AmeriCAN-DO Attitude

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Reason Number 5,254 Why I Read and Promote Military Blogs

Outstanding, deep pieces such as these two from GRIM (who posts regularly at his site GRIM’s Hall and at Blackfive) and Cassandra at Mudville Gazette’s Milblogs:

GRIM: Chivalry and Women

Two citations today, to inform our recent discussion. The first one is from the invaluable book The Archaelogy of Weapons: Arms and Armor from Prehistory to the Age of Chivalry by Ewart Oakeshott. The quote is from pp 186-7.

The inevitable development of what we might call the official knightly attitude towards women began to take hold in the middle of the twelfth century. It was given impetus by the poets of southern France, particularly after Eleanor of Aquitaine (one of the most glamorous women of the Middle Ages, who later married Henry II of England and became the mother of Richard Lion-Heart and John) came from Provence to Paris to become for a while the Queen of Louis VII of France. The mingling of the tongues of “oc” and “oui” in overseas expeditions strengthened it.

[“Oc” and “oui” here refers to two major dialects of Middle French, in which the word for “yes” was pronounced one of two different ways. This was not the only difference, of course, just the one chosen as an easy symbol. In Ivanhoe, Richard the Lionheart offers to sing “a ‘sirvente’ in the language of ‘oc,’ or a ‘lai’ in the language of ‘oui,'” but ends up singing a ballad in the English at the request of the Holy Clerk of Copmanhurst, that is, Friar Tuck. -Grim]

Henceforth the influence of women dominates chivalry, and religion and feudal loyalty take second place. Only war, a glorious and exciting pastime and a stimulating way of winning wealth, kept its high place as a gentleman’s most cherished occupation; but the influence of love as the mainspring of warlike aspiration gave a much lighter rhythm to it, and to literature and life itself. Poets sing now only of their ladies’ perfections, crave their pity and strive to merit their grace. The knight fights as hard as he ever did (he was not to be deprived of his business or his fun) but it is to win his lady’s favors, and the word amoureux comes to mean more than it does today, for it covers the entire range of knightly virtue. The idea has prevailed that:

Hee never were a good werryoure
That cowde not love aryghte

“He who loves not is but half a man” and “pour l’amour des dames devient li vilains courtois.”

The “influence of women” which “dominates” chivalry is not an oppressive influence. It liberated women and gave them a powerful voice in society, without either demeaning men or making them resentful of feminine power. Just the opposite: It is one embraced cheerfully by men of the sort who can tame horses and ride them to war.

Unlike the culture war sparked by the feminists of today, the situation provoked by Eleanor’s court was a genuine improvement of the relationship between men and women — one that, from the distance of the twelfth century, still inspires us, and seems almost to glow across the ages. It may mark the high point of the relations between the sexes in all human history.

GRIM concludes:

You will, I hope, have gathered from what I have said about this Rock “Women,” that it has dangers for the woman as well as for the man. But it has also its very bright side if you only manoeuvre your canoe aright.

The paddle to use for this job is CHIVALRY.

Most of the points which I have suggested as being part of the right path are comprised under chivalry.

The knights of old were bound by their oath to be chivalrous, that is to be protective and helpful to women and children. This means on the part of the man a deep respect and tender sympathy for them, coupled with a manly strength of mind and strength of body with which to stand up for them against scandal, cruelty or ridicule, and even, on occasion, to help them against their own failings.

A man without chivalry is no man.

I would strongly suggest that “sexism” is a false star. Navigating by it leads us into errors and anger with one another that are needless and pointless. What is wanted is equality of opportunity, but not that men and women should be treated as if they were exactly the same: no one wants that, not the most sincere feminist, who at least believes that women have something special to offer. As indeed they have!

Women should always be treated with chivalry, with “deep respect and tender sympathy.” Equality of opportunity aside, women and men are not the same — it is good that a man should understand how they are different, and take pains to make women feel welcome and valued. He should showcase his valor in the way of the knights and poets of old: so that, in him, the entire range of knightly virtue is expressed through love.

Indeed. Amen to that.

Cassandra: A Suspension of Contempt

“Duty is the sublimest word in our language. Do your duty in all things. You cannot do more; you should never wish to do less.”
-Robert E. Lee

I woke this morning knowing I could no longer put this off. For well over a year a feeling has been building inside of me, but until now I could see no useful purpose in naming the thing I see everywhere I look these days.

There is an ancient superstition which whispers that to name a thing gives it power. I think part of the rationalization for this idea lies in the notion that so long as certain things remain partially hidden, never quite seen in their entirety, decent people are still ashamed to acknowledge them in the harsh light of day.

My father was a Navy man. So, too, was my father in law. Both served full careers and retired as Captains. Destroyer men, they were. Both served in Vietnam. My Uncle Mel was a Marine in WWII, my Grandfather served in the Army. I have ancestors who served all the way back to the Civil (both sides) and Revolutionary wars. So although marrying a military man formed no part of my plans as a young girl, when my husband informed me he had signed up for Marine Officer ROTC, what could I do? I had already said, “I do”. I loved my husband, and I love my country. Both deserve my support, and not just when that support is easy and convenient.

