Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The nation's best.

(from the e-mail stack)

Thanks to my fellow veterans:

I remember the day I found out I got into West Point. My mom actually showed up in the hallway of my high school and waited for me to get out of class.

She was bawling her eyes out and apologizing that she had opened up my admission letter. She wasn't crying because it had been her dream for me to go there. She was crying because she knew how hard I'd worked to get in, how much I wanted to attend, and how much I wanted to be an infantry officer. I was going to get that opportunity.

That same day two of my teachers took me aside and essentially told me the following: “David, you're a smart guy. You don't have to join the military. You should go to college, instead.”

I could easily write a theme defending West Point and the military as I did that day, explaining that USMA is an elite institution, that separate from that it is actually statistically much harder to enlist in the military than it is to get admitted to college, that serving the nation is a challenge that all able-bodied men should at least consider for a host of reasons, but I won't.

What I will say is that when a 16 year-old kid is being told that attending West Point is going to be bad for his future then there is a dangerous disconnect in America, and entirely too many Americans have no idea what kind of burdens our military is bearing.

In World War II, 11.2% of the nation served in four (4) years.

During the Vietnam era, 4.3% served in twelve (12) years.

Since 2001, only 0.45% of our population has served in the Global War on Terror.

These are unbelievable statistics. Over time, fewer and fewer people have shouldered more and more of the burden and it is only getting worse.

Our troops were sent to war in Iraq by a Congress consisting of 10% veterans with only one person having a child in the military. Taxes did not increase to pay for the war. War bonds were not sold. Gas was not regulated. In fact, the average citizen was asked to sacrifice nothing, and has sacrificed nothing unless they have chosen to out of the goodness of their hearts.

The only people who have sacrificed are the veterans and their families. The volunteers. The people who swore an oath to defend this nation.

You stand there, deployment after deployment and fight on. You've lost relationships, spent years of your lives in extreme conditions, years apart from kids you'll never get back, and beaten your body in a way that even professional athletes don't understand.

Then you come home to a nation that doesn't understand.

They don't understand suffering. They don't understand sacrifice. They don't understand why we fight for them. They don't understand that bad people exist. They look at you like you're a machine - like something is wrong with you. You are the misguided one - not them.

When you get out, you sit in the college classrooms with political science teachers that discount your opinions on Iraq and Afghanistan because YOU WERE THERE and can't understand the macro issues they gathered from books, because of your bias.

You watch TV shows where every vet has PTSD and the violent strain at that. Your Congress is debating your benefits, your retirement, and your pay, while they ask you to do more. But the amazing thing about you is that you all know this. You know your country will never pay back what you've given up. You know that the populace at large will never truly understand or appreciate what you have done for them. Hell, you know that in some circles, you will be thought as less than normal for having worn the uniform. But you do it anyway.

You do what the greatest men and women of this country have done since 1775. YOU SERVED. Just that decision alone makes you part of an elite group.

“Never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few.” -Winston Churchill

Thank you to the 11.2% and 4.3% who have served and thanks to the 0.45% who continue to serve our Nation.

General David Petraeus
West Point Class 1974

Damn straight.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

A day with true Americans in Fort Worth.

A friend of mine is a retired one-star Air Force general, fellow pilot, warbird and history enthusiast and all-around good guy.

One of his passions is the Veterans Memorial Air Park (VMAP) located on the grounds of Fort Worth Meacham Airport (KFTW).

This past Saturday, the general and his volunteers put together a nice shindig for the VMAP and coordinated it with Fort Worth Meacham Airport's 87th birthday.

America was alive and well today. Hundreds of veterans turned out to support the museum as well as congregate and tell war stories and relate tales and memories of their/our military service. Spouses and children took in the displays and waited in line for the T-38 simulator.

Shuttles had been set up from the passenger terminal area at the airport to bring visitors to the museum and grounds, where the smell of grilling hot dogs greeted them along with aircraft displays from the Vietnam era.

It was hot in Fort Worth today, hellishly hot and the place to be was inside the museum itself.

Along with the fly-in and static displays, a book-signing was held in the main area of the VMAP museum. I was honored to be an invitee.

I was one of five authors signing books. Two of us were novelists and the other three were historians. J'Nell L. Pate wrote the definitive history of Fort Worth's military legacy in her book, Arsenal of Defense, which was just published last year.

