Friday, July 08, 2016

Breaking Rules and Telling Stories



  Anyone who reads this space, or follows we via Twitter and other media outlets generally get the point that I rarely get political where I present a professional line of thought, but I do tend to tell personal stories. 
  “The only difference between a sea-story and a fairy-tale is that the Fairy-tale starts out ‘Once upon a time…’, and the sea-story starts out with ‘No Shit man, this really happened….’”  -- call it a Sailor’s proverb
  At age 19, I was assigned to the US Naval Mobile Construction Battalion Forty (NMCB-40).  And I left to join them in Rota, Spain for a seven-month deployment.  When I got there I was already restless and decided to volunteer for a detachment known as AIRDET.  It was only after that people told me that you don’t volunteer for that one.  I was added as an alternate, and the night before they deployed I was told to grab my gear because one of our guys had his appendix burst.  The next morning, I was on a C130 with 80 other Seabees, headed for Tunisia.
  The North Detachment, was tasked with assisting in the building up road drainage infrastructure nead Tunis, while the Southern crew, my group, were sent to the desert near Gabes.  During this time, we added a number of things to the Tunisian landscape.  One I believe I can still see on Google Earth. 
  We worked and trained with the Tunisian marines during this time and helped them to understand how some of the construction operations worked and could be improved.  While working one of these days I was sitting down and splicing some cable and came face to face with an African Horned Viper.  This thing literally came out from under the tire I was sitting, between my legs, and didn’t seem pleased at all.  Two young Tunisians saw this too and sprang into action faster than I could have imagined and sliced the viper up with their shovels before either the snake or I could react.  Afterwards their Lieutenant ‘Mohammad’ explained to me that the viper was deadly, and I told him that I fully approved of the action taken. 
  Later in this mission I was injured in a gasoline explosion that left me hospitalized for three weeks.  That’s another story but the take away here is that when it happened two people reached me first.  One of our guys Eric Peterson, and a Tunisian Marine, one of the young men that save my life before.  They helped me away from the fire and then onto an Ambulance back to camp.  In the next 30-45 minutes a helicopter from a Tunisian airbase in Gabes arrived to take me to their hospital for triage treatment.  A remarkable feat since they had only seven of these vehicles and they were all down for maintenance awaiting parts when the call went out.  The mechanics at the airbase made one working helo from seven broken ones fully knowing that an American soldier was injured.  A pair of Tunisian pilots with a cobbled-together aircraft risked their lives flying this machine, to save my own. 
  At the age of 41 this whole incident is now decades old, I have been through lots of counseling and still today suffer from PTSD from the fire itself.  But this is a relevant story for me.  I owe my life to two men that I can still recall their faces but not their names, and countless others that worked in concert and at the risk of death to save the life of an American Soldier.   Without that I would never have met my wife, had my sons or enjoyed the next 22 years in safety and health.
  My point in this story is to highlight a fault in our current political environment.  I owe my life to countless Muslim men and women that I would trust it with them again if I had to.  The rhetoric in the US had come to a point where the actions of radical elements are being used as a prod to hurt and alienate an entire group of people, even our own citizens.  We have a candidate for the US Presidency that advocates a blanket abuse of civil rights.  Rights that I gave 8 years of my life and almost my life in service to protect.  All of us in this democratic society are given one voice, one vote, to show the World what matters to us.  I will never tell another citizen how to vote but I will say this, even if you have grasped my leaning, I consider this ‘Right’ an obligation.  If you do not vote and use your voice at every opportunity, then why call yourself a citizen.  The obligation of every citizen in the US (or any other democratic society) is to be informed in the issues at hand and cast your vote every time.  When no best, or even good, choice presents itself; then your obligation is to choose the lesser of two evils and strive toward the best path possible.

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