A promise is a promise. I was in for the duration, either way.

The ironic thing was that during my formative years I’d watched my mother (with much love and admiration) struggle with yearly moves, sea duty, and the loneliness and worry that come with being a Navy wife. Consequently, I swore I would never marry a Navy man. No worries. It seemed Fate had a far crueler destiny in mind for me. I would go through life handcuffed to a chicken on a beach ball.

My mind drifts back to this often now when I read the media’s heart rending accounts of young Army officers “forced” to leave the service so their brides can attend college [sniff!]. This is -alas! – the only way they and their families can have a “normal” life. I wonder, as I read, what is normal like? Was my life ever normal? Would I trade one precious second of the profoundly un-normal last three decades for that more tranquil existence, for more money, for the dreamy McMansions we keep looking at, the ones with brick all the way around the house instead of just on the front facade? The ones with all the trimmings I can think up – and I can think up a lot, trust me on that one.

I can imagine a lot of tranquility, too. But are these things: college, jobs, material possessions, what make up the good life? Or is it the friends – the connections – we gather along the way that truly matter, even if they tend to make our lives a bit hectic and messy? [ … ]

Be sure to read her entire post as she ponders this question. Very thought-provoking and she takes a shot at some military spouses that should interest some.

This is just a sampling of some of the amazing contributions the military community and military bloggers provide in my everyday life and, of course, in the everyday lives of their other readers and friends/family/coworkers. I can’t express enough how much I have grown as a person and as a man, simply from reading military blogs. We have some amazing people in our United States Armed Forces who are much more than simply names, statistics, MOSs and medals and awards.

I hope you all take the time to check out the links I have provided (or see the MANY links to military blogs I have provided in my MILBLOGS banner above) and also pass them on to others. They come from all backgrounds, all MOSs, all branches of the military and from all different ranks and knowledge bases – from the grunts to the decorated, well-connected high ranking officers – and all different experience levels, current members and veterans of past wars and OIF and OEF. These ladies and gentlemen are truly an invaluable and priceless contribution to our culture and understanding and appreciation of our country, our military and our fellow man.

Please do make it a point to read at least one of their sites daily.

April 19, 2008 , 2:56PM Posted by | Honor, Military, Military Blogs | Comments Off on Reason Number 5,254 Why I Read and Promote Military Blogs

We Fight and Sometimes Die So That Our Families Do Not Have To

“I want all of you to be safe. And please don’t feel bad for us. We are warriors. And as warriors have done before us, we joined this organization and are following orders because we believe that what we are doing is right. Many of us have volunteered to do this a second time due to our deep desire to finish the job we started. We fight and sometimes die so that our families don’t have to. Stand beside us. Because we would do it for you. Becasue it is our unity that has enabled us to prosper as a nation.” – Staff Sergeant Marcus Golczynski, written a week before he was killed in action in Iraq.

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(DNJ photo by Aaron Thompson.) Christian Golczynski, 8, receives the flag from his father’s casket from Lt. Col. Ric Thompson during the graveside service at Wheeler Cemetery in Bedford County. Golczynski’s father, Marcus, was killed by enemy fire in Iraq last week.

Godspeed, Staff Sergeant Golczynski. May we all be so lucky and honored as your son to have a father such as you.

Go read the entire story and the tributes from US Marines to this young man. If any of you can get through the post from Matt Burden at Blackfive without crying, you are stronger than me.

And a profound email from Marine Major (ret) Brian Jimenez:

Last week, I attended the funeral of a Marine who was killed in a firefight in Iraq. No road-side bomb here. He was leading Marines in a gun-fight. He was a guy who had volunteered to go back for a second tour in Iraq. There was no requirement for him to be there as he had previously discharged his obligation.

When I arrived in Lewisburg for the service, there were about a dozen leather-wearing biker dudes standing out in front of the church. They were lining both sides of the street holding large American flags on poles. Their leather jackets were adorned with patriotic emblems and messages. I think they call themselves “Freedom Riders” [ed by Michael in MI – actually, they are the Patriot Guard Riders] but I am not sure. There was a line of mourners waiting to get inside the church. There must have been, no-kidding, about a thousand people crammed inside that sanctuary. The various Armed Forces were represented there by young people in uniform, a large number of them Marines in their dress blues, friends and comrades of the deceased.

From the pulpit, the Marine’s widow spoke of how proud she was of her husband as his orphaned son looked on with tears on his face. The Marine’s brother also spoke on behalf of the family and related the same message of great pride and overwhelming grief.

After the service, the motorcade formed up with a unique escort – a mix of law enforcement vehicles and Harley Davidsons with flags streaming. I am estimating but it seemed to me that the line of vehicles stretched out for at least two miles. From the Church of Christ in downtown Lewisburg to Wheel cemetery on Highway 64 is about 15 miles. All along the route people stopped what they were doing, walked out of their homes and businesses and stood at attention along both sides of the street. They were holding signs and waving flags, holding their hands over their hearts, removing their hats, and saluting as the funeral procession rolled by. People pulled their cars over to the side of the road, got out, and stood with their hand over their heart. From where I sat, I did not observe one vehicle pass the funeral procession in either direction for the full 15 miles.

