Tuesday, May 18, 2010

As Memorial Day Approaches...

I have never watched the TV cartoon series, "Family Guy." Too old, I guess, to get all the hip humor.

Today, however, while reading the Hot Air blog, I ran across this:

"It’s not a secret that Family Guy is famous for its offensiveness and tendency to cross the politically correct line. That said, I suspect they may be called upon to issue some sort of apology after tonight’s episode (not that they will, but I don’t think this will go unnoticed…by a longshot).

Here’s what happens: On a search to find the source of all dirty jokes (which eventually leads them to Virginia) Peter, Quagmire, and Joe pass through Washington, DC where they see the Washington Monument, the Obama Monument (it’s black) and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. This is the part that is going to ruffle some feathers. Standing in front of the Memorial are two Vietnam Vets and a Vietnamese man who calls the Memorial a “scoreboard” and says “aw, what happened to your friends? Hey I know that guy, I killed him, he cried like a bitch. Vietnam! Undefeated!”

Um. I’m sort of at a loss on how to follow that exchange except to say the funny is lost on me. I suspect it’s going to be lost on a whole lot of people (though, I guess you never know)"

And, this on the same day that the Attorney General of Connecticut, Richard Blumenthal (currently a Democratic candidate to replace the retiring Senator Chris Dodd) was exposed by the New York Times as having repeatedly lied about his service as a Marine in Vietnam and his alleged maltreatment as a returning veteran.

Blumenthal was a Marine, but never set foot in Vietnam. Just another one of the four out of five men who responded to the 2000 Census long form, saying that they served in Vietnam when, in fact, they had never been in Vietnam or had never served in the military at all. Must be tough to be asked by your grandchildren, "What did you do in the war, Grandpa?" Particularly if you were in Sweden or Canada, or were just too stoned to realize that burning your draft card might cause problems later.

My 30+ West Point Classmates who died in Vietnam, all of my Class who served our country in combat, and the large number of us who were wounded and/or permanently disabled are not amused by either Family Guy or Mr. Blumenthal.

Freedom is not free.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Sunset of Liberty? I think not...

Hi guys!
Things have been pretty depressing here at the palace since some of our freedom was taken away on Sunday. In the ticker-tape parade held today, our Vice President, on open mike, uttered the favorite expletive among this White House mob. Enough to make you want to cry.

But, no. We don't need anger management, as one of my West Point classmates suggested. We need anger leadership.

In that regard, I have a new book in the final stages of publication which includes the following introduction and poem that I thought would be timely to share with you:

In 1992, after retiring from the Army, I went to work on Wall Street in New York City. I lived in a rented apartment in Battery Park City and walked to work at Bankers Trust Company each day. My office was on the 54th floor, directly across Liberty Street from the South World Trade Center. Of course, I didn’’t realize that nine years later, the entire area would be ““Ground Zero,”” the site of the beginning of America’’s next war. But the place felt special to me, nonetheless. In the evenings, I often spent time walking through Battery Park, around Castle Garden, or sitting on one of the benches on the Esplanade overlooking New York Harbor. It was a beautiful setting.

One night, long before I had done any serious research on my family history, I sat on a bench in Castle Garden and watched the sunset over the Harbor, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. Thoughts of how my family came through these places, en route from Sweden, filled my mind. I took out a pen and wrote the following poem in the margins of The Wall Street Journal I was carrying:

The golden ball again is gone,

The harbor’’s growing still;

Yet heat and dampness linger on,

Awaiting evening’’s chill.

Across the water, in the mist,

The proud, crowned Lady stands;

Her lamp, raised high in righteous fist,

Now glows with golden bands.

That wondrous light on darkening sky

Reminds of who we are;

For what we stand, and when and why

And how we’’ve come so far.

To ““teeming masses”” she once spoke,

““Come breathe of Freedom’’s air.””

And so they came, both rich and broke,

Her lamp would guide them there.

The island next to hers, nearby

Is where my Grandma stood,

And looked across with tearful eye

At what she hoped was good.

And where I sit, my Grandpa sat,

A young boy at the time,

And waited while his mother moved

Her family in the line.

For they had sacrificed it all

To join Miss Liberty.

