To Those Who Also Served by Staying Home and Waiting

Veterans’ Tales by Vassar Bushmills

I just saw a memorial by a lady whose 98- year old mother had just passed, a young 24 year old, with a baby, when her husband shipped out.

My own mother passed away two years ago, age 94, and when my dad shipped, she was pregnant with my sister. She was nearly three before he could get back to see her. (They didn’t have home leaves during that war.)

Jo Stafford, who you probably never heard of, had the finest voice during World War. She sang with the Pied Pipers, which included Frank Sinatra, and the Tommy Dorsey orchestra.

Enjoy the pictures, and feel free to come add your own. VeteransTales is for those who stayed and waited, and prayed, and took the men’s place in the factories.


Continue Reading

*Image: Women workers employed as wipers in the roundhouse having lunch in their rest room, C. & N.W. R.R., Clinton, Iowa, Bound for Glory: America in Color 1939-1943 Exhibit, Library of Congress, LC-USW36-644 [P&P], Description:
Digital ID: (digital file from original transparency) fsac 1a34808


National Service: How to Save America’s Lost? Hire The Veterans

Vassar Bushmills

We began this conversation a couple of weeks ago, when we pointed out that 90% of Americans have invested none of their own skin in this game that is called “Keeping America Alive.” Even my generation, the last to know the military draft, which was never natural to the American scheme of warfare anyway, and which accounts for about half of the “skin in the game” citizenry today, are now in our 60s and 70s, and will soon pass away.

Most college-aged kids, unless there’s an uncle or aunt in there somewhere who’re veterans, have never even met a veteran.

So do the math.

First Principle: With every passing generation, that 90% percentage is likely to get larger, only not because our military manpower needs may diminish, but rather because most Americans for the past 50 years have never been raised, and certainly not educated, to think of America (the-Idea) as anything special, as a thing worth clinging to or passing onto their children.

It’s not that we’ve lost our sense of gratitude–well, a little—we feel more entitled today than 50 years ago—we’re just no longer taught to appreciate the wellspring of that gratitude. American kids are no longer taught to look at any everyday product, from a cell phone to a hamburger, and connect the dots that put that phone or burger in their hand, or the money in their pocket to buy it. Money equals phone. Ever kid knows that equation. Job equals money equals phone however requires an extra dot, and many can’t connect it. Way too many Americans never have had to, as I reported only last week, in describing the growth of the trust fund babies since the 60s.

Just understand that much of what they now don’t know is purposefully denied them.

Still, it is those simple things, connecting a treasure in their lives to a foundational source, is what has always bound Americans.

In that story, above, about the ’68 Chicago Democratic Party Convention riots, I noted that there were tens of thousands of students from affluent families who had never worked, nor would ever have to, unless they could land a cush job at a non-profit, of which, today, there are thousands more than there were in ’68.

So today the size of that army of ne’er-do-wells who have to do no work numbers in the millions, and there are entire university and college departments dedicated to keeping them away from any meaningful relationship with their native country and its origins.

Moreover, if you’ve ever walked where they had been recently, at an outdoor function, a march or camp-in, you’ll also learn that they don’t treat the earth too kindly, despite what they say about protecting it; 21-year olds in their own private pigpen.

Lastly, they have never known work, not even chores or responsibilities, and only a modicum of personal hygiene in public places once away from their secure personal spaces.

Again, they will never have to think of a job as a way to get by.

In the hands of the state(s), children, including our own veterans’, are no longer taught our country’s history, or the uniqueness of America compared to all the rest of the world’s history; that we are a nation of commoners, designed by uncommon people for the benefit of other commoners to guide and rule themselves, at which we have excelled for nearly 300 years, attaining success no other nation in the history of the world has ever been able to match.

Whatever good young people think about America, they learned at home; from family.

In 5000 years of civilized history on this earth, America occupying less than 300, we have still created more wealth, and shared more of it, and accomplished more firsts than all the others combined.

Our group, VeteransUSA 15:13 Foundation, is so named for one of those firsts, from that passage in John 15 that “no great love has a man than will lay down his life for his friend”.