(Bob Gruenhagen and J'Nell Pate)

Don Pyeatt has a love affair with the B-36 Peacemaker. He was there and signing his latest book, Cold War Peacemaker. The Story of Cowtown and the Corvair B-36. This is a fascinating book on the long range bomber that gave us an undisputed edge in the Cold War. The photography is Smithsonian-like and the anecdotes from crew members and mechanics are priceless.

(Don Pyeatt and J.D. Kinman)

The final non-fiction book I purchased from my fellow authors is the undisputed king of all aviation books ever written on or about the P-51 Mustang. Typical of its author, Robert "Bob" W. Gruenhagen, the title is plain and non-flashy. But let me tell you about Mustang. The Story Of The P-51 Fighter. . . Every aviation buff, fighter jock, WWII aviation historian and anyone else who has a keen admiration and insatiable interest in the P-51 will tell you that this is THE book on the greatest fighter many feel has ever been built for its generation, and certainly the undisputed (and proven) king of World War II aviation.

The final author I was graced to have met and shared a table and day with is novelist Susan Howell. Susan, my uncle and I discovered that we had all chewed up a lot of the same ground in Thailand. Susan and her mother were the first two civilian (American) women allowed on Korat Royal Air Base, Thailand, during the Vietnam war. Susan's father was a decorated WWII pilot and an aviation pioneer. All pilots are familiar with EGT and the EGT indicator or gauge.

(Susan Howell and Amanda Irvin)

That was the doing of Susan's father, John Stinson Howell, III who also went on to pioneer additional instrumentation that saved countless Air Force and Navy aircraft engines, which in turn, saved countless lives.

Susan's novel, Oil Rush. The International Tug of War is presently in its final edit and publication stage and will be available in November of 2012. At the time of this writing, Susan and her daughter, Amanda, are finalizing their website for the book's launch. Amanda tells me she anticipates the website being better than 90% functional within the next seven days.

Check back on this one--and don't worry because I'll remind you. I'll be pre-ordering this novel from Susan as the premise sounds fascinating and promises to be a stone-cold page-turner.

This was another one of those days you don't forget because once again, I was blessed to have made yet more new friends and witness what is right about America.

Should any of you be passing through Fort Worth or looking for a truly neat destination in your travels, give yourself a few hours to stop in the Veterans Memorial Air Park. There is a lot of history packed into that building, some fascinating artifacts, an incredible library and some of the finest patriots you'll ever meet.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Another Gun-Free zone turns into a killing field.


Didn't we see this in the Omaha (Nebraska) mall shooting a few years ago? Another "safe, gun-free zone" in which some criminal totally disregarded the law (isn't that what criminals do, by definition?) and started thinning the herd of sheep.

This almost mirrors the opening chapter in my book (Above Reproach) in which armed terrorists targeted "gun-free" zones and cities in which guns had been outlawed for law-abiding citizens. Wholesale slaughter resulted.

Much like Aurora, Colorado.

Where were the police? Where were the military?

Since liberal sheep insist that only police and military need or should have guns, then where the hell were the police or the military in Aurora? Never mind the fact that the military, by law, is prohibited from "enforcement" actions in domestic matters.

So where were the police--even off-duty police?

Contrast this was a scene a few months ago in a grocery store in Salt Lake City where another deranged animal started slashing a fixed-blade knife at patrons, cutting several of them until a law-abiding citizen with a concealed handgun license stopped the attack.

Contrast this with a scene in Ocala, Florida where a couple of scumbag punks walked into an internet café armed with a gun and a baseball bat and attempted to rob everyone until a 71-year-old pulled his legally concealed handgun and fired on the thugs.

I know a lot of folks in Colorado and even in the Denver area who are CHL holders, who are cool under pressure, many of whom are veterans, some of whom are past law enforcement and some of whom are regular sport shooters.

I also know that NOT ONE OF THEM would ever set foot in that theater because it advertised itself as "gun-free" and prohibited firearms.

Looks like that policy was an epic fail.

I REFUSE to patronize any place, business or organization that does not trust me to responsibly exercise my Second Amendment rights. Those same places, businesses and organizations somehow trusted me to carry a firearm when I was wearing our nation's uniform, but they no longer trust me now that I'm back home and a civilian.

