Friday, April 4, 2014

Suicide is not Painless

The story from Ft. Hood is sad on so many levels; for the families of those killed or injured, those who witnessed the shootings, those soldiers who are thinking “there but for the grace of God…” and more.

I’ve really only listened to one media report in the days following the shootings and it seemed like all they were looking for was a villain, someone to blame.

It has been said the shooter was being treated for PTSD and struggling with depression. He was angry about being denied a leave request. I’m sure more will turn up.

I recall reading in “Thank You For Your Service” about high-level meetings with military brass on how to reduce the suicide levels of those returning from combat.

In 2013 the suicide rate for veterans exceeded the number killed in combat. It has been called an epidemic.

This ( from the Huffington Post is a good summary of what is being done, the scope of the problem etc.

I did not start out for this to be about suicide. But based on what I’ve read, I am not surprised that the soldier ended up killing himself after his shooting rampage. A 2012 VA study showed that more than 20 veterans commit suicide every day! But those sad stories don’t make the front page or CNN; and we probably don’t want them to.

Is every veteran a ticking time bomb? Of course not. I hope the VA will re-double its efforts to remove the stigma of asking for help. It seems like they are trying but the problem is growing faster than they can do screenings, add hotlines, therapists and such.

I can’t offer any suggestions or solutions. Maybe a prayer or two is all I’ve got. I’ve been praying for a young man in Afghanistan for more than a year. Hopefully he is home safe by now and will find a way to adjust to this life we call normal. Maybe I just need to keep praying.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Artisan Soul

I heard about this from someone I follow on Twitter and was eager to read it.

I began it during my early morning devotional/reading time (a few chapters from the Bible - right now re-reading in Genesis from the Message version). It seemed like I was working too hard and not enjoying it much but I kept trying to give it a chance.

But I finally gave up. I almost felt guilty. I guess my soul is not artisanal enough.

No offense to Mr. McManus, a popular speaker and writer, but I found the writing to be simplistic and wooden or clunky. 

I would find a pithy nugget here or there but not enough breadcrumbs to keep me going down the road.

It may be just what some creative person needs to read right now but not for me.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


I've always had an unnatural interest in the Vietnam War; perhaps because I was fortunate enough to not have to go and fight. The luck of the lottery I guess.

Matterhorn is a sprawling book about a piece of the war. Time-line-wise it might only cover a few months in the lives of a group of soldiers, many of whom died perhaps needlessly.

It is a long book that requires patience. I had to try twice to work my way through it but then finally reached a point where I felt I knew some of the characters and began to care how they'd come through their ordeals.

The book has the usual trappings of any Vietnam story; fraggings, ineptness, language, drudgery, jungle and more.

I wouldn't rate this as a great book. The last novel I read of Vietnam, "The Things They Carried" will likely stay at the top of my favorites list.

But this is likely an important book. Told mostly through the experiences of a "butter-bar" Lieutenant on his first tour, it gives some insight into some of the reasons why we ended up leaving behind more than 57,000 dead soldiers without much to show for it. I was struck by the stubbornness of some of the higher-ups who were more concerned about body counts, meeting arbitrary schedules and the like than whether we might actually be making a difference and possibly winning the war.

I realize I'm speaking from a distance of more than 40 years and of one who has never worn a uniform so I have little right to say much at all. Perhaps it is summed up in something I saw today on either Facebook or Twitter and it went something like this: "How many Vietnam marines does it take to screw in a light bulb?" Answer: "You wouldn't understand, you weren't there."

If you enjoy reading about wars and the experiences of those who fought, give this a read but remember, be patient.

It is not about Vietnam but I just heard of a book called "Redeployment"
Looking forward to this one.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Obamacare and 2 million jobs!

For me the jury is still out on Obamacare as we know it today. Yes, thousands or more are now going to be without insurance because of a broken promise that Obama either lied about or just didn’t bother to read the finer details of his own proposed legislation.

I personally will be hoping for something better by 2015 when I too am likely to enter the marketplace for health insurance. As a soon-to-be-retired City employee, I am eligible to continue my current coverage but, at a price and Oh, what a price!

When 2015 comes though it has been said that we may not even have that option available to us as retirees.

But for now my question and comment is about the announcement this week that perhaps 2 million people might leave the work force because of Obamacare.

