Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Me and President Nixon

Say what you will about President Nixon --- those who know me know that I have said plenty about his stupid involvement in the Watergate mess and what it did to our country. In the end, he did the right thing when he resigned, but he did it for the wrong reason --- not because it was the right thing to do, but because it was the last thing he could do. I think much of the division we now have in our politics can be traced to the Watergate debacle. But, that is not the reason for this post. This is my story that involved President Nixon.

I was a young soldier in Vietnam in the mid 70s when President Nixon ordered the United States Military into Cambodia to engage the Viet Cong and disrupt the Ho Chi Minh Trail, the main supply line for the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong from North Vietnam into deep South Vietnam. This is not a debate on whether or not that incursion worked or even if we should have entered Cambodia, but what the results were and my letter from President Nixon.

Before this operation, our base camp at Tay Ninh was hit almost nightly with mortars and rockets by the Viet Cong. There were many nights I was on shift in the ATC radar van vectoring helicopters in and out of fire zones as they attacked those who were attacking us. There were many nights I spent in a bunker as the incoming sirens blared and jolted us from our bunks. Parts of some nights I spent on the floor of the hooch next to my bunk waiting until we felt it safe to dash to the bunker. Those were nights of terror for us as we had no way of defending ourselves, just laying on the floor trying to get to the relative safety of a 6 x 6 conex covered with layers of sandbags.

I had friends who died in that incursion in Cambodia; one in particular whom I went to Church with. But for us, the incursion’s effect was the virtual end of the war in Tay Ninh! The supply lines were broken and the mortars and rockets were not getting into the hands of the enemy, nor were they being fired at us in the base camp. No more were incoming sirens going off every night. No more were we crawling to the bunkers. In fact, some of the newbies in our unit never experienced incoming from the time they arrived until we closed that camp and moved to Chu Lai.

One evening I wrote a letter to President Nixon thanking him for his courage to send troops into harm’s way in Cambodia to hasten the end of the war. I don’t remember all that I wrote to him, but a few weeks later I got a letter --- the return address simply said “The White House”. President Nixon had taken time to write me a personal note thanking me for my service and for my understanding of the situation in Cambodia and Vietnam. I still have that note as it was very special to Specialist Pritchard to get a personal note from his Commander-in-Chief.

I was not privy to the letter my friend’s wife and parents received from President Nixon following his death in Cambodia. But my from my own personal experience, I don’t think they received a form letter. But that’s me and I was just thinking.

Monday, November 21, 2011

My Thoughts on Pepper Spray

How you feel about the Occupy movement is not important, because my comment here is not about the pros or cons of the movement nor whether or not they have a clear and coherent message like the 60s antiwar movement. My thoughts are centered around the recent pepper spray incident and the use of video and You Tube, without conclusion on the event itself.

If you have children, you can relate to this: Your child is exhibiting a behavior you want stopped. You tell the child to stop and he doesn’t. So you tell the child that if he doesn’t stop, you will swat his butt. He keeps it up, and you swat his butt. Simple, and honestly, most parents can relate – and most of us, when we were kids, had our butts swatted.

Now, add the new technology of cell phone or web cam videos, coupled with You Tube. If you recorded the entire incident leading up to the swat, that is one thing. Again, not drawing any conclusions, but putting facts out there. You can edit out whatever you want in a video when you post it to You Tube. And all you see is what is posted. If all that is posted is the child getting a swat, a conclusion by the video watcher may be very different than if the entire video was posted.

What the You Tube video and the television news is reporting of the pepper spray incident at UC Davis, graphically shows a line of “peaceful” students sitting on the ground, arms locked, being pepper sprayed by the campus police. Very disturbing video. Here is what isn’t shown, but video is available that does show it, but the media has chosen not to. Prior to the pepper spray incident, video shows the police telling (not yelling nor confronting) the students they had to move or they would be pepper sprayed. They were blocking the public from entrance to whatever building the protesters felt compelled to block. The protesters obviously didn’t move. So now, we are where the parent is when the child doesn’t stop misbehaving – the promised swat. In this case, the promised pepper spray.

