Thursday, November 17, 2011

Remembering Nick Manoukian

A few years ago, I first told you about the story of A young Marine from Michigan, who lost his life in the Anbar province of Iraq. His name was Nicholas Manoukian, and he was 22 years old when he died. Since then, I have posted about this dedicated young man several times, particularly on Veteran's Day. You see, I promised this young man's mother that I wouldn't forget her son, and that I wouldn't allow others to forget him, either. Nicholas Manoukian is one of over four thousand Americans and untold hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who have been killed in Iraq since the U.S. invasion, of that country, and now that President Obama has said that all American troops should be out of that shattered country by the end of this year, I want to say something that I think is important. You see, we Americans have short memories. Seriously short, if you can recall our last Presidential election we were concerned about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and now all we do is quietly shake our heads about them. Those on the left have moved on to Occupy Wall Street and other things, and those on the right are up in arms about gay people and wrecking the ability of our government to govern. Now, not too many people talk about these wars. I guess it isn't popular for anyone these days. Well guess what, kids? These wars aren't over, and Americans are still dying. You probably already know how I feel about the wars, but this isn't about that. I want to talk to you today about a particular young American. A young person who was probably fairly typical of the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines who have lost their lives doing the bidding of our government. His name is Nick Manoukian. A husband and father from Lathrup Village, Michigan. He lost his life during his second combat tour in Iraq, in 2006. Remember him. Remember that this young fellow died for his country. Rmember that no matter what your politics are, this country, for the sake of it's own soul, has to remember that the actions of our government have consequences that mean more than political rhetoric. By all accounts (I have been in touch with Nick's mother, Mary, and several of his Marine Corps comrades for a few years now), Nick was a great son, and a first class Marine. He was also a good friend to those who knew him. The loss of this young man is a loss to all of us. I didn't post this on Veteran's Day this year, because I didn't want it to get lost in the general flag-waving and fist pumping that generally happens then. I want people to remember Nick Manoukian on days that aren't so special. I want you to remember this young man who left a grieving, heartbroken mother and wife & child. I want you to remember him for all of those who won't come back from those places. Corporal Nicholas Manoukian, 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, 2nd Marine Division, 1984-2006

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Where I Have Been (with addendum)

So... I haven't been around for a while. Let me tell you why.

The first five months have been painful for me. Not physically, although there has been some of that, but not enough for me to bother writing about, as physical pain and I are old comrades. No, I am talking about emotional pain.

My mother died on February 5th.

Remember when I told you, last year that my mother had been declared cancer-free, for the second time? Maybe I didn't tell you... honestly, I don't really remember. Anyway, after beating cancer last year, she had the bad fortune to take a nasty fall in the kitchen of her home. Of course, being a pretty tough old bird, she didn't bother to tell anyone for a couple of weeks... so when she went to the hospital with her friend who was later to be diagnosed with stomach cancer, she passed out. She was checked out and MRI'ed and X-rayed and massive bleeding on the brain was found. You know the drill from here, right? She had surgery, there was lots of clotting, she started having strokes and seizures. She was in a lot of pain. After nearly three weeks, the Doctors induced a coma, hoping it would allow her to stabilize with less of the pain she was obviously in. She died less than 12 hours later.

I went to the funeral, of course, though I didn't want to... it was horrible. Oh, there were mourners... neighbors and old faces from my childhood that I haven't seen in 30 years. There were also siblings that I really had no interest in seeing. I drove to New Jersey that morning, and then went back to Virginia that afternoon. I got back in time to go to my Confirmation class. The other teachers had it covered for me, so I went home with the Joe's Special that I had gotten from the best pizza place on the planet.

I lived within a 5 minute walk from Joe's from age five, until I enlisted at age 17. This place still has the pizza most beloved by almighty God. No, I'm not exagerrating. Have a Joe's special and you will know what I mean.

Anyway, a month (to the day) after my mother died, my father in law died. We went to his memorial service (a month after he died) in Milwaukee, Wisc., in April... and wouldn't you know it... it snowed. No, really. It freakin' snowed!

So, we get back from Wisconsin, and a week later I am in Princeton, New Jersey to spend most of a week at the Princeton Theological Seminary. Why?, you ask?, because I have enrolled in the Certificate Program for Youth & Theology. We had a three day forum on youth ministry and then our cohort for the certification program met or the first time.