So I will not, repeat, not patronize them. It's their right to refuse me service. It's my right to insist on having a fighting chance when some scumbag thug robber or nutjob decides that "today is the day" and wants to go on a killing spree.

Armed citizens could have, and would have prevented the melee that occurred in Aurora, Colorado.

But instead, liberals--which I classify as COWARDS--insist on blaming guns, NRA, Rush Limbaugh. . . anyone but themselves for their cowardly policies denying the masses' their rights in order to feel "safe."

The opening quote in my book says it all:

"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." (Benjamin Franklin)

And while the cowards (liberals) are crying about the dangers of guns and all the guns we have in this country, when is the last time a massacre of this note occurred at the NRA convention, or the SHOT show, or a gun-show, or at a Bass Pro Shops or Cabela's or any other outdoor/firearms/sporting goods store?

Liberals are to blame for the massacre in Aurora. Not conservatives. Not gun-owners. Not Rush Limbaugh or Sarah Palin or the NRA.

Think about that for every shopping and purchasing decision you make.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Funny thing about Obama's remarks about business. . .

First off, I am not a fan of Barack Obama.

In fact, given the opportunity, I choose to refer to him simply as Obama (or other less flattering terms) rather than prefacing his name with "president."

In regards to his latest remarks about "You didn't build your business," I'll use the moniker "idiot" to describe him.

For some reason, the Idiot seems to think that Big Government should get most of the credit. After all, the Idiot insists, Big Gov built the roads and bridges that brought commerce to our doorsteps. Big Gov, led by Al Gore, invented the internet. Etc etc.

As I said, Obama is an idiot.

What the Idiot doesn't seem to grasp is that the funding for those roads and bridges and other things that Big Gov perpetually overspends and underperforms on comes from the private sector--also known as private enterprise.

Ranches and farms were prospering in frontier times long before there were roads and bridges. The railroads were built by. . . well, the railroad companies. There was huge commerce in California during the gold rush years and correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think Interstate 40 had been built for all the covered wagons to travel on across the country heading westward.

The bottom line is that we are responsible for our successes and failures. The problem is, Big Gov is making it harder and harder to succeed. Taxes, licenses, permits, ordinances, fees, regulations, hiring laws, draconian environmental laws. . . you name it and Big Gov will not only push it, but make it bigger.

Look at what Big Gov has done to airline travel.

Yet, in spite of that, the American entrepreneur continues to prosper and rise above the cesspool that percolates inside the Beltway.

I've been involved in some business ventures in the past couple of decades. Some worked out, some didn't. But the bottom line is that contrary to what the Idiot bleated out in Virginia, Big Gov is the biggest hindrance--not help--that today's small business entrepreneur faces today.

The private sector understands that. Government doesn't.

And it really is that simple.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

This could have been a scene right out of my first book.

Oh but oh how this does warm my heart.

I watched this several times earlier today, as did my wife, and we both agreed that Mr. Williams will never need reach for his wallet at any cafe or diner or restaurant where either of us are around.

In fact, I like this so much, I'm going to use it in the third book, Blue Cities, Red Streets.

I'm including a link to the local follow-up news story. Typical that a libtard Dem is trying to now get internet cafés banned in Florida.

Internet cafe robbery foiled by armed citizen.

Monday, July 16, 2012

On the road, writing, and next book in the works.

Every writer I've ever known, from a novelist to non-fiction writers to advertising copywriters to novelists. . . we all seem to ask the same question. One day it's early in January and that October publication deadline is months away.

Plenty of time.

So we relax, procrastinate a bit. We tell ourselves we're doing research, that we're recharging the batteries.

Then, one day, it's only a few months out and we're still on the first couple of paragraphs.

Of chapter one.

When I was in Madison Avenue, deadlines spurred some of my best work. The pressure made you reach deep down. You pulled out brilliant headlines and stunning body copy. At least sometimes, And sometimes, you ended up jotting down pure junk and your creative director literally eviscerated you.

I guess the point is, we never pay (enough) attention to time.

Been on the road with some book signings, as of most recent, to Natchitoches, Louisiana, a delightful southern town where a lot of Steel Magnolias was filmed.

I flew in on a Friday evening as the local Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) chapter was hosting a fly-in that weekend. Followed a beautiful Stearman in, and after getting everything secured, it was time for a group picture. I'm on the left with my hands in my pockets.

