Seeing through a new lens 1

Seeing through a new lens

I recently went through a life changing event that impacted everything I came in contact with. About eight months ago, I noticed that the lights in my house were no longer as bright as they once were and the print on almost everything I read was shrinking. In November, I saw an ophthalmologist who told me that there was a small indication of cataracts but nothing to worry about. By January, my vision was getting so bad, I went to another eye doctor who told me that I had some massive cataracts forming in the back part of my eyes. Left untreated, it would eventually cause blindness that could not be reversed. That got my attention pretty well.

I went to another specialist who told me he could fix them both, one at a time and implant special lenses to make sure my sight was mostly restored. I was on track for the surgery when something else intervened. Out of absolutely nowhere, the lead wire for my pacemaker/defibrillator managed to work its way out of my chest and was exposed.

The exposure led to a massive infection of the cavity where the device had been placed the previous August and all of it had to be removed. Months of therapy followed with infections being treated intravenously and the use of a wound vac. All of this delayed my eye surgery which could not be done while I was battling the infection.

I will be forever grateful to my employer for being generous with my needs to rehabilitate. Dormont Manufacturing (part of Watts Water Technologies) was compassionate and very understanding. It was with a very heavy heart that I finally felt the need to retire.

Shortly after that, I had the first eye surgery.

IMG_2205

Anyone who has ever had the procedure can tell you that the results are stunning. Even with only one eye complete, the world completely changed. Probably because I had been losing my sight for a longer period than I could know, I had not realized the brilliance of the colors or the pure light. My office is a perfect example. I had made some adjustments as things got darker and now it is almost too bright.

Shortly after the second eye was done, I read a whole chapter of a book I had stopped reading in November and then watched a glorious sunset. I thank God for the surgeon, the science of the eyes, and a wonderful wife who patiently cared for me in my darkest hours. The professional staff at the Mt. Pleasant Surgery Center was wonderful and did a fantastic job.

I learned a lot about patience and overcoming in those months. I thought a lot about people with disabilities and particularly those whose challenges are permanent. I have always felt that I was a compassionate person but for the first time in my life I really began to understand what it is like to lose something so precious (even if it was just temporarily).

Priorities are changing now. I have a lot of reading to catch up on and so many places that I was limited from going are back on the list. I will get back to my speaking passion soon and I believe I will have a whole new motivation to tell stories that matter.

One of my favorite writers is Rick Campbell and I am going to move his newest book to the top of my list.

CAMBLAC01-2

Rick is a retired Navy submarine officer that has written some awesome books including “The Trident Deception”, “Empire Rising” and “Ice Station Nautilus”. His newest book is “Blackmail” and it promises to be as exciting as the others have been. The small amount I have read so far seems like it could be ripped from some of today’s headlines. I strongly encourage you to find and read all of his books.

Well, that’s it for now. We are headed off to a nice graduation party for a friend’s daughter. I get to drive which is very awesome. I will enjoy seeing the flowers and the lake and also enjoy the natural beauty of her smile as she celebrates this next new beginning.

In so many ways, I will be able to honestly share that celebration.

Mister Mac

 

The Cost of Freedom – Letter to the Editor Pittsburgh Post Gazette 2

The Cost of Freedom

To the Editor

Pittsburgh has long been a source of the materials and equipment necessary for our national defense.

The propulsion equipment for submarines and aircraft carriers comes from manufacturers in the Steel Valley as it has for generations. A strong fleet ensures freedom of the seas and guarantees the level of commerce needed to ensure a robust economy.

In critical global areas, freedom is being challenged. China’s influence in the Southwester Pacific is already being felt by our trading partners. A resurgent Russian naval influence is the result of their leaders trying to regain what they lost at the end of the Cold War. The re-appearance of Russian surveillance ships near America’s submarine bases is definitely a concern for a Navy that is already resource strapped with existing obligations in the prolonged conflicts in the Middle East.

As Congress prepares its budgets, sensible but strong support for the re-building of our fleet must be supported by all citizens. Our submarine forces need new boats to answer the gap left by an aging fleet. Boats that were built in the 1980’s are being retired faster than our ability to build replacements. Even some of the mighty Ohio class submarines are older than thirty five years old. A replacement must be built as soon as possible to ensure our strategic abilities.

It is time for congress to act. I urge all Pittsburghers (and Americans ) to contact your Senators and Representatives and support the rebuilding of America’s sea services.