In the history of mankind no other nation has sent its sons to risk their lives to rescue others, beginning with our Civil War where over 2 million volunteered and a quarter million died, freeing a people they had never seen. They were all volunteers, and in the following years, white crosses have sprouted up around the world by the thousands of the Americans who died liberating some foreign land. That continues today, and except for a brief interlude in the 60s, they have almost all been volunteers. And despite the cries of “imperialism!”, we have yet to colonize a single one.

Of course, America’s most “hateful” first is that we were the first, and in many respects still the only nation that is designed and governed from the bottom up, by the people, earning us the enmity of all the top-down governments everywhere, representing how the world has been ordered since the pharaohs.

To some degree or another, removing this blot on the way the world was run for 5000 years has been a desire of every form of authoritarian and totalitarian system since our birth, a cancer which has sadly crept into our own political and educational system, explaining why we now need to do what we are suggesting here, establishing a National Service System so that every citizen, going forward, will be taught about the shoulders we all stand on, if for no other reason, just to recapture a little gratitude, and if need be, have a second opinion ready at-hand.

World War II skin-in-the-game memories will die with me, my children taking no special pride in my Vietnam War service sitting in a cush office near Tokyo. Again, do the math. My father’s generation has passed, and we should all worry that should something like December 7, 1941 happen again, requiring a 99% outlay of American support, that not even half of America would answer America’s call.

Yes, I know there was 9/11, now 17 years in our past, but while tens of thousands of young Americans rushed forward to volunteer, and well over half of America supported them, the national hug fest lasted only a few weeks, when, on cue, our effort turned political, almost as many Americans taking up some sort of cause against them.

Not to sound cynical, we all knew that would happen, too.

The politics of this divide will be resolved over time, but based on the issues we’re raising here, which now magnifies an apartness in America that has not existed since the Revolution, one based on caste (class) and loyalties directed toward different fundamental beliefs about the nature of government and the freedom of man’s right to self-determination; aristocrats versus commoners.

In December, 1941 rich and poor, black and white, educated and not-so-much, came together because they shared the same love (and roots) of America. (Yes, I said “black and white”, Michelle.) After 9/11, I’m sorry to report, scarcely half shared that impulse, and I am sadder still to report there are deep divisions today between the rich and poor, the educated and the not-so-much’s, the public and private sector, that are more reminiscent of 1776 than any period since.

Even in the smallest of towns the ties that bind citizens together in a common cause seems no longer to exist. If we cannot regain that, we are lost, no matter what Donald Trump and his successors do with the Swamp. When half the citizens of a city or town no longer believe they live on the same planet as the other half, and no longer share the same core principles of “life, liberty and happiness” and everyone’s right to pursue it as they see fit, then we are lost.

For a National Service

The Good News is that we can restore ourselves, in just a generation. The Bad News is that to be truly national it would require an Act of Congress, and we know how well they do things.

If we can agree we need to repatriate our children with, and reacquaint them to, America, I’m sure ways can be found, if not nationally, then regionally or locally, with or without government. Agreed?

It could take years, which is why my generation wants to broach the idea now. A bequest.

I can imagine young men of Brooklyn thrown together with Georgia crackers, Des Plaines townies, LA studs, each hating the other going into, but in 14 weeks, coming out best friends. We’ve done all that before, and still do it all the time.

Our boot camps will reintroduce all that, only since they won’t have to learn to kill at 200 yards, or crawl through mud under live fire, we think we can build the bridges inside 8 weeks, with another year in public service projects where they will see the rest of America mommy and daddy protected them from.

What I believe to be most important will be a total segregation, a la boot camp, where, for the first time in their lives they will not own a single waking minute of their lives for 16 hours a day. They will bunk together, answer reveille together, shower together, eat together, police the area together, then hike together, and all learn to hate that merciless barracks sergeant together.

Every one of those barracks sergeants will have been through the same training, only he had to carry 50 pounds on his back, learn to shoot at people and be shot at.

Every Marine, Army, Air Force and Navy veteran knows how this works; the things of their youth that were lost, and the things of their adulthood that were gained. They know how 8 weeks can change a person forever.

But unlike real recruits, our cadets will be provided a lot of classroom work, and there too, they will be taught American history and government, let’s just call it “civics”, by instructors who have invested years of skin in the game, and, just for street cred, some of their limbs.