It was incredible. Trust me. I'll talk more about it some other time, when I have the words. I wouldn't really have brought it up in the first place, except that my presence there bears on the subject of this post. The day before the retreat ended, I found out that a colleague of mine, a two-tour veteran of the Iraq war... a man who had been treated for PTSD, killed himself... on his father's birthday... two days before his sister's wedding... using the gun I trained him with and issued to him.

Nice, right?

I suppose I have to see the divine in this as best I can. I was in a place where I was in a tightly-knit group of people who were called to gether for God's purposes... they were able to help me get through it. I received a great amount of prayer and support from my new friends, and some really great advice from a new partner in ministry and pal that has allowed me to process all of this (thanks Rebecca!).

The first several months of this year haven't been kind to me... or maybe they have... I don't know. There is a lot going on in my head right now. I suppose I'l have to get back to you.

Oh, and I'm not sleeping well, which is why I am posting this at nearly one A.M. on a Tuesday night/Wednesday morning.

OK, enough crying in my beer... I have to go to sleep. I have to teach a class on response to the active shooter tomorrow, when all I really want to do is cover my head with a pillow and take a long nap.

Oh... lastly, my mother's friend... the one she went to the hospital with? he died, too, a few days after my father in law's funeral.



Addendum: Wait. Sorry... I read this after I posted it, and it sounded rather morose. Let me end on a high note by adding that lots of good things have happened since the beginning of the year.

I already told you about my time at Princeton, which was an amazing and unexpected blessing.... let me tell you that I also lead a youth group from my church to a weekend-long event in Maryland; we celebrated the Baptism of several babies, the most recent of which was just this past week. I have been named Confirmation Coordinator at my church; I have read many new books; I have touched, and been touched by others. I remain well-loved despite the fact that I'm probably not worthy... and I have cooked some really fantastic food.

Peace be with you.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Happy 235th Birthday, Marines!

On November 10th, 1775, in Philadelphia... the city of Brotherly Love, Captain Samuel Nicholas was commissioned to recruit and organize America's first Marines. Little did Captain Nicholas know that his name would live as long as American Marines continued to draw breath, from one age into another.

Captain Nicholas certainly couldn't know that 235 years later, his creation would be known as one of the most fearsome fighting force the the world has ever known.

How could he have guessed that these rough and ready soldiers of the sea would be the stuff of fame and legendary exploits like the assault on Chapuletec castle, or the storming of Peleleiu, or of the invasion of Inchon?

Nicholas surely, in his whole life, couldn't have imagined Marine tanks smashing the Iraqi Republican Guard at Kuwait International airport, or laying the smackdown on Taliban forces in Al-Anbar Province in Afghanistsn.

Since the inception of his Corps... Our Corps, United States Marines have been putting the boot to the asses of our enemies, but good. We have done it in the tropics of the Pacific, the sands of the Middle East, the frozen moutains of the asian mainland, and in the equatorial heat of Africa... truly, in "every clime and place" like we sing in our hymn.

I am as proud of my service in the Corps today, as I was when I graduated from basic training, in 1981.

Happy Birthday Marines.

“Resolved, That two battalions of Marines be raised consisting of one colonel, two lieutenant-colonels, two majors, and other officers, as usual in other regiments; that they consist of an equal number of privates with other battalions; that particular care be taken that no persons be appointed to office, or enlisted into said battaions but such as are good seamen, or so acquainted with maritime affairs as to be able to serve with advantage by sea when required; that they be enlisted and commissioned to serve for and during the present War with Great Britain and the colonies, unless dismissed by order of Congress; that they be distinguished by names of First and Second Battalions of American Marines, and that they be considered as part of the number which the Continental Army before Boston is ordered to consist of.”

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Reformation Sunday!

Today is Reformation Sunday, and unless you are adherent to the church of Rome (or aren't a Christian of any sort), that should mean something to you…. even if you didn't really know it. Reformation Day is the day that we Lutherans, and those in some other faith traditions, celebrate the beginning of the movement that changed the face of the earthly church forever.