The following day, we had a cookout in the main hangar and I signed quite a few books and made a lot of new friends. Afterward, it was time for a picture with Mrs. Georgia Hilton in front of my airplane. Georgia is a radio talent, organizer, wife, mom and classic Southern Belle in every sense of the word. Her husband, Mike, and I are two of a kind--guns and airplanes.

We're having another book signing on Saturday, July 21 at Fort Worth Meacham Airport at the Veterans Memorial Museum. Festivities will begin around 1000. It's also a fly-in and organizers are asking everyone who plans to fly in to be parked and secured by 0930. Transportation will be provided from the ramp to the museum.

* * * * *

I'm happy to report that the second book, False Gods is well under way. Most of the characters will return, but False Gods is not a sequel to Above Reproach. Instead, this book takes on the three "false gods" or our time, which I see to be Big Government, Big Business and Wall Street.

Here is a sneak preview of the opening scene from False Gods.

She’d never killed anyone before, but this wasn’t going to be just anyone.

Peering out of the stolen taxi cab’s windshield, Lynnette Trang tightened her grip around the steering wheel. Downtown Chicago was full of cops, on foot and in cars, and each time a police officer got anywhere near, her anxiety level rose. Any misgivings about what she had carefully planned during the preceding days were gone. Next to her in the bench seat of the ancient Crown Victoria was a picture, still in its frame. In the picture, Lynnette was clutching the arm of her husband and standing in front of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. In between the smiling couple was a teenage girl, their daughter. It was a rare vacation photo because such times had been scarce for this first generation American family whose parents had fled Vietnam after Saigon fell during the previous century.

A tear made its way out of Trang’s eye as she recalled the memory of their daughter, then the more recent memory of her husband. Their ashes set in an ornamental urn above the fireplace mantel. The daughter had become sick and her husband’s employer had slashed the health benefits plan at the giant retail pharmacy where he worked as a number two assistant manager. Along with slashing the benefits, the employer had passed along the rising cost of health care premiums to all the employees. The Trangs had tried desperately to find the money to treat their daughter’s cervical cancer, but even in the generous Vietnamese community in which they lived, the economy had caused all to suffer and there simply was no extra money to be had. There had been treatments, but not enough. There were specialists in Dallas and Rochester, Minnesota, but the Trangs had no way of getting there. Skyrocketing fuel prices had cut the Angel Flight pilot squadrons in half and there was a long waiting list just to get on the roster.

It was an unseasonably cold September day when their daughter succumbed to the cancer, at just sixteen years of age. So pretty, so smart, so full of life and promise and now she was dead. Lynette’s husband took it the hardest, feeling he had failed as a father, husband and man in not being able to provide for his daughter. But then, just ten months after her death, he found himself downsized—laid off—from the giant retail pharmacy convenience store that was, had been, his employer. He had worked for the company for over twenty years, starting as a simple cashier. When the company decided to restructure in order to pay more attention to Wall Street and their shareholders rather than their employees, raises became either insulting or non-existent. That first year of restructuring saw Trang getting a raise of less than four cents per hour. His healthcare premiums rose over seventy-five percent and his state income taxes also went up. Fuel and food costs were up. Everything was up except for his take home pay. And then came the day he was told the company no longer had a place for him.

He’d called his wife and told her the news, then wandered downtown Chicago in a daze. He missed his daughter, he’d let down his wife, he had no more money and he had run out of hope. When he saw a Chicago Transit Authority bus speeding up to beat the light at Michigan and Superior, without thinking, he simply stepped out in front of it.

* * *

Andrew Sterns was having a great day. He’d fled his headquarters corner office for a rare lunch in solitude down on the Magnificent Mile in downtown Chicago. His national retail pharmacy’s stocks were up by over ten percent, the board of directors had approved another thirty percent raise in salary for him, and this year’s cash bonus promised to top fifteen-million dollars. Sterns had finagled the rules and inserted a voting board member, whom he paid under the table to be the deciding vote on matters of personal and financial interest to himself. It was a rarely exercised option in the company’s charter and Sterns was the first CEO in the company’s history to use it. Throwing down his linen napkin and pushing himself away from the eighty-five dollar lunch, he stood up and stretched.

