Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Fakes, Shams and Exaggerators

Like most of my friends, I'm pretty fed up with fakes, shams and exaggerators. I don't think they are the same, but there is adequate room for overlap.

So the fakes first. I see them as people who have a job, take on a specific challenge and then back off from the challenge and don't do anything. Think about the super committee. These guys are fakes. They promised to write new legislation reducing our national debt and then rolled over and fell prey to the lobbyists and party muscle and did nothing. Oh, they met. They postured. They squabbled. But in the end, they didn't do the job they promised to do. Of course, they are members of Congress, as disfunctional group of elected officials as I've seen in a long time. Wouldn't it e great if We the People could lock them out, like the owners did the overpaid one-percenters who play pro basketball? Once again I have to remind Congress that you aren't doing the job of this "People."

Next are the shams. These people call us a dozen times a day trying to pry another dollar out of our pockets for some cause or other. Most of the causes may be valid, but so little of the funds donated by phone reach the cause. Those telephone beggars get paid, you know. I prefer to donate to a cause I can see face to face.

I realize that some of the shams believe they are doing good. There was a Catholic priest in New York City who ran Covenant House, a shelter for runaway and street teens. We donated to his cause for years. Then the newspapers broke the story that the priest molested several runaways. He got thousands off the streets but became a sham when he kept a few for his own purposes.

Let's look at the exaggerators. I just finished reading Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson. I knew that Mortenson had been exposed for not keeping good records about the schools he built in Afghanistan. When CBS's Sixty Minutes sent a camera crew to many of the schools, they found many Mortenson claimed to have built never were constructed. Others were storage units for animal fodder. Millions poured into his Central Asia Institute, which is now under scrutiny. Great idea, good results when Mortenson was working small. But when he expanded, he lost control. His book is compelling. Too bad it's as much fiction as adoration. There must be facts there, but they are clouded by the facts.

I'll spare you my rant about politicians on this holiday eve. Oh, wait. Many fit all three categories. Especially when they are running for president. I may have to rethink sparing you the rant. That's material for another post on another day.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

He Sat Alone

He sat alone in a restaurant filled with friends and family honoring our veterans. Last night, he ate his free dinner slowly, measuring every bite. He drank nothing but coffee. He spoke with no one.

I watched him, wondering what his story was. He was neatly dressed in clean jeans, a shirt and zippered jacket. His hat rested on the bench seat beside him. Head and face shaved. I asked the restaurant manager if he knew anything about the man. "No, he's a veteran. He didn't want to sit with other vets, so I seated him alone."

Alone. Not on Veterans Day. But it was his wish. He could have been a Vietnam vet, but I didn't think so. He didn't look old enough. I passed by his table once, but he didn't glance up. Head down, he ate with complete concentration, lost in his thoughts. He paid for his coffee, asked for a go cup, and carefully dressed it with two creams and two sugars. He stirred, capped the cup, put on his hat and worked his way off the bench seat.

He passed our table. I asked him if I could shake his hand. He held it out. My husband and I thanked him for his service and asked which branch of the Armed Forces he'd called home. Air Force. Just like my Cold Warrior. Which base? Dover. And with that he nodded and walked slowly out of the restaurant, a black veteran alone in his own mind, his cup of hot coffee clutched in his hand.

I wonder what his story is.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Honoring Our Tween Veterans

Today is Veterans Day where we stop and honor the men and women who serve and have served our country. No matter which uniform you wear -- Army, Navy, Marine, Air Force, Coast Guard, or National Guard -- our volunteers deserve our respect and intense gratitude. They are the ones who protect our way of life.

Most of the attention goes to active service members and those who fought in foreign wars. They are not the only ones who deserve recognition today. The hundreds of thousands of service members who served in peace time protected our way of life as well.

Terry, my dear husband of over a quarter of a century, is a tween. He volunteered for the Air Force in peace time. He served between two wars: too young for Korea, too old, too married, and with two kids, not drafted for Vietnam. Still, he served honorably, keeping radar systems operating during the Cold War. He often wonders how he would have behaved in combat. I've watched him in times of great stress and know he would have done his job with honor.

Chris, Terry's only son and my stepson, was in the Air Force for four years, and more than ten years in the Navy. He, too, is a tween, although he nearly got caught in the ramp up to Desert Storm. Desert Shield was going on while his fleet was in the Med. He was diverted off the coast of Liberia when civil war raged. For three months they steamed around waiting to airlift Marines into the capital to rescue Americans trapped inside.

I am so proud my husband and son are tweens. Being in the service was one of the best things that happened to them when they were growing up.

I'm taking Terry out to dinner tonight to thank him for his service. Laura is doing the same with Chris.

To all tweens out there, thank you for your service. You have done us proud.