This is a critical time in our history and your support is needed now. This is the Cost of Freedom.

Robert “Bob” MacPherson

USNL Pittsburgh Council President (2017-2019)

Mister Mac

Summer 2017 USNL Pittsburgh President’s Letter – The Home Front Reply

The Home Front

Greetings to all of the Navy League Members and those who have yet to join. I am always grateful for the membership we have and a bit curious why there aren’t more of us. The Pittsburgh Council of the Navy League of the United States is an active group that supports the sea services in many ways. More about that in a bit.

The Battle of Midway at 75

This year marks the Diamond Anniversary of some of the pivotal events in the life of the nation as well as the sea services. In the Pacific, the combined forces of the Army, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard stopped the Japanese expansion during the Battle of Midway. Against very large odds, this combined force stopped a previously unbeaten Japanese Naval force and turned the tide of the conflict. In the Atlantic, precious few resources were called upon to defend vital shipping in the face of a ferocious submarine onslaught that would be called the Battle for the Atlantic. U- boats were challenging our ability to supply our surviving allies and the Navy scarcely had enough ships to stem the loss of ships to their attacks.

Pittsburgh and the Home Front

None of the services were prepared for the Global Conflicts that they would be called upon to fight. The courage of the men who filled the gap until America’s war machine could be fully engaged saved countless millions from death and destruction. On the Home Front here in Pittsburgh, the mills and mines were mobilized as never before and businesses of every kind were converted into suppliers of the materials and equipment that would be needed to fight the enemy on every front. Their contributions led to ultimate victory but there were many sacrifices along the way.

The current situation the nation finds itself in is similar in many ways. All around the globe, nations and terror groups are challenging the notion that people should be able to live in freedom. Freedom from oppression and freedom to live their lives in a way they chose has always been both a goal and a target. The goal is shared by most thinking people and the target is shared by all tyrants and oppressive groups based on flawed ideologies. Technology and the ability to easily cross state lines has radically increased the ability of the evil doers to impact people who may have previously felt safe and secure in their homes.

Global War on Terror

Once again, the men and women of the sea services are on the front lines of this battle. Whether it’s in one of the three Battle Groups in the Sea of Japan or the Black Sea, we have people in harm’s way every single day. Our allies are learning that the enemy can reach them in the streets of London and Paris and we have lost citizens in the crossfire. The need for a smart, mobile and flexible defense has never been stronger. Just as planners at the beginning of World War 2 found themselves challenged to meet the existing and new threats, we are finding some of the same challenges.

For many years, the sea services have been increasingly challenged to meet the growing missions because of budget restrictions. Training, new equipment and other costs have all suffered at exactly the same time that new threats emerge. Competing social programs and agendas have made it more and more difficult to keep our people fully prepared and supplied for this new conflict.

That is exactly where the Navy League and groups like ours comes in. We are the independent voice that Theodore Roosevelt envisioned over a century ago when he encouraged the nation’s civilian and business leadership to join together and support the sea services. I love reading his speeches and writings from a historical perspective but many of them ring so true today. Preparedness is the key word for the survival of any democracy in the face of tyranny. Preparedness is not an option if we wish to survive.

All of the activities we do in the Pittsburgh Council are geared towards supporting those who continue protecting us. Whether it’s one of our fundraisers that support scholarship programs or our direct support of the Coast Guard and Navy, we are focused in making sure the people on the front lines know that we on the Home Front have not forgotten them. Our efforts through our National organization in identifying budget needs is critical. Being a part of the Navy League makes sure your voice can be heard and we can truly help the sea services to meet their daily challenges.

The call to action is this:

Support your Pittsburgh Council (or your local Council) by participating in the various events listed in our newsletter and on our Web Page http://www.navyleaguepittsburgh.org/. (If you don’t have a newsletter and would like one, please contact me and I will make sure you get one.)

Encourage others to join with us and help us to show a strong unified Home Front in this new conflict. Stay informed and encourage your representatives in government to see the value and need for strong and vital sea services on all fronts.

Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz once wrote: “It is the function of the Navy to carry the war to the enemy so that it will not be fought on U.S. soil.”

I would only add that the Navy and all of the sea services do their job best when we at the Home Front have done ours just as well.