Her promise great, their prospects small ––

But now with dignity.

Those teeming masses became one

While generations passed,

And father died as well as son

To make our freedom last

We owe so much to those now gone,

How can we ever pay?

Will we insure that each new dawn

Brings Freedom’’s brightest day?

For inspiration, try this start

At sunset, come downtown

Across the water, look with heart

Behold her lamp and crown.

As darkness falls, her torch burns bright

Recalling all who came;

Your soul will fill with Freedom’’s light

And life won’’t be the same.

So, dear friends, ask yourselves "How can we ever pay?" I sugggest that we stop being Americans with short attention spans. That we remember "all we owe to those now gone." That we recognize that our liberty is being taken away and that our children and grandchildren will pay for this thievery, when we too are gone.

Remember March 21, 2010, another day which will live in infamy. Don't lose your temper —but remember why you are angry and help others to remember as well. Anger leadership.

We'll celebrate on the high ground!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Life? Art?

Hi, guys! Sad news today.

I believe it was Oscar Wilde who said "Life imitates art far more than art imitates life."

The last two days have been yet another example of the truth of Wilde's observation.

Yesterday morning, at Sea World Orlando, the killer whale, Tilikum, dragged veteran trainer Dawn Brancheau to her death by playfully biting and drowning her while a horrified crowd watched, both from poolside and from the underwater observation windows.

You all know that I playfully argue that "whales are not our friends," yet here is evidence that
huge mammals, even well-trained ones, are animals first and performers second.

Today, the Sea World CEO, Jim Atchison, announced that the show must go on, and Tilikum would remain part of the cast. Sea World will open again for whale shows tomorrow.

Ms. Brancheau's funeral is scheduled for Sunday and Monday in her hometown of Chicago with a memorial service to be conducted at Sea World in the future... Yet Sea World will open again for business tomorrow.

Mr. Atchison's press conference was difficult to watch, because all of it seemed to be a huge Sea World advertisement— a celebration of the art of training animals— rather than a period of reflective mourning for the loss of Ms. Brancheau.

At the same time yesterday, several hundred miles north, President Obama hosted a "healthcare summit" at Blair House.

Some forty legislators sat for 7 1/2 hours trading thoughtful and not so thoughtful opinions on the healthcare situation in America, looking at the 2700+ page Senate bill and the eleven page Presidential surprise package released on Monday.

The Dems primary comments centered on "Look how close we are on this. We're arguing about minor details between the 49 yard lines. A minor adjustment or two and we're done!"

The GOP attendees didn't see things that way. They saw the public disapproval, the Tea Parties, the angry townhall meetings and the elections in Virginia, New Jersey and Massachusetts as pretty clear evidence that Americans have been paying attention to this debate and they don't like the idea of turning more of our healthcare system over to the government.

At its conclusion, President Obama made remarks he could have taken directly from Sea World CEO Atchison. The House and Senate must get this done, the 2700+ pages of the script must be used, the public polls be damned, the show must go on. A huge Obamacare commercial for the art of political sausage-making, not a period of reflection on what may be the problem with this plan.

Life imitates art far more than art imitates life. And in both in the case of the Sea World tragedy and the healthcare summit travesty, we are the losers. My condolences to the family of Ms. Brancheau and my condolences to all of you.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Global Warming Retardant


February 9, 2010

Posted Matt Dempsey matt_dempsey@epw.senate.gov


UPDATE: The following Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works hearings have been postponed due to inclement weather this week:

- The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife, will hold a hearing entitled, "Collaborative Solutions to Wildlife and Habitat Management."

- The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works will hold a hearing entitled, "Global Warming Impacts, Including Public Health, in the United States."

Once the hearings are rescheduled, information will be posted at www.epw.senate.gov

Hi Guys!

For some unknown reason, Blogger wishes to underline my contribution today. I believe itis due to the fact that the tectonic plate movements beneath Haiti have just been renamed after a previous President by the National Geologic Survey. Henceforth, the Haiti disaster will have been due to "The Bush Fault."

Here in the Nation's Capital, we are once again getting hammered by Global Warming Retardant.