This is the day that we celebrate the act of a radical German monk, named Martin Luther. Martin Luther was an Augustinian monk, scholar, and Doctor of The Church who believed that the church had strayed from the path because of certain practices, and for the sake of this post, I won't enumerate them, let's just say that it was more than Luther could stand. So he made a stand of his own.

Putting the church on public notice about his rebellion, Luther made himself an outlaw and a leader at the same time. His bold stand changed the world.

Martin Luther contended that the word of God should be preached in the language of the people hearing it. He preached that the Bible should also be printed in the common language so that the people could read scripture on their own. He preached that the celibacy of the clergy had nothing to do with being able to proclaim the good news of Christ. Most importantly, Luther believed in the concept of the "Priesthood of all believers", which means that no person needs the intercession of a priest to commune with God.

Luther's bold stand didn't only change the church, it also changed the political map of Europe, because as varying Kingdoms, Dukedoms, Principalities & Free Cities either sided with Luther and his followers, or sided with the Pope, nations went to war. The Reformation Wars had begun.

Take a look at a map of Europe today, and you will clearly see the effects of those wars. Northern Europe is nearly* all Protestant (mostly Lutheran), with southern Europe being nearly all Roman Catholic, with the majority of Eastern Europe still largely Orthodox Christian... all or mostly all, the result of the Reformation Wars (and the last battles of the Crusades, but that is another matter entirely).

Pretty heavy stuff for a 16th century monk, eh?

Martin Luther, and what he started when he nailed his 95 theses to the church door, almost 500 years ago, is still one of the most important acts ever taken by one man in order to do what he believed was right.

Did you enjoy your lesson?


OK, enough lecturing from me for today. Soon, we will be heading out for church (where we will belt out "A Mighty Fortress is Our God"), and then lunch, and then off to the National Cathedral for the big doings up there.

See you tomorrow,


* With the notable exception of Poland which remains staunchly Catholic to this day.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Gunfighter: On Military Spending

So... here is the thing. As I was driving home from church today, I saw another Tea Party-Don't-Tread-On-Me-bottom-feeding Republican with the usual run of stickers on her car. The stickers accused the President of being a socialist; being a muslim; and seeking to weaken the United States by destroying the military. Oh, and one of the stickers on the car identified her (or whomever the owner of the car is) as a commissioned officer in the armed forces of the United States.

Can we say dangerous?

It sickens me to think that not only are some of our military people this bloody stupid, but that this is an officer. A leader. A commander. A commissioned officer that thinks that this kind of rhetoric is productive, useful, or patriotic. Personally, I think that the officer to whom that car belongs should be cashiered immediately. Oh, and spare me the usual crap about "she has the right to voice his own opinon" because if you know anything about the military, you know that this is not true.

It is time the military esptablishment in this country gets put back on it's leash and understands that the armed forces aren't special. The members of the armed forces of the United States aren't any better than the society they serve, simply by having decided to wear the uniform. Members and veterans of the armed forces aren't any more or less patriotic than the general run of Americans. All of these things are true... and they also apply to those who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan.

One of the things that I am getting tired of hearing about is the "fact" that President Obama is somehow "destroying" the armed forces. How can this be possible? I suppose it is because the President has supported legislation that would ensure that working Americans, many of whom make less money, and have fewer entitlements than members of the armed forces, are able to receive some modicum of decent, affordable healthcare. Have some military people never stopped to think that if it weren't for wearing a uniform and putting on airs, they would be in the same economic group as those in the ranks of the uninsured?

So... the right-wing crackpot machine thinks that the military is being "destroyed". Maybe they believe that because the President had the courage to actually put the costs of the wars on the books. You know... actually putting the costs into the budget, instead of pretending the costs were going to be paid out of some magic bag of money... or a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. You did realize that this where the bulk of the "runaway spending" that the GOP complains about comes from, didn't you? Good, I am glad that I could help clear that up for you.

Could it be that the right-wingers are mostly worried that the President is actually doing something that other Presidents didn't have the courage to try? Could it be that they are afraid that if if gay men and women have the opportunity to serve openly in the armed forces, that the sttraight men and women would somehow be diminished if their homosexual fellow citizens were able to serve their country, too? Hmm.

