 11-17-46 AM

Through tears, his aunt said, “I want to thank Chris for fighting one of the biggest battles ever in life. You are a true, true soldier.” Then each one marched up to Chris, saluted him, and either shook his hand, or hugged him. As if that wasn’t enough, they presented him with his own set of ABUs, the Army name for the uniform worn in combat. Then they gave him his several patches, the indication of being part of a unit, and the proof of having survived a war.

Shorter got the ok to honor her nephew from the General commanding the recruitment command in Boston, who had deeply personal reasons for getting behind the ceremony. The General has a 15 year old grandson in the hospital, and the boy is fighting a brain tumor. Shedding his own tears, the General said, “This has given my family hope.”

5-20-2016 11-17-56 AM

In an interview with ABC news, MSG Shorter said, “My family thinks I’m the hero because I fought wars, but the real hero is my sister and my nephew,” Shorter told ABC News today. “All I did was to honor his mother’s wishes. I want this story to be about my courageous sister.”
Apparently the Mayor of Boston also expressed his own ability to honor Chris and his family by declaring that day “Christian Lopez Day.”

His mother, Christina Ribeiro, had her own take on her young warrior son. “He is the only child I’ve seen who after chemo and radiation wants to go outside and play baseball. Nothing kept him down. He never gave up.” Chris is in remission, and is full of dreams. He is certainly interested in “all things soldier,” and is thinking about being an astronaut. Then again, he might choose to be a chef, we shall see. He also wants to be on the Ellen de Generes show, and hopefully his story will go far and wide, and encourage many, because parents, kids, family and friends need hope.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

5-20-2016 11-18-09 AM

5-6-2016 9-34-57 AMStatistically, from what I have been told, it is much less common for Navy SEALS to get killed in combat than members any other branch of service. The reason is that they come so close to dying while they are in training, that they gain skills possessed by few that pay off in the field. It costs them dearly to gain those skills, but it benefits them and us. It is always a tragedy when a warrior dies in combat, but when a SEAL passes, again, statistically, it is nearly always in the context of specifically giving himself for others.

5-6-2016 9-35-05 AM

Such was the case with Charles Keating, IV, of Arizona. He was killed on Tuesday, May 3rd, helping rescue multitudes from an ISIS/ISIL attack in Iraq. Since 2014, we have re-deployed some of the crème de la crème to Iraq in a largely advisory capacity. While it could certainly be argued that if we had gotten the job done the first time, and stayed long enough for the new Iraq to gain its footing, from my experience, most people who served in Iraq will tell you that the Peshmerga are fierce warriors who are worth fighting with and for, let alone “advise.” Any SEAL with a true warrior’s heart would consider it a privilege to serve with the Peshmerga, and to me, the Kurds are the hope of Iraq against ISIL/ISIS.

Here is what Charles’ mom said about her “boy.” Her name is Krista Joseph of Jacksonville, Fla., and she firmly believed her son wanted to serve his country. She also said that he died doing what he loved. Krista added, “He was our golden boy with a million-dollar smile and a heart of gold.”

Charles was part of the Quick Reaction Force (QRF). He was sent in on an op whose mission to rescue less than a dozen U.S. troops who were in a Kurdish village “advising and assisting” the Peshmerga, according to U.S. military spokesman, Col. Steve Warren. Because of his sacrifice, everyone returned but Charles.

He had been a track star, and transferred from Indiana University to the U.S. Naval Academy in order to begin his SEAL training. He was the grandson of Charles Keating, who was part of the Savings & Loan scandal in the ‘80s, and whose conviction was later overturned. His grandfather had been a pilot in WWII, and Charles IV came from a long line of military service members. The events of 2001 affected Charles IV deeply, and were some of the things that inspired him to become a SEAL. He was also engaged to be married this coming November.

5-6-2016 9-35-20 AM

Arizona Senator John McCain had the following to say about him: “I send my deepest prayers and condolences to the family and loved ones of Charlie Keating, who was tragically killed in action fighting ISIL in Iraq. Like so many brave Americans who came before him, Charlie sacrificed his life in honorable service to our nation for a cause greater than self-interest, which we can never truly repay.”

I once attended a service for two SEALS while I was in Iraq. It was held in what was known as The Palace of Doom, or the Mistress Palace. There was an Iraqi Special Forces colonel who, during the service, said, through an interpreter, that he believed that all who gave their lives in order that Iraq might be free would find peace with God, and I don’t believe he was just blowing smoke. He was visibly moved that strangers would want to help, and my 3 years there taught me that this is most definitely the way SEALS roll. I believe Charles Keating IV is at peace, and I hope someday to thank him personally for fighting for my beloved Iraq, and for me.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

5-6-2016 9-35-28 AM

4-15-2016 3-44-59 PMLast Soldier column dealt with being introduced to, listening to, chatting with, and being changed by a the story of a man that “long ago and in another life” I would have despised. Once again, I faced down what I used to be, and once again, got the chance to apologize for my former stupidity as a someone who had been, shall we say, “fonda Jane.” I let him know that, if it would be ok, I would really appreciate talking with him again and learning more. The man was Brigadier General Robert Stewart, and he, his wife Mary, and I had a memorable morning at the Space and Rocket Center.
One of General Stewart’s distinguishing achievements during his career was flying un-tethered outside of the Space Shuttle Challenger. He was the 2nd person to do so, and “his” Challenger is on view at the USS&RC. He works there as a docent.

4-15-2016 3-45-11 PM

He told me that even though he had some ambivalence about our involvement in Vietnam, it was still his favorite venue. He got to fly Secretary of Defense McNamara around in a chopper. He also explained to me what may have helped me to understand better the reason for some of the horrific tortures that were inflicted on our soldiers by the Viet Cong. In the Asian military mindset, when a soldier surrenders to captors and captivity rather than death, those soldiers cease to be human. Therefore, the logic is, if they have surrendered their humanity, they don’t deserve to be treated humanely. That kind of thinking doesn’t exactly square with the Geneva Convention, but it answered a question I didn’t even know I had.

He talked about General Vo Nguyen Giap, who served under Ho Chi Minh. General Giap was astonished that Americans gave up in Vietnam, and said in his memoirs, “If you had pressed us a little harder, just for another day or two, we were ready to surrender. We knew it, and we thought you knew it. But we were elated to notice your media was helping us. They were causing more disruption in America than we could in the battlefields.”

He also reminded me of something I learned in Iraq, and that is, no one wants peace more than soldiers. I just never knew that General Douglas McArthur had said it best at his last address at West Point.

“The soldier above all others prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.”

General Stewart said he underwent a huge change when he was in the process of receiving his “stars.” The Army sent him for training at Center for Creative Leadership, which was one source of challenge, and though tough, it was positive. For a good part of his career, General Stewart was not a Christian, but when one of his daughters was facing down the possibility of having to have painful rabies shots, and then the rabies test came back negative, he got down on his knees in thanks to God and surrendered his life to Him. In a lot of respects, that is when his own personal “Great Adventure” began, and it’s a decision he has never regretted. General Stewart is also a professional speaker, and he especially loves to speak on college campuses.

I thought of just how amazing it is to be divinely granted a second chance. Here I was, getting to talk with a soldier who had made history, and being able to both repent to him and be forgiven by him for my madness during Vietnam And, I was also reminded of what a sacred charge it is to be a “member of the media,” even if it is publishing a small newspaper. At times, the pen is mightier than the sword, and God help me if I don’t use my “sword” well.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

4-15-2016 3-45-24 PM