The media had beaten hell out of him for his ruthless slashing of employees and benefits, but he no longer cared. He was now wealthy beyond any and all dreams he ever had—and was about to get even more wealthy. The latest round of layoffs and salary reductions were putting over seventy-five million dollars back into the general labor and compensation budget, of which he would take almost five percent in the form of an additional cash salary. Even better, he almost giggled to himself, the new budget restructuring for his store and pharmacy managers eliminated almost half of their bonuses and transferred the difference into the senior executives’ bonus pool. Imagine that, he marveled. You get a raise for slashing other people’s raises and a bigger bonus for raping other workers’ bonuses! Only on Wall Street.

It felt good to be alone and without any ass-kissing minions around. Only one person in the entire company knew where he was, and that was his secretary. Sterns pulled out his cell phone and gave her a quick call, assuring her that he was about to hail his driver and make the long trek back to the northern suburbs where there was work to be done. Efficient as always, Lori Trang promised to have all his messages waiting for him and reminded him of an operations meeting in the middle of the afternoon. Suppressing a grumble, Sterns assured her he would make it.

* * *

The text that appeared on Lynette Trang’s phone was simple: Be on lookout. He is leaving at any minute.

* * *

Donald Jackson took one last swig from the water bottle and tossed it in the trash. Seeing the CEO of his former employer leave the posh restaurant, Jackson fell in stride with the rest of the early afternoon pedestrian traffic.

Around the corner, Sterns’ driver read the text on his phone with a puzzled expression. Park across the street, facing opposite direction. Normally his boss didn’t like to walk a single extra step he didn’t have to unless it was on the treadmill at the Skyline Executive Athletic and Fitness Club. Ignoring the honks of protest, the driver swung the limousine in a wide arc across the six lanes of traffic, pointing east instead of west. With the car in park, he sat back and waited.

* * *

Sterns looked around in annoyance. He’d told his driver to meet him curbside. Hearing a honking, the CEO looked around and saw his car parked across Michigan Avenue from where he was now standing. Idiot! Suppressing a curse, he began to step off the curb when a blaring horn from a CTA bus caused him to jump back. The driver of the bus glared at the executive and pulled over to let off passengers. Sterns walked a few paces back and waited for traffic to clear. He was still steaming about his driver being parked across the street when he felt someone shove him off the curb into the street.

* * *

Lynette Trang was already accelerating as fast as the Crown Victoria could go when she saw Sterns stumble and almost fall, catching himself on the back of the looming Chicago Transit Authority bus, whose drivers and passengers were unaware of the drama unfolding behind them.

* * *

“Hey, watch out, asshole!” the CEO snapped, putting a hand on the back of the dirty CTA bus and turning around to see who had pushed him off the curb. As he turned to face behind him, he saw an approaching yellow taxi cab. It seemed to be moving way too fast towards him for as close as it—

* * *

Trang saw the Stern’s eyes narrow, then open wide in fear. A split second later as the front bumper and grill of the stolen taxi crushed Sterns’ pelvis and midsection against the ten-ton bus, his body seem to bend and almost break and she saw his bulging eyes filled with terror only scant inches from her own on the outside of the now cracked and spider-webbed windshield. With no small degree of satisfaction, she watched the man gasp in agony, trying to scream but unable, then collapse on the hood, his intestines and spinal column crushed beyond any hope of repair.

Around her, people were screaming in horror while others had their cell phones out and were taking pictures. The bus driver, having felt the jarring impact, hit the emergency panic button to summon the police and emergency personnel and turned to check on her now panicked passengers. The limo driver across the street jumped out of the car and weaved his way through the traffic which was unaware that anything amiss had just occurred. Donald Jackson walked by the scene, and upon seeing his former employer’s CEO undoubtedly deceased, smiled in grim satisfaction and continued walking west on Michigan Avenue, checking his watch. He had a job interview in another half-hour. Like so many others, after years of employment with the CEO’s company, he’d been downsized as part of the restructuring plan.

Inside the stolen taxi, Lynette Trang’s expression remained neutral. She looked down at the family portrait on the seat, and with tender gentleness, held it up for one last kiss. Then she reached inside her purse for the cheap .38 Special revolver she’d bought off a street thug—handguns were illegal in Chicago—and placed the muzzle in her mouth, then squeezed the trigger.

# # #