Me: Be kind to your web-footed friends, 'cause a duck may be....
Self: Hold it! Hold it!
Me: ...somebody's-- What? What's going on?
Self: No. It's "What?" to YOU! What's all the racket?
Me: Well, in case you happened to have missed it, we just celebrated the 4th of July! ....mother, be kind to....
Self: Stop! Are you frackin' crazy or what? What the hell have you got to celebrate about?
Me: Well, there were flags and fireworks and....
Self: Whoa! Are you telling me you're feeling PATRIATIC?
Me: Well. No. Not really. I just...
Self: You just what? You've just spent the better part of the last two years exclusively focused on the ream job the VA is pulling on you. You've been putting in 22 hour days trying to make sense of this fracked up government and the absolute BS that's been thrown at you, from the damn Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs to the damn White House!. They've been stepping on you and kicking around your rights and stripping you of your honor and integrity and pride. How can you be patriotic about THAT?
Me: Well, I was just remembering what it was like when I was a kid, and....
Self: Oh, SPARE me! We've been through this before. You're feeling proud and patriotic about an America that hasn't existed for 40 years. Hell, it might not have even existed back then.
Me: Well, yah. OK. So, they're good memories. The smell of fresh cut grass. The sound of the ice cream churner spun round and round by somebody's dad. Heck, they even let ME take a shot at seeing if I could turn the crank.....I don't think I could....
Self: Good Grief! Snap out of it. You're just looking for ways to get distracted from the horrid mess you find us in. We're heading for an historical grand finale, like the Great Train Wreck, as the hundreds of yards of huge timbers spanning across some canyon wall gives way, with the unable-to-stop, black-smoke billowing locomotive hugging the rock wall - screeching forward with brakes on full. But it's doomed to fall in, dragging the whole string of passenger cars along after it. This country is headed over the cliff, Bozo, and it's dragging you along with it.
Me: Yah, well..... We've sure been putting in a lot of time fighting back, eh? We've been heading out into the darkness and cold and bringing bits of light to the bleak and desperate corners where some poor souls exist. We've been bringing them bread and water and whatever else we can carry. So don't go on about me not noticing what's been going on.
Self: It's been a little lonely out there, hasn't it? You've made your way across vast expenses of stormy seas without seeing much more than a few other row boats bent on helping with this futile rescue mission you have us on.
Me: Whoa! Wait! Why do you think all this effort has been futile? We've gotten a hellovalot of stuff done. We've actually done some good.
Self: Right. But there's something you seem to be missing in all of this. There's something you haven't noticed that you're afraid to admit to. Right?
Me: Well, I guess I ain't sure (I said a little sheepishly). What do you mean?
Self: Well, pal. You're out there all alone. You've got a couple hundred souls out here in dinghies and row boats and rafts. But, let's face it. You've all been Left Behind.
Me: Yah...I know...sort of. That's about the way it shakes out, I guess. I've been ashamed to admit to you that what this Blue Water Navy project is all about is the fact that some pretty big people in some very high placed have flat turned their backs on us. So, OK, you're right. Contrary to the basic mantra of every branch of the Armed Forces, we've been Left Behind. OK. I'll admit it. It hurts. But it's just a fact of life. The damn US Navy has left it's wounded on the battle field and has high-tailed it back to shore where it's safe and warm and....
Self: No. That's a bad analogy. We were lashed to the mast, still alive and kicking. We were shackled to the rowing benches and left to die a slow, miserable death while the ship was scuttled and slowly sank.
Me: Right. And I saw the Captain thumb his nose at us. I looked the bastard right in the eye as he thumbed his nose, and gave us the finger, and went over the rail into the last life boat. I can still see that bastard's face.
Self: Who was it? Who did you see?
Me: I can't quite recall that well. No, I can't recognize the face. But I saw his rank. In fact, there was a pack of them that all left together.
Self: I'll tell you who it was. And you're right, there was a long string of them; a whole boat load. And they all had their fancy coats and hats, with the gold stripes and twirly braid and piping. And there was something else I saw.
