I had a request for an autographed copy of The Viper Contract earlier this week from a gentleman who is an active-duty colonel in the US Air Force and is stationed overseas, serving our country. As I packaged the book to send it to him, I found myself reflecting again on the quality of the men and women in our military today and the sacrifices they make.
Since the draft was discontinued in 1973, I’m not sure there has ever been a time when more of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines have been asked to do so much with so little. With wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, a brief air campaign in Libya, and constant interaction all over the globe, these men and women have been asked repeatedly to give of themselves for salaries that would literally make their contemporaries in the corporate world laugh.
Now there is some consolation there. These men and women get to do things that their peers outside the service can only dream of and they get to use equipment that is on the leading edge of technology. They get to enjoy a feeling of camaraderie, a feeling of belonging that they will never experience again outside the military. They get to work alongside people who are highly motivated, dedicated and devoted not only to their country, but also to each other. And finally, they get the satisfaction of knowing that they make a difference, every day of their lives, for the greater good of us all.
Most importantly though, every one of these men and women belongs to the profession of arms and as such, is subject to what we used to call “the unlimited liability clause.” They have to be prepared to give their lives in the performance of their duties, as many have.
The thing I struggle with as a retired military officer is that I see all the outstanding qualities and capabilities our military men and women provide, all the service they render, and the unlimited liability clause under they operate, and yet they still have to take orders from people who have no concept of the proper use of military power. Certainly our current president has proven his ignorance of how the military works but that last one didn’t understand it much better and he relied upon a secretary of defense who thought he knew more about military power than the men and women who had been serving their entire lives. I know that civilian control of the military is the way things should be, but sometimes I wish that to be president, a person had to spend some minimum time in uniform, making sacrifices and doing something dangerous, so that he or she “gets it.”
So on this day, I’d like to once again salute the men and women of our military: the soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines, past and present, those still among us and those who have been laid to rest. They are the guarantors of the liberty we enjoy; they are the guardians of the future of our nation.
They are the very best of who we are.Read More
One of my very best friends in the world has an expression he uses when we speak on the phone and I ask him how he’s doing. “Livin’ the dream,” he says with a sigh, and then he proceeds to tell me how much he’s actually not doing that. The conversation continues with us commiserating about irritants we’re enduring in our lives that are generated by bureaucracies, supervisors, or other individuals who are apparently clueless either at that moment or perpetually.
But interestingly, what seems to always come out of these conversations, no matter how aggravating the events or actors we discuss seem to be, is that there actually is “a dream.” Sometimes that we joke about a scenario where we manage a large jet for an even-tempered wealthy individual with a love of aviation and my friend and I, and perhaps a few other crewmembers, fly all over the world and have no one to deal with or report to besides the wealthy individual and ourselves. Other times that scenario involves another friend of ours who is continually searching for the right funding package to put together a flying operation that would not fly wealthy individuals but instead would transport needy children to St. Jude’s or transport our brave veterans to treatment centers. Still other times I tell him the dream I have if my writing career every really takes off, and that would be to build a Humanitarian Air Force, a network of aircraft that could deliver aid all over the world without having to wait for governments to get their acts together. But regardless of the form the dream takes, the fact is that it exists. And that’s the important thing.
Henry David Thoreau put it very well when he said: “Dreams are the touchstones of our character.” I agree with him. John Barrymore said: “Men are not old until regrets take the place of dreams.” And James Huneker said: “All men of action are dreamers.”
Dreams are important. They are who we are. And the degree to which any of us finds happiness can be truly defined by how close our dreams come to reality. Perhaps one day, my friend and I can look across the cockpit at one another and agree that we truly are “livin’ the dream.” And until that day, we won’t stop trying to get there.
No one should.Read More