I developed a teaching curriculum for these subjects while teaching young inner city GenX’ers in the 90s. I’ve never tried it on the Millennials and whatever they call the current generation of 18 year olds. But my son, a Gen X’er himself, is an expert. He knows how to make America relevant in their lives, step-by-step and that is what we intend to do in the classroom portion of boot camp, preparing them to be able to raise their hand and question a professor’s received wisdom if the subject is America..

Why I like a national program most is that it could employ tens of thousands of veterans, including wounded warriors, in full time positions as instructors and teachers. Considering we’re talking about 18-19 yr old high school graduates, think David Hogg and Emily Gonzalez as your poster child resistors, who better to teach American volunteerism than a guy or gal with sticks for legs?

The boot camp course should be entirely pass-fail, just so no candidate can think they can wait it out. Fail, and just like 3rd Grade, they have to repeat it. I can see the applications for exceptions lining up, especially for athletes who need to go to college to perform right away. So maybe we can give students three years before graduating to fulfill their obligation.

I’m sure Marines, Army, Navy and Air Force all have their own secrets to bringing raw recruits around. They already know, from recent recruiting classes, that American kids are fatter, lazier, more self-involved, some to the point of being self-admiring, so I’ll leave the details to them, but the general idea is to make them sweat the me-me-me snowflake out of them and insert teamwork and self-reliance instead. And gratitude.

They need to learn and understand the character-building value of manual labor, sweat equity, which earlier generations learned simply by an hour or two of chores before cleaning up for supper. We hated it too.

Our class of recruits will constantly be reminded of this investment as their training cadres will consist of veterans, men and women who had gone through a far more strenuous and painful boot camp than theirs, with weapons and 50-pound packs, many carrying the visual reminder of just how much skin they had invested in their country, with a lost limb or wound to show for it.

But generally, a major purpose of the program is to postpone college, jobs and marriage/family for a period of time to add on a little maturity and fuller understanding of their role as a citizen.

The time to think these things is now.

As teachers and instructors in our own right, we at would like to pitch some of our ideas and work with other veterans’ groups to incorporate their programs.

We’ll develop, over the coming weeks and year, in these pages, essays about various topics associated with these plans, and we invite you with your own skin in the game to publish your ideas and positions, even contrary, in these pages.

For our part, we at the VeteransUSA 15:13 Foundation would like to be at the forefront of coordinating and working with veterans and wounded warrior groups, to put their imprimatur on the project. We have special skills in classroom training of this sort, and curricula design. I’ve had tougher audiences over the years.

This is a necessary first, to find out who’s interested, and who would like to be a part of a project going forward.

Our contact: Vassar Bushmills, also for background

Allen Ness, also for background (under construction)

Twitter: @VeteransTales @bushmillsvassar  and Facebook: Allen Ness.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Every Thanksgiving, when I look at my life, I have so much for which to be grateful — and this year, gratitude extends to funny and thoughtful posters.

As is the case every year, I have so much for which to be grateful: My life is rich in love, friendship, and material blessings. The White House is occupied by a man who loves America as much as I do. I have a blog to which wonderful, intelligent people come, read my blatherings, and kindly share their enlightening thoughts. And I have a good round-up of posters about Thanksgiving and about the Leftists who, if nothing else, are always good for a laugh:


Simple rules to live by — ideas that make your life better

Here are the seven simple rules that have greatly improved my life (and made my children happier). Do you have simple rules that guide you?

Politics disgusts me today and I don’t want to write about it. Instead, inspired by a lunchtime conversation I had with a friend, I’d like to hear from you the simple rules (if any) that helped re-frame how you viewed your world or your conduct in a way that made your life better, happier, more productive, and of more value to those around you.

The reason I ask this is because, over the years, a few simple rules have appealed to me. They’ve helped me break out of bad habits and form good ones. They did so, not by micromanaging my conduct, but by providing me with principles that changed how I viewed myself and the world. That’s the re-framing I’m talking about. None of these rules or principles are complicated; none require micromanaging; and all apply to myriad situations, although I originally brought them to bear on specific issues that vexed me.