The US Government has been closed for the third day in a row. Has anyone noticed?

I believe it was Mark Twain who once wrote:

"No man's life, liberty or property are safe

while the legislature is in session."

Given the truth of that statement, we here in snowy Virginny, under attack from the second round of Snowpocalypse 2010, stand ready to keep taking the beating if we can keep Pelosi and Reid from the next round of "drunken sailor spending."

By the way, that expression does a disservice to drunken sailors — when they run out of money, they stop spending.

Besides, I have a SNOW QUEEN to keep me warm!

We should be finished digging out by some time close to May Day. Appropriate, huh?


Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Princess Plebe and I

Hi, guys!

I recently read Gail O'Sullivan Dwyer's book,Tough as Nails, shown above. It is her personal story of being a member of the West Point Class of 1981, the second class at the U.S. Military Academy to have women members.

It is wonderfully written and had me laughing on almost every page. I highly recommend this short paperback to those who wonder how the women who showed up up to become plebes at West Point in 1976 and 1977 ever got through to graduation.
They were clearly pioneers and fit the title of the book perfectly.

However, there is one factual error in the book. The first women to wear the uniform of the United States Corps of Cadets were not in the Class of 1980. I know this to be a fact for I was there when the first women put on the uniform and had their hair cut to the prescribed length—NO LOWER THAN THE BOTTOM OF THE COLLAR.

The first women to wear the cadet uniform were two with reasonably short hair already. They were selected as subjects whose hair would be cut by a beautician from Newburgh, New York in a training session for the barbers at West Point who had little or no experience cutting women's hair.

One of them was named Eleanor Peters, a gorgeous brunette. The other one was the girl I married, a gorgeous blonde. Yep, I married one of the first two women to ever wear the uniform at West Point.

Today, you know her as The Queen Vee. Back in 1976, she was just The Princess Plebe. Despite clear West Point regulations that Cadets may not be married nor have ever been married, she received her Plebe haircut while openly displaying an engagement ring and a wedding band... Plebes are always a work in progress.

Skeptical at all of the above? I have photographic evidence from the days before Photoshop was invented.

Tomorrow, this Princess Plebe and I will have been married for forty years. And Victoria, now The Queen, is still gorgeous. And she tells me that I am still a work in progress...

Happy Anniversary, Miss Dumb Smack!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Two Thanksgiving Letters - 36 years apart...

Hi, Guys!

In this Thanksgiving week, thought I'd share with you two letters written around Thanksgiving. The first, and its attachment, above, I sent while in command in Vietnam, November 1968. Click on them to enlarge. They were typed on a manual typewriter - yes, they actually existed in those days...

Much to my surprise, I found the file copies of them in the National Archives in 2004 while doing some research on my former unit. Note the small National Archives proofmark in the upper left corner. Hence, the second letter, below, published in November 2004 by the editors of The Pueblo Chieftain in Pueblo, Colorado.

11 November 2004

Letters to the Editor

Soldier Recall Pueblo Brownies Kindness in 1968

Dear Editors:

I am COL (USA Ret) Ken Carlson, writing from Fairfax, VA.

A few days ago, I was doing research on some battles my unit was in during my time in Vietnam, 1968-69.

At the National Archives II in College Park MD, I came across unit records that included the attached letter I wrote to the girls and leaders of Brownie Troop 198, Pueblo, Colorado.

I don't know if that troop still exists. However, if they do, I want the girls, now mothers and perhaps even grandmothers, to remember how much my men appreciated their thoughtfulness.

And also to know that their kindness and patriotism are now officially documented in the Archives of the United States, giving them a lasting place in American history.

This Thanksgiving, we still have soldiers a long way from home and under the stress of mortal combat. I hope that there are other Brownie Troop and similar organizations who have picked up the torch of support that their predecessors in Brownie Troop 198 carried so well.


Kenneth G. Carlson

COL (USA Ret.)

Fairfax, VA

As you can see, friends, Soldiers never forget those who remember them while they are in harm's way.

The Queen Vee joins me in the hope that you and yours have a joyous Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 2, 2009

November 9th - Twenty Years Ago

Hi, guys! Next Monday night marks the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall,
one of the highlights of my life.