At the graveside, traditional military honors were rendered: the flag that draped the casket was presented to the newly fatherless eight year old, and an armed detail fired a 21 gun salute as “Taps” played. Warriors who wore medals for valor shed tears along with the ladies and gentlemen in fine (and rough) attire. It was like being on the inside of a very sad Norman Rockwell painting.

Yesterday morning in Najaf, Iraq, there was a protest by thousands of people. It was carried by all of the major news media. Citizens of Iraq were gathered in daylight in the public square to rail against the American occupiers on the occassion of the 4th anniversary of the military action that removed the statue of a ruthless dictator from their public assembly places. Incredibly ironic in that without those American occupiers, there would be no rally, no public demonstration, not even much in the way of private grumbling. Because without those occupiers, the man who organized the protest would be on a death sentence hit-list and any of his followers who dared to show up in a public venue would be in danger of being machine-gunned or possibly exposed to poisonous gas – and their families could also be summarily murdered without benefit of trial or investigation or even a record of where their bodies were disposed of.

So, this is progress. Don’t be discouraged. In a letter to his family written shortly before his death, the late Staff Sergeant Marcus Golczynski had some pretty profound words for all of us:

“I want all of you to be safe. And please don’t feel bad for us. We are warriors. And as warriors have done before us, we joined this organization and are following orders because we believe that what we are doing is right. Many of us have volunteered to do this a second time due to our deep desire to finish the job we started. We fight and sometimes die so that our families don’t have to. Stand beside us. Because we would do it for you. Becasue it is our unity that has enabled us to prosper as a nation.”

I have the program from his funeral service if you would like to come by my classroom to see it.

OK. So why did I send this to you? Well, in the days ahead, America will be addressing our commitment in Iraq. I want you to have an opinion. I may not agree with what you have to say but I will defend to the death your right to say it. Know this though: your opinion doesn’t matter much if you don’t vote or communicate with your elected leadership. That, in my humble opinion, is why we have good men fighting and dying in a distant land. You decide if the sacrifice is worthy.

Semper Fi, Major Brian Jimenez USMC (Ret)

April 13, 2007 , 5:40AM Posted by | American History, Honor, Honoring the Fallen, Military, Military History, Patriot Guard Riders, Terrorism, US Marines, War Effort in Iraq | Comments Off on We Fight and Sometimes Die So That Our Families Do Not Have To

Modern Men of Valor – Alpha Company Heroes

I found this story via Matt Burden at the military blog Blackfive: DC Marines to the Rescue

These are the kinds of stories that should be told everyday, across the world, let alone the nation, to show what kind of honorable, valorous and kindhearted men (and women) serve in the United States military, and specifically in the United States Marine Corps.

These two men, especially, represent the best our country, the United States of America, has to offer. It is because of men such as yourselves that I am proud to call myself an American. Bravo and Semper Fi.

Via Pam at Iraq War News: Marines to the Rescue!

By Cpl. Earnest J. Barnes, Marine Barracks 8th & I

MARINE BARRACKS WASHINGTON (March 28, 2007) — What if you were given the opportunity to help a complete stranger who had been seriously injured? Would you just walk away or would you take immediate action to help save the person?

Two infantrymen from Alpha Company were faced with situation when they saw a male in his mid-twenties who was about to be assaulted in the late evening of Feb. 24.

Lance Corporals Jared Bolhuis and David Trester were on their way to watch a movie in Washington, D.C.’s Chinatown. They had just departed the subway when they heard a disturbance at the top of the escalator. As the two Marines reached street level, they found the man surrounded by a group of 15 young skateboarders.

“There was a young guy, nicely dressed like he was going out. He was squared off with a skateboarder that looked like he was about 18 years-old. The skateboarder’s friends surrounded the two of them and everyone on the streets was watching this build up,” said Bolhuis, a Zeeland, Mich. Native. “Before I knew it, one of the older skateboarders came from behind and blindsided this guy with a punch right in the temple, knocking him out cold.”

As soon as the victim was hit, the leathernecks rushed to his aid. As the Marines with their high and tight hair cuts approached the victim, the gang of skateboarders quickly dispersed into the crowd.

“Right away, I applied my terrorism awareness training and tried to gain proper identification on as many of those who were involved,” Bolhuis added.

As the suspects were fleeing the scene, Bolhuis called for the police. Pedestrian after pedestrian passed by the victim, while some even trying to step over him. Resilient in their efforts to help the man, Bolhuis and Trester kept the crowd away from the victim to allow breathing room and to assess the extent of his injuries.

The man was laying stomach down, bleeding from the mouth. The Marines saw broken teeth on the ground and it appeared the victim may have suffered trauma to the neck after the fall.

Go read it all.

April 11, 2007 , 11:46AM Posted by | American History, Honor, Military, Terrorism, US Marines | Comments Off on Modern Men of Valor – Alpha Company Heroes