Part of my job is to review police videos for an attorney. I can see firsthand how easy it would be to edit those videos to show whatever point of view someone would want to show. I am not a professional video editor, but I could easily edit any video.

Lastly, are these protesters really peaceful? If you had some people decide to camp out on your front yard to protest your lifestyle, and refused to move, yet were not violent, but blocking your access to your yard, what would you do? You would call the police and the occupiers would be arrested for trespass and DISTURBING THE PEACE! Are they being “peaceful” in their demonstration – just non-violent? There is a difference. But that’s me, and I was just thinking.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

There I Was Again



“Grandpa,” excitedly shouted young Junior Jethro (Jared), as he came running into the parlor, “we got our tractor back and it’s in the trailer on the back of my momma’s truck!” So Grandpa Jedidiah (Frank) got up out of his chair with the dog, Ol’ Buff, jumping down to follow, and went to the door with Junior Jethro to admire the shiny green tractor with the yellow seat, in the trailer. “Mighty fine tractor, Grandson, are you going to drive it with your Daddy?” Grandpa Jedidiah asked.

“I am going to drive it, Grandpa. And when we’re done, we park it in the shed me and my daddy built in the backyard today” He was so proud.

“Pops”, Jethro (Scott) asked, “want to go with me to take the mower over to the other house?” I think I may need to mow there and also take that fridge out of the house and move it over to the big house and put it in the garage”.

“Son”, Grandpa Jedidiah, responded, “I will go with you. I went to the dump without you today, by the way. I had a truck load to get rid of”.

“Pops”, you could take a truck load to the dump every Saturday. I just don’t know where you get the stuff to take. Anyway, I’ll have a load next Saturday, so if you have anything, you can put it in my truck”. “I’m sure that by next Saturday I will have stuff to add to your load. I know I have that big tree branch that fell out of the pecan tree last week”, Grandpa replied.

We loaded up the truck with the young’ens and headed over to the other house to drop off the mower and load up the fridge. Everything went well, until we tried to load the fridge. We were using the hand dolly to load the fridge and as we pulled back on the dolly, the fridge tilted to the right and the doors flew open. The tire on the dolly was flat and needed to be aired up (what is it with me and flat tires) – and the fridge needed to be loaded from the opposite side so the doors would stay closed. About that time, the 4 young’ens came in and announced that they had to use the bathroom. Jethro explained that the water was still off and that they needed to wait until we got back to Mimi’s house… or the boys could go pee in the back yard. Junior Jethro was all for that until the other young’ens said they could wait. So back to Mimi’s house we went.

Meanwhile, back at Mimi’s house, Grandpa got the air compressor and we headed back over to the other house, this time with no young’ens. Jethro and I got the tires aired up on the dolly – the first dolly we had ever seen that weren’t hard rubber and actually needed airing up. But we got the fridge onto the dolly, with the doors staying shut, and we went out the door and to the trailer. The neighbors watched us loading the fridge and then after a few minutes called us over. Seems Gertrude, Gigi’s old friend (now at least 114 years old) was out watering her lawn and noticed two men stealing the fridge from nice Lil’ Valerie’s house, so she got together with the other neighbor and called Lil’ Val and told her some men were taking the fridge from her house. Lil’ Val assured them that it was Jethro and Jedidiah and all was okay. So the four of us stood on the neighbors porch laughing a bit while Gertrude told the story.

Fridge loaded, we headed back over to the big house to put the fridge in the garage. Jedidiah told Jethro he was now officially a growed up Pritchard because he now had a fridge in his garage, too. Jethro wondered why it had taken us over an hour just to move the fridge from one house to the other, and mused that we still had to load the mower back onto the trailer and take to back over to the big house and park it in the shed. So back over to the other house we went.