Personally, I don't see whatever it is that they think that they see. I happen to see a world that holds no military threat that could possibly be poised to strike the United States in such a way that would cripple or destroy us. There are no two nations that even if they were to combine forces that could actually threaten the United States outside of a nuclear attack, and in this I include Russia and China.

The truth of military spending is that this country could freeze military spendin at it's current levels for the next ten years, and our nearest rival/threat couldn't hope to gain any meaningful advantage over us. So why the hue and cry?

I dunno... maybe my perspective is poor. Maybe I just don't get it. Or, maybe... just maybe, I'm right. Maybe we could quit wasting time, lives, and money in Iraq and Afghanistan and start rebuilding the parts of our forces that have been broken since 2003. Maybe we could use that money to replace worn out helicopter engines, and destroyed humvees, and rifles and machineguns that have passed their peacetime shelf-lives ten years early. Maybe we can replace the destroyed vehicles, worn out tanks and all of the other equipment that our armed forces need.

I am proud of my own service to my country, and I honor my fellow veterans, including my father, father-in-law, brother, friends, neighbors and colleagues who have served their country... especially those who went on to fully-integrated, productive civillian lives as family members and taxpayers who pay for the entitlements of those still serving. Because we shouldn't forget, my friends, that no group in America, not even the mythological "welfare queens" or even our seniors, is more entitled and receives more monetary support when weighed against their rate of taxation than those serving in the active armed forces. N0body likes to hear it, but it is true.

When I am King, our armed forces will be largely conscripted, effectively eliminating the largest part of the entitled military class.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

I've Moved!

Come see me at my new blog, Gunfighter: A Modern Warriors Life

I'm all moved in and starting to arrange the furniture.

The same stuff, from the same Gunfighter


Monday, January 28, 2008

Obama For President!

With the departure of Dennis Kucinich from the Presidential race, Gunfighter must find a new candidate to back. Knowing, as you do, how I feel about Republicans in general, it won't surprise you to know that effective immediately, I am throwing my whole-hearted support to Senator Barack Obama for the nomination of my party, and for the Presidency of the United States.

My reasons for supporting Obama are many and varied, but to tell you the truth I think that the most desirable trait that Senator Obama has, that perhaps only one other Democratic candidate possesses, and that is his ability to inspire people.

I suppose there are many that believe that a President has to have experience to lead the nation, but I submit that no one has that kind of experience. No one. I don't care how long you were a Senator, or a Governor, or a Member of The House of Representatives... I don't care that you built a business empire from the ground up. None of those things can truly prepare someone for the kind of power wielded by the President of The United States. That said, let's look at what a President needs:

The President of The United States should be someone prepared to follow the law. S/he must know what our Constitution says and DOESN'T say, and understand that the Constitution is a living, breathing document. It is meant to be interpreted.

The President must be a leader. A sitting President isn't the chairperson of some giant committee that decides policy. The President must lead... and must lead ALL of the people, not just those of his own party or political stripe.

The President must be strong, but not so strong as to think that all that need be done to solve a problem is to either ignore it, or bomb it into oblivion.

The President must know that s/he is a servant of the people. In a representative Democracy such as ours, dictatorial autocrats have no place.

The President needs to know the workings of government, and how to get things done in an ethical and legal manner.

The President should never lead this nation into the instigation of unnecessary wars.

The President must be reasonable. Reasonable people, of any political bent can always find some degree of middle ground... and really, at the end of the day, isn't finding middle ground what Americans are supposed to want? Something that we all can live with? A President has to know that there is no room for Shiite-like intransigence when it comes to leading our Republic.

As I said, I believe that a President has to be able to inspire people. Inspire them with goals, and with optimism, and with vision. Yes, vision. A vision of the things that this country should be, and can be again if we only have the courage and the will to move forward.

I believe that the Democratic candidate who embodies these things is Barack Obama.

I believe that Barack Obama has the leadership skills.

I believe that Barack Obama has the ability to build coalitions to get things done.

I believe that Barack Obama is a reasonable man.

I believe that Barack Obama is an optimist

I believe that Barack Obama is an inspiring leader, a man of vision and courage, and a man of character.

I believe that Barack Obama should be the next President of The United States.

Join me in joining him, won't you?