Mister Mac

President, United States Navy League – Pittsburgh Council

USS Fitzgerald DDG 62 – How to help the crew 1

The collision at sea between the USS Fitzgerald and a civilian cargo ship has caused so many people to want to do something to help.

This message came from the ship’s Facebook Page on June 19, 2017.

The Navy Relief Society in Yokosuka is also helping and as always, they will accept financial  donations.

http://www.nmcrs.org/

 

Thanks for your consideration

Mister Mac

19224869_1540522009355732_8857717365714827302_n

Maintain Silence About the Decks 1

It’s Sunday morning and the sun is shining on this muggy Pennsylvania day.

Even though I am far from the oceans, my heart is heavy with the knowledge that the sea has claimed some of my shipmates. In the faraway seaport of Yokosuka, a damaged vessel is now being tended to and the inquiries will soon begin. A board of officers will be appointed by letter and the grueling process of deconstructing exactly what happened will commence. Anxious families here in the homeland are still waiting for the official notification and will soon be swept up in a whirlwind of grief mixed with anger and frustration as the Navy conducts its reviews.

On other ships around the world, officers and crews are probably being issued the standard precautionary warnings about the dangers of the seas and maintaining a keen operational readiness. Former sailors are filling the internet with their thoughts. Some are simple and supportive. Some are typical armchair quarterbacks who will do their own reconstruction free from actual facts. It has always been that way but I think with the advent of social media, it is just a lot more visible.

“Maintain silence about the decks” was a standard announcement made just before the start of Divine Services on board the ship I served on.

I would hope that today’s Divine Services on board every ship and submarine would be overflowing today with men and women praying for the lost souls of their shipmates. It has been more than twenty years since I was piped over the side for the last time. I would suspect that the services will perhaps be a bit fuller but nowhere near what they should be. The Navy is a microcosm of society and the number of spiritual people probably reflects the diminishing numbers in America today who regularly worship.

Naval Customs

I have a book that dates back to before the Second World War called Naval Customs, Traditions and Usage written by Leland P. Lovette. This book captures the origins of many of the Navy’s traditions including Divine Services at Sea. On Sunday morning immediately after quarters, all hands were mustered and immediately gathered in their appointed place near the Quarterdeck. I can only imagine the outcry if the Navy tried to do something like this today.

Saying Farewell

Losing a shipmate under any circumstances is like losing a member of your own family. You share the same challenges day after day, you have the same frustrations, and you experience the same joys. You have trained side by side to face enormous challenges and danger and learn to rely on one another in the worst of times. Even though all of you may not be close as friends, the magical word “Shipmate” binds you together tighter than any rope ever designed.

In many ways, that term also becomes universal. Once you have sailed the oceans, you become a lifelong member of that brother and sisterhood. I still swell with pride when I see the American flag streaming from an American Navy ship. It’s not just the ship or submarine though. It is the sailors and officers who sail her. These brave souls defy the ocean and put themselves in harm’s way every time they cast off all lines. No amount of technology can completely protect them from the uncounted dangers the sea can inspire. Sometimes, the sea just wins. Too often, we find ourselves having to say farewell to those shipmates. It is one of the hardest things for anyone to have to endure.

I pray this morning for the families of those lost on the USS Fitzgerald who will now face the lifelong reality of being a Gold Star family. No amount of public recognition or condolences for their loss will ever replace the smile of the loved one who will no longer be home for shore leave. That bright smile and carefree youth will be etched in their hearts and memories. Shipmates close to them will be forever changed as well. Years from now, their loss will still bring tears to all who knew and loved them. My only advice is to reach out to each other and get the counseling you will need. Some burdens are handled better when they are shared.

From the Naval Customs book:

“It has ever been customary for all officers and men not on duty to attend the services of a late shipmate. The Chaplain, or in his absence, the Captain, or an officer detailed by the Captain reads the burial service at sea. The ritual ends with the very beautiful and time honored words,

… we therefore commit this body to the deep, to be turned into corruption, looking for the resurrection of the body, when the sea shall give up her dead, and the life of the world to come…

I am sad for the families and for the shipmates who are starting the mourning process this day. But I am eternally grateful that there are still men and women who are willing to challenge the sea to help ensure our freedom. I will continue to pray for their safety in all the corners of the world.

For the next few minutes, please join with me in maintaining silence about the decks as we remember our fallen shipmates.