Here are mine:

“Few rules, but unbreakable.” I got this from R.F. Delderfield’s To Serve Them All My Days, a novel about life in a small English public school from the end of WWI to the beginning of WWII. It’s a wonderful rule, whether one is raising children or overseeing a project. Micromanaging is exhausting and demoralizes the people being managed. Making clear what’s important — and just how important it is (unbreakable) — gives people freedom to move forward while keeping intact the things that matter most to you, the rule maker.

“Catch them being good.” This was perhaps the best piece of child-rearing advice I ever received. I wrote a whole post about it, which I won’t repeat here. Suffice to say that, if you honestly praise good behavior, instead of focusing obsessively on bad behavior, not only will your children behave better, but you will feel better about them. And of course, it’s not only children who value honest praise. Dale Carnegie wrote a whole book about that.

“Opinionated but not judgmental.” My mother was the queen of judgments. I loved her and made her my role model. Accordingly, I was not a pleasant teen or young woman. Luckily for me, my sister once threw out in a conversation that she was “opinionated but not judgmental.” I was so struck by that notion, I completely modified my communication style. My kids liked me better and I found myself with more friends. When it comes to children, there’s a world of difference between saying, “Your friend is so stupid to do drugs,” and “Your friend is such a lovely girl. I think it’s so sad that she doesn’t see that in herself and, instead, turns to drugs.”

“Make your bed every morning.” This one came from Admiral McRaven’s commencement speech at the University of Texas, when he talked about lessons he learned as a Navy SEAL. He explained the important things flowing from that seemingly inconsequential act: You start your day by completing a task, which paves the way for completing other tasks. Also, if you have a really bad day, it’s comforting at the end of it to crawl into a neatly made bed. Both those reasons made eminent sense to me. In my middle-age, I therefore completely changed a lifetime habit of leaving the bed unmade (my protest against a managing parent), and turned bed-making into a keystone habit that has allowed me to get to other tasks during my day.

“Be grateful.” Life isn’t always what I wish it to be, but I’m so blessed. Whenever I feel whiny, I count my blessings. I’m certainly allowed to recognize the imperfections in my life, but I’m not allowed to let those overwhelm the many wonderful things that surround me. I hope I never lose my sense of gratitude for those blessings.

“You may not always recognize immediately the value of a particular event, including a bad one.” This is a distillation of something from Neville Shute’s A Town Like Alice, a novel about a young woman’s experiences before, during, and after WWII. The first half of the book is largely concerned with her life in Malaya after the Japanese captured the island. It’s a brutal, sad tale and, at the mid-point of the book, she describes that time as three wasted years. The person to whom she is speaking says that we cannot always know which experiences will matter in our life until much later — indeed, sometimes the meaning of those experiences may not be obvious until after a person’s death. The second half of the book, of course, is concerned with the far-reaching consequences — for many people — of her wartime suffering. I love the book and I love the message. Even rotten things may be important, but you may need the perspective of time to understand why and how.

“Insults don’t win arguments.” In my posts, I will say unkind things about Hillary or Obama or Pelosi or Trump or Ryan. However, if I’m in a discussion with someone who doesn’t share my views, whether that discussion is on Facebook or in person, and I want to try to persuade that person to think about things my way, I constantly remind myself that insults don’t win arguments. Indeed, the fastest way to hurt your intellectual position is to open with an insult. It’s better to open with an honest compliment (if possible) and then to cast your argument in a world of ideas that does not impinge upon the other person’s ego. Having said that, though, I don’t always manage to avoid the cutting phrase that ensures I lose my argument and I’m not going to change the unkind things I say about those people who affect my world in negative ways and whom I will never meet in person.

I still struggle daily with my many failings. I’m a procrastinator, I have a quick temper I must constantly subdue, and I’m dilatory about maintaining friendships that I value greatly. (Those who correspond with me via email know that, when it comes to reply to those emails, my personal road to Hell is paved with way too many good intentions and way too little timely action.) Still, those five simple rules have left me in a better place, both practically and emotionally, than I could ever have imagined 30 years ago.

How about you? Do you have simple rules that have helped make you happier, more productive, a nicer person, a better parent, or anything else positive? I’m interested.