We parked the truck in the street by the curb and put the ramps down for the mower and Jethro was ready to load. This is a maneuver he has done countless times. Just before he started to move to the trailer, I saw in my mind’s eye the pending disaster that was about to take place. It all played out in slow motion. About three fourths the way up the ramp, front wheels on the trailer, the left ramp fell from its perch and Jethro was sitting on the mower, eyes as big as half dollars. Jedidiah was right behind the mower and was trying to keep the momentum going so the mower would get up onto the trailer. But the mower deck caught on the trailer and the mower stopped, and Jethro stood up and the motor stopped. The mower started tilting to the left and the other ramp then fell out from under the mower and there was only one place for it to go – DOWN – with Jethro riding in the saddle. There was nothing Jedidiah could do but jump back out of the way. BAM! The mower somehow landed on all four wheels and then a loud banging pop as the engine backfired as it shut down. Poor Gertrude – she watched the whole thing, mouth gaping open and eyes wide. “I’m good”, Jethro assured everyone. After a few “WHEW’s” we decided this time we were going to push the mower up the ramp and onto the trailer. And without further incident, we were on our way to the big house, by the way of Mimi’s. Jethro had to use the bathroom. Jedidiah was surprised that he still had to!

When we left for the big house, Junior Jethro wanted to go with us, so the three of us rode over. We unloaded the mower the same way we loaded it, pushing. Then Jethro and Junior Jethro took the mower to the backyard and parked it in the shed. Then Junior Jethro said, “Grandpa, you need to get a green tractor like mine.” I said that I did need one, but maybe I would get an orange one. He thought a minute, and then said “Yeh, you can get an orange one and I will have a green one”.

There I was again!

Friday, May 06, 2011

But That's Me, And I Was Just Thinking

Many years ago while on active duty we were deployed on a month long field exercise in Alaska called Brim Frost. I heard a term for the first, and only time actually – tightly disbursed. It was during those days that I came to understand George Carlin’s rants about the oxymoron. Is it a huge shrimp or a small jumbo? How about others like “original copy” , “partial cease-fire”, or the one I hated until one day when I heard the Major describe tightly disbursed, and “military intelligence” all of a sudden became my favorite oxymoron.

Over the years since then I have come to appreciate how right old George really was. I have seen some really stupid decisions made in the Army. But I digress … I am not talking about having everyone in a field exercise all located on the airfield instead of in the woods in the wilds of Alaska. I am thinking of some things I have seen more recently – even today.

In July 2005, four “home grown terrorists” set off a series of 4 bombs in the subways and in a double-decker bus in London. However, the “threat level” in The United States was not elevated following that attack. The airport security was not increased, nor was the color code changed. There was, however, a tightening of security on the Army fort just up the road that we all know and love. You didn’t notice any difference getting thru the instillation gates, but there was an immediate response …. Barricades went up in the commissary parking lot, blocking a third of the available parking, and you had to show your ID card to get into the store itself. Funny thing is that you could still drive right up to the front door of any of the schools on post where defenseless children were frolicking and learning, but you had to park way away from the front entrance of the commissary. (What does that say about what the Army brass thinks of the gate security? (I’m just saying.)

After a few years, the barricades went away and parking was restored to those areas blocked and for several years now things were back to normal. Then Seals Team 6 killed Osama Bin Laden.

I had heard that security had been tightened since May 1st , when Bin Laden was killed, but I hadn’t been on post until today. I breezed right thru the front gate with my Express Pass, the guards not even giving me much of a glance. But when I got to the commissary, the barricades were back and the parking lot was once again restricted. As I went into the commissary I had to show my ID card and I started laughing, thinking of that Major in Alaska and George Carlin – military intelligence. I could zip right thru the main gate, but had to show an ID card to get to the tomatoes. I don’t know, were they warned to protect the produce section? But that’s me, and I was just thinking