Mister Mac

 

May 31 2017 – Another Milestone 6

 

Another Milestone

May 31 2017 marks the end of my second career. When I retired from the US Navy in August of 1994, I foolishly assumed that the travel and adventure was all in the rear view mirror. We were headed to a little town in Kansas where I would be happy helping save an old Opera House from the wreckers and do a little community service in my spare time. I’m happy to report that 26 years later, the McPherson Opera House is doing well http://www.mcphersonoperahouse.org/

but our stay in the town we came to serve only lasted for a short while. We found out about small town politics in a very large way and found ourselves on a new course that would prove to be a far better one.

A different approach

With a freshly minted degree from Southern Illinois University and my years in the Navy, I found a series of jobs that all allowed me to grow personally and professionally. It’s amazing when I look back over the years since we left McPherson to see all of the types of manufacturing I have been involved with. My first company was General Physics in Indianapolis, IN where I worked at steel plants, aluminum, power generating companies and got my first introduction to trucks at Ford Motor Company in Louisville KY. This was actually my first real break since I was introduced to something called Lean Manufacturing.

Lean

Lean manufacturing let me work in truck assembly plants, steering and pump manufacturing, transmission assembly, car assembly, and a corporate training center. Then a plastics manufacturer for Ford, a bumper and components manufacturer, an SUV manufacturer and another car plant.

I did another short stint with Aluminum and casting companies, trucks and remanufacturing and chemicals. The last stint has been pure joy in a manufacturing environment making gas pipe that are used in nearly every restaurant that you can think of. I have learned so many different ways to do Lean, that I can’t even remember them all.

And travel? Oh my goodness. I honestly think I may have logged as many miles in the air since the Navy than all of my travels before retiring. Not all of it was great and there were a few hairy times but truthfully, I had a great ride. I have so many pictures from all over the world that provide me with a lot of enjoyment. I never thought I would come to love France but I did.

Limoges and Paris 2010 077

So why retire now?

In some ways I am tired. A lot of health concerns have occurred in the last year and some are unresolved. Since I have turned 63, it was not a hard decision to take Social Security and combine it with my Navy pension and make it work. I am taking some time off to get healthier. But I will still seek some work from time to time. I still think I have a lot to offer as a teacher in technical schools. I want to write. And we want to travel and visit some of the amazing places and more amazing people we have met in our twenty moves. Plus, I want to write more stories for the blog.

Speaking

I picked up a hobby along th eway. I love to speak. I love to tell stories. I love it when an audience responds to something I have shared with them. But the hobby is time consuming. I found that it kept interfering with my work time. So I will be reengaging in my love and try to continue to grow. There is one very large trophy still missing on my shelf. Maybe I will find it someday.

The leansubmariner Blog.

In May of 2014, theleansubmariner celebrated a milestone of reaching 150,000 views. Fast forward to May of 2017 and the number tops 330,000 views. There are currently 558 stories covering 83 categories and over a thousand tags. We are linked through Facebook shares, Twitter, LinkedIn and we are viewed in nearly every country on earth during the six years since we first published.

Debbie

I would be remiss to mention the girl who has put up with me through all of these journeys. Did I mention she has moved with me twenty times? She has held my hand in the darkest of moments and propped me up when I felt like quitting. I am looking forward to many more fun adventures.

My hope for all of you is that you have as an exciting journey along the way as we have had so far. It is always humbling to see people on Facebook that we served with or worked with so many years ago and still share memories and thoughts with. I know the best is still yet to come but for now, I’m going to enjoy slowly strolling by this milestone.

Mister Mac

 

Rights come with Responsibilities – Or Do They? 3

Memorial Day has been a special event in my family’s life ever since Great Grandfather Mac donned his Grand Army of the Republic Uniform and marched in his first parade.

The men who returned from the War Between the States felt it was their duty and honor to remember the sacrifices of so many men who had died in that horrific war. For those who were fortunate, death came swiftly. For those less fortunate, long suffering in primitive medical conditions, agony lasted months and even years. The men who escaped injury felt that honoring the sacrifice was a continuation of their duty.

Their sons were later called to action for a larger war overseas and within another generation yet another World War. Rach of those wars and the many conflicts since have one thing in common. All of them have helped to preserve an idea called America and the freedom promised by the Constitution. The framers wanted to set up a document that would give structure to that idea. The branches of the government and the responsibilities for each branch were set up to achieve a balance of power. The country was formed in the shadow of a King and unresponsive parliament which unfairly taxed and oppressed the fledgling colonies. This document would make sure that none of the three branches could usurp the powers of the others.