Opponents seem to be screaming that “See, Obamacare cost America 2 million jobs!”

Maybe I missed all the nuance, but what I heard was that approx. 2 million people might QUIT their jobs, since they could obtain health insurance coverage withOUT having to be employed. I’m not saying this is a good thing because once they quit working, income drops and they will likely join the ranks of the heavily subsidized insured under Obamacare.

What it doesn’t mean is that America lost 2 million jobs. No one can say whether those jobs people leave will be refilled immediately or at all; but you can’t accurately say those jobs go away. If they are needed, then those companies will likely and hopefully rehire someone to keep doing the work and that person would receive the insurance coverage just like the person who quit their job.

Seems to me this might allow people who’d like to retire or quit, to do so and open up some opportunity for someone else to take their place.

I may have missed some important details or stats here but this is what I was hearing on the radio earlier this week.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Celebration Day

I did not watch the Grammy’s and from what I hear, I didn’t miss much. But odd timing in that I just got Celebration Day from the library – Led Zeppelin’s Grammy winner for best rock album for a Live recording made in 2007. Huh?

Anyway I was looking forward to listening so this morn I popped it in the CD player on my way to work.

I like Led Zeppelin a lot; mostly their first two albums. But apart from the oddness of a 2007 recording getting a 2013 award … what gives?

For starters their timing is just way off. Plant starts singing too soon, leaves out entire sections of lyrics and well he just doesn’t have his old voice anymore. (His voice works just fine with Alison Kraus and I fully expect him to do something with his latest girl, Patty Griffin and I’m sure that will be good too) Mr. Page still has pretty good guitar chops and that kid, Jason Bonham is every bit the drummer his father was and more. But collectively they just don’t hold up.

If Led had never won a Grammy before or somebody just died I’d understand how this was needed. But they are in the Hall of Fame, nobody questions their impact on rock-and-roll and their standing as one of the top bands of all time, so why?


I am still reading “Thank You For Your Service”; an excruciatingly painful and hard book to read but I feel like I owe it to somebody to finish it. The stories are sad and what makes it even sadder is that there are bound to be hundreds more than the ones told in the book.

This morning (after a brief listen to some Led Zeppelin) I popped Guy Clark in the CD player. Not much better than good ole Texas music. Somewhere in the middle I heard this:

"Heroes" by Guy Clark

He brought the war home with him.
Still got sand in his boots.
He's wrestling with the demons and the cold hard truth.
And something ain't right about him.
He came back different.
Something in his eyes said he'd seen too much,
Something in his leg said he'd had enough.

Heroes, everybody needs heroes.
Even heroes need a little help.
Heroes can't always be heroes.
Who's gonna save the hero from himself?

He had a picture from Baghdad, with him and his buddies.
They're just horsin' around, gettin' ready.
One by one, he watched them die.
Just scared kids and he don't know why.
He's the only one to make it out alive.

Heroes, everybody needs heroes.
Even heroes need a little help.
Heroes can't always be heroes.
Who's gonna save the hero from himself?

Ten thousand clicks away in his head
He could smell the smoke, he could smell the dead
A silver star and a pistol in a drawer
Morphine just ain't working no more.

Heroes, everybody needs heroes.
Even heroes need a little help.
Heroes can't always be heroes.
Who's gonna save the hero from himself?

When I was a kid, we knew some folks and occasionally the phrase “shell-shocked” would be used to describe one of the men in my family’s circle of friends. The problems have newer names and initials but I guess as long as we send men and women to war, some of them are going to come back damaged beyond repair.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Sycamore Row

I've been reading John Grisham since The Firm which caused me to back up to his first novel, A Time to Kill, which still ranks as one of my all-time favorite books.

I usually read all his books except for Calico Joe and something else set in Italy.

So I had high hopes for a fun "can't-put-this-one-down" read of Sycamore Row, his latest.

Sorry to say, I didn't have the patience to stick this one out. I read less and less fiction all the time but this promised to have lots of money, greed, family issues, a clever legal case and as usual some sort of racial component. Plus it has been billed as a sequel of sorts to A Time To Kill.

I read about 75 pages and found myself looking for some other book to pick up first before I settled on this. I just wasn't able to care about the characters. Maybe I should try again; not sure but reluctantly I returned it to the library today. I was faced with paying a 25 cents-per-day fine to keep it and it just wasn't worth it.