You've read the poem I wrote about that wall as a second lieutenant in 1967, the same poem that was read in 1994 as the Berlin Brigade colors were cased by President Clinton and the Brigade deactivated. But where were we on 9 November 1989?

We were in Heidelberg where my assignment was Chief of Doctrine, Concepts and Analysis Division, a cover name for what we really did which was think tank work for the four star, Commander in Chief, US Army Europe (CINCUSAREUR).

In the fall of 1988, the Deputy CINC, Lieutenant General George Stotser, had received a surprise invitation from the Hungarian Army Chief of Staff to attend a meeting of the Warsaw Pact military chiefs to be held in Budapest. This was a big deal at the time - a NATO general asked to sit in on the Warsaw Pact meeting, presumably as a "confidence building measure" between the two opposing sets of forces in Central Europe.

LTG Stotser called for me and a few of my fellow officers to meet with him in order to plan the types of questions he might expect and some of the things we thought he should be looking for in the meeting. Armed with our ideas, he went to Budapest and returned with amazing news!

Seated to the left of the Hungarian general, with the Soviet Chief of Staff on the Hungarian's right, LTG Stotser found himself continually being nudged and whispered to by his host. Speaking near-perfect English, the Hungarian general kept telling General Stotser that they had to get the Soviets out of their country before their economy was completely destroyed by the "stupid Russians."

The fault lines between Warsaw Pact "allies" was big news, both to us and to Washington, where it was quickly reported.

On 2 May 1989, the reform-minded Hungarian Communists began, without notice, to dismantle their portion of the Iron Curtain, the fortified border with Austria. Less than two months later, more than 25,000 East Germans had decided to "vacation" in Hungary and somehow ended up in Austria. The crack in Iron Curtain quickly became a flood. USAREUR was asked by the West German government to assist in the housing and feeding of all the Eastern refugees arriving in Bavaria. The cries for all of the fences and the Berlin Wall to come down became louder.

The Czech government soon followed suit, opening its border with Austria. In the 24 hours prior to the 9 November events in Berlin, more than 20,000 East Germans had escaped across the Czech-Austrian border. On the night of 9 November, huge crowds pressed against all the checkpoints in Berlin after hearing that the East Germans were going to open the border. Confused and without official direction, the East German Border Guards (VOPO's) decided that they couldn't shoot everyone, so they opened the gates and the Wall was no more. The evening sky in Heidelberg and throughout West Germany was ablaze with fireworks usually saved for New Years Eve.

Several weeks later, the officers of USAREUR Headquarters met for a professional development session at the local Officers Club. After the CINC reviewed what our role had been in the dramatic events of the past year, he asked me to come forward to speak. He had read my poem of 1967 and asked that I read it. Following that, he asked for my poetic thoughts as to what had transpired in just the last few weeks.

Here is what I read:

A Soldier Remembers
by COL Ken Carlson

On Friedrichstrasse in '61
I watched that awful sight.
I overlooked my tank main gun
Throughout that dreadful night.

I watched them string the strands of wire;
I saw the shattered dreams.
They forced me to withhold my fire;
I still recall the screams.

I watched the Wall be built by blocks;
I watched the families part.
I saw the tears, I felt the shocks,
It simply broke my heart.

Patrolled the Wall with JFK
I was there in '63.
A Berliner he became that day
And joined the likes of me.

For I was there both day and night
No hours of nine to five;
I beamed the Wall with Freedom's Light
To keep their hopes alive.

Along the border, miles away,
My buddies did the same.
They kept their posts, through "come what may,"
While blessing Freedom's name.

The politicians came and went
As did the network news;
But cookies that my Mom had sent
Would help us cure the blues.

My friends and I have kept the trust
For twenty eight long years.
Through cold and rain, we knew we must -
For we still saw the tears.

And so today, with Wall now split
And barriers torn wide,
Forgive us if we smile a bit
And show our soldier's pride.

For we've been here at your request
Each Fred and Sue and Bob.
You sent your Army, sent your best -
We're proud we did the job.

Not a dry eye in the house, for all in the audience had lived through much of what was expressed in the poem. And all knew - Freedom isn't free.