What is sometimes lost in that attempt for balance is the fear that many of the founders first felt about any such document. The Constitution after all was not written to grant anyone rights. Those were judged by nearly all of the founders to be God given and inalienable. The real purpose was to limit the power of government over men’s lives. The Bill of Rights was an afterthought and to this day remains a subject of many legal battles. The men who opposed it did so not because of the “rights” included but that they presupposed that we did not have every right to live life in a way that was of our choosing.

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads, in part, “Congress shall make no law… abridging the Freedom of Speech, or of the press.”.

Some will argue that the Constitution is a flawed document in many ways. There are some really good reasons for those arguments. I would only add this. The founders write the document with a Bill of Rights, but failed to balance it with a Bill of Responsibilities. Most of the laws written in the past several hundred years are designed to set boundaries or limits on what we can and cannot do. The original document was written with some very wide open statements such as the commerce clause. But the real third rail hidden in the law is the statement about the press. More than one national leader has discovered the power of an unhindered press along the way.

Mark Twain once wrote “Never pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel.”

While this made sense to politicians in the early days, it has become magnified by a million fold with the advent of modern communications. With each advance in communication through radio, television and the internet (in addition to the growth of the old style press industry), an unfettered press has grown to be the gargantuan power in the world. Its not hard ot imagine the power all of these methods contain to influence and change people’s minds and opinions. Imagine what could happen if the same people controlled the message and the messengers with unbridled power.

I first discovered how far we are down that road nearly fifty years ago. At the age of 13, I was a news junky. It was 1967 and I was alive with a thirst to understand what was going on around the world. Vietnam occupied center stage and I wanted to see as much as I could see for what was shaping into my generations war. Using the money I had earned cutting grass, I got a set of subscriptions to Time and Newsweek magazines. We didn’t live close to a library so this seemed like a good place to start collecting all that was news. They normally arrived within a day of each other and I would go through them from front to back. It wasn’t long before I made my first major discovery. They were nearly the same in content and flavor. The articles were the same and it erally felt like I was seeing more of an opinion than a fact.

The TV at that time was not much better. The three major channels and PBS all carried the exact same stories and the same opinions as well. Sometimes they even used the same phrases and pictures. Over the course of the next year, the pubic reacted just as if they were all programmed to follow the same script. Protests that turned to violence and of course the infamous Tet offensive where Walter wearily informed us that we had lost the war. It wasn’t until many years later that we found out that we had actually won a great victory.

The unelected press brought a nation to its knees. An unelected press has done so much evil to the modern world that we may never recover. Even today, they relentlessly attack the President and his programs because of their own opposing ideology. Lazy stories filled with unnamed sources and innuendo have no place in a responsible press. Journalists who make up facts without sources just to fit their own narrative are the worst offenders of the lot. Real journalists should call them out and castigate them publicly before taking way their credentials.

They have their rights because of the men and women that gave their lives to protect their freedom to spew any garbage they want no matter how devoid that garbage is from truth. There is no one to hold them accountable except for the public which makes the ultimate choice to decide what is right and what is wrong. When good men and women of character stand up for the truth with their money and their personal commitment to truth, evil and manipulation will be put in check.

Whether you are left, right or center, a free press is important to maintaining a series of checks and balances to government that has become unresponsive. But as responsible citizens, we owe it to the memory of those who have given everything for our freedoms to hold that press responsible for the truth.

 

  1. Mister Mac

It was never easy 3

It was never easy

On the day I retired from the Navy, my crew presented me with a shadow box. That box sits on my desk and I look at it from time to time when I am not typing stories or checking out the latest on the Internet. It’s a nice box with beveled edges, a glass cover that has kept the dirt at bay for many years and a deep blue velvet background. The display is a chronology of my service from the time I enlisted until the day I retired. All of the achievements of my career are visible and each remind me about the one thing that all military people know and understand. It was never easy.

The Oath

I took my first oath at the age of seventeen with my proud parents standing by. Like my father before me and his father too, I chose the Navy. I wanted adventure and travel and the recruiter had promised me that and much more. The Navy would give me the chance to grow and learn many things. I would get to travel to exotic parts around the world and experience so many things that I would never find in the Monongahela Valley where I grew up. He said that many sailors found time to achieve a college degree and if they worked hard, they could someday be a leader and maybe even an officer. But he was an honest man and added this stern warning: “It won’t be easy”.

Taking the oath of enlistment at such an early age was actually very easy. I guess in retrospect, the oath was just a step you had to take on the journey to where you wanted to be. Up until the moment I took it, I will confess that I did not think about what I was doing too much. But in the moments leading up to raising my hand and repeating it, the gravity of it came over me. For the next six years, I was going to be committed to doing whatever it was the Officers and Chiefs appointed over me would tell me to do. There were no half measures in making that commitment. If I failed, I would disappoint my parents, my friends, and myself. I remember a small moment of panic as I realize that I didn’t really know what was ahead. What seemed like such a simple step became a really big thing in that moment.

They lined us up in that room in the Federal Building in Pittsburgh. Stand at attention and raise your right hand.

“I, (state your name), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”

And just like that, I took an oath that would change my life forever.

On either side of the shadow box are little brass plaques that say when and where I was stationed. Looking at them now, they seem pretty cold and sterile. There are twelve of them that represent the twenty plus years of active and reserve service. Interestingly enough, one of my commands is missing. When I look at them, I see something more than just brass. I see the sacrifices, the endless days at sea, the loneliness and the danger that many of them represented. A number of training commands, five submarines, one drydock and one submarine tender. They all have one thing in common: none of them ended up being very easy.

The ranks and awards make up the middle section of the box. Candidly, some took longer to achieve than I would have liked. For the longest time, I was convinced that the Navy would come to its senses and do things my way. Then, after a series of faltering steps, a wise Chief let me know in no uncertain terms that the Navy had done quite well for over two hundred years and if I really learned to accept that, I might make progress a little faster.

Starting over is never easy

I am lucky that I was able to completely reboot my career but as I have probably already indicated, it wasn’t easy. I learned that the oath really meant what it said. I also learned that in addition to the oath, there needed to be a strong willingness to sacrifice. I looked at those around me and saw many people who were giving their all to the service they chose. Don’t get me wrong. There were others who bitched, moaned and whined (BMW) every field day and duty day. The difference was, I decided not to be one of them. I took ever collateral duty I could, worked more hours than ever before in my life, learned new skills and polished up the old ones. No challenge was too great and I humbled myself as much as I could to achieve them.

During all of that time and ever since, I learned something about the men and women I served with. They all took the same oath. They learned what sacrifice was and learned to work together to achieve common goals. These are my brothers and sisters who share a devotion to their country and to the promises they made. Some fell along the way and some could not live up to their pledge. But on the whole, the people who I look back on now in my life with the most respect are the ones who discovered that even though it was not easy, you lived up to your oath. Even when the storms at sea knocked you about, you stayed the course. Even when it meant a ton of self-sacrifice, you honored your promise.

It is fitting that shadow box reflects the ranks in an ascending order to show the progression of growth. The ribbons are not as plentiful as some I have seen on current sailors and officers chests. But each one is a testament to the teamwork and shared sacrifices of my many shipmates. The dolphins represent membership in a unique brotherhood (that now includes a sisterhood).

The most dominant feature is the folded flag at the base.

This particular flag flew on a summer’s day over my last ship, the USS Hunley. If any of my previous commands had ever given me a hope that this one would be easy, that hope was dashed immediately. But with the help of my many shipmates (Chiefs, Officers and Sailors), we overcame some very large challenges together.

The flag at the base is a constant reminder that when you take that oath, there is something much bigger at stake than the temporary loss of some of your personal freedoms. It is the flag we all sailed under, protected with our service, and still honor today. I see the world around me now and worry that many people do not understand what it means to be counted upon. I see people too easily taking oaths or promises and just walking away with little to no remorse. I watch people who don’t get their way rioting in the street and refusing to commit any form of self-sacrifice.

But there is still time. We as a country can still turn the ship around. There are still many young men and women who have already raised their hands and taken that same oath. They need our prayers and our support. If you are not already a member of one of the many organizations that veterans have open to them, time to step up and do so.

I would just offer one word of advice:

It won’t be easy. But it will be worth it.

Mister Mac

Happy Birthday Bubblehead 1

One of the things you learn quickly about the military is the endless stream of nicknames attached to the people, equipment and all manner of things unique to the recipient of the toast. The Navy is not unique but it certainly has no shortages of slang and identifiers.  These all help to separate the various groups within its ranks. If you ride a surface ship, there is a good chance that you have been called a skimmer at some point in your life. The boys and girls associated with the air wings are mostly called “airdales”

But a unique name exists for our submariners: Bubblehead. I have been around submariners for over forty years and have heard a million different explanations for the term. Like most sea stories, the origin is somewhat questionable. I have never really found a place that says that it was born on a specific day or linked to a specific event. Some of the many descriptions can be found at a blog of a similar name:

http://bubbleheads.blogspot.com/2010/04/origin-of-species.html

If you look up the term in the dictionary, its not at all complimentary : A stupid person, esp one who is frivolous and flighty.

Now I have been around these strange creatures for most of my adult life and I can assure you that there are a few who might fit the description. But the few tiumes that I have observed that phenomena is when they were just back from a liberty port and I am quite certain alcohol was involved.

American submarine history started a long time ago but the official start date coincides with the purchase of the submarine Holland on April 11, 1900. The start of the journey was slow and filled with all kinds of obstacles and enemies. But it was a joy ride from one of the least Bubbleheaded men of his day that helped to strengthen the future for submarines. President Theodore Roosevelt himself took a ride on an early version and as a result recognized the unique possibilities of the fledgling service. He assured a tradition of support through his backing of their credible service for sea time and a bonus for taking rhe risk to serve on them.

I will admit that the extra money was a nice incentive. But dead men can’t spend it and there are many who rode their boats to an early grave that are proof of that fact. April 10, 1963 stands out as a perfect example of what the cost of riding a boat can be. The sea is unforgiving in its ways. Submariners are the best of the best but even they sometimes will be overcome by the power of the deep.

On this day, we celebrate all things submarine. The incredible adventures we remember and the incredible boredom we overcame. The ports and the people, the sights and the sounds, the brave and the bold. But mostly the bubbleheads we knew. I am honored to be among one of the few that ever earned the title.

Happy Birthday Bubbleheads.

defying the sea

Mister Mac

Obituary: McKeesport PA (1795 – ????) 1

mckeesport11

I am an American.

I was born in an all American town that was vital and full of hope for the future. Sadly, now that town is a shell of its former glory. It is a perfect example of what happens when poor leadership and a collective inability to adapt to change run rampant. My town provided steel for a nation being built and a country that defended freedom around the world. Now it sits nearly deserted next to the two rivers that flow past the remains of its former glory. The most prevalent sound in many of its formerly beautiful neighborhoods is gunfire and the most horrible sight is the dilapidated houses that in many cases have been stripped of the only thing of value left – the plumbing. More horrible still are the lives that are forever impacted by this tragedy.

It was only a generation ago that this proud city provided jobs and education for its citizens. Immigrants had come from all over the world to pull the ore from the ground in the surrounding hills and shovel the raw materials into the furnaces that created the iron and steel. These people built America as surely as the many other communities that made up this growing country. Our fathers went off to fight the wars against tyranny and our mothers took their places in the mills and factories. When the war ended, they continued to build and they brought my generation into the waiting world.

Growing up, we waved our little flags as the parade marched by. Gold Star Mothers and families were treated with a reverence that was unmistakable un virtually untouchable. We were so important the Senator Kennedy came to town for a visit on his way to the Presidency. We all cried when he was killed and his statue still stands near the empty waterfront.

I suppose there are a lot of reasons why the decay started. From the time we were kids, people started taking God out of schools and public places. As we grew, government began to be the enemy and rebellion was in the air everywhere you looked. Abortion for convenience replaced abstinence and self-control. Everyone was suddenly more worried about their rights and not enough about their responsibilities. Unions fought companies and political division was bolstered by crime and bribery. Greed on everyone’s part fueled the fires of disaster. The end came with more of a whimper rather than a bang. We drilled for disasters all through school but no one remotely predicted the ultimate disaster that would bring the city to her knees and ultimately to this ignoble state.

This divisive cancer kills cities. But truthfully, left unchecked, it kills whole regions and even countries. We still have a chance America. We can put aside the bitterness and reject those who profit from our division. They are not interested in an America where unfettered growth can once more flourish. They are only interested in their own power and controlling you. The city I grew up in had every advantage. Physically, spiritually, financially, opportunity, location, everything. Yet within one generation, it is nearly without hope and should stand as a stark warning to America. This can happen anywhere.

Mister Mac