Me: What?! What else?
Self: There was a streak of yellow up their backs and they wiggled like there wasn't much backbone beneath it. And they were all tangled in string. You know what that means, don't you?
Me: Uh.... no. What does that mean?
Self: That means that somewhere along in their careers, probably in the fairly recent past, they were turned into puppets. It's the only thing I can figure.
Me: Alright, you might be right. But who were they? You said you knew.
Self: The first group to go over the side was Vern Clark and Mike Mullen, followed by Gary Roughhead. And talk about fighting each other for the life line. Those jokers were dead set on getting off our sinking ship muy pronto. It was a little bit comical.... but it was a whole lot sad. They dropped everything and ran, so they wouldn't see what happened to us in the end. Nice, huh? That's what I call Leadership Quality, Navy-style.
Me: The Captain always goes down with his ship! Ha! A bunch of chicken sh....
Self: Oops. Hold it. Gotta watch that language, or we'll never get this published.
Me: Oh, yah. Sorry. So, who were these guys, this Clark and Mullen and Roughhead?
Self: Those were the Chiefs of Naval Operations from July, 2000 until now. This whole fiasco spread across at least all three watches. Those were our Leaders of the day.
Me: Yah. Right. Makes me want to hang over the rail and puke.
Self: But that's not all of them. There was a pretty big crowd and they all get to share the blame... and the dubious distinction of belonging to the greatest breach of military etiquette in the history of this country. I'm serious. If "No one Left Behind" is the mantra, then these jacks will go down in history as the slimiest of the slimes. They're way beyond ignorant and pitiful and disgusting. They rank up there with Vidkun Quisling. Too bad you don't still do woodcarving. You could make them each a plaque for over their fire places: "I Turned My Back On My Own and Just Walked Away." That ought to be fitting, wouldn't you say?
Me: Yah. Well, I might not have the wherewithal to get all those carvings done. But I might have a better idea anyway.
Self: I'll bet I know. You want to look into Human Rights violations, War Crimes charges and team up with the Vietnamese in their Agent Orange lawsuit and protests against the US Government and the US Chemical Industry. Or maybe putting up big warning signs at all the Navy recruiting stations.
Me: (That one took be aback, so I sat silent for a minute, letting that sink in. Then I said to my Self) Self, what I was thinking of was more along the lines of 'Hey, why don't we just publish all these people's names and numbers and let everyone with a question ask the question to them directly? There are guys out there who have all this pent up anger, and I'm fixing to give them some legitimate targates to attack.
Self: What? And become target practice for some SEAL team? Not likely.
Me: Oh, and you're always accusing ME of being paranoid.
Self: Well, when push comes to shove, we'll just become a nuisance that needs to be removed. We were expendable then; we're probably still expendable. I just hope it's a clean head shot So what's the next move?
Me: I was thinking about telling folks a little about the "Official Navy" that gets to sit in places like the Pentagon and other fancy Washington buildings, claiming to represent "the Navy." Do you know that in the history of this fight for VA Agent Orange exposure compensation, all the way back to the 1980s and 90s, even when Admiral Zumwalt was putting his report together, I don't see one single instance of "The Navy" backing their veterans? It's also true that none of the other branches got support from their military branch departments, but that's not our concern right now. The Navy should be above all that. The Navy advertises itself as being the ones who "do the right thing." At least that's the claim according to the Secretary of the Navy Don Winter, in a nice film he did on Ethics at http://www.navy.mil/navydata/leadership/ldrDisplay.asp?m=325 .
Self: You know, it'd be so much better if these guys would confine themselves to talking about their own life experiences. It would probably tell a story that would turn out a little more convincing.
Me: Was he a navy man?
Self: No. He was awarded the position because he came over from one of the military's biggest vendors, TRW.
Me: Oh, well that sure beats loosing out on contract bids.
Self: Absolutely. So, we're going to start naming names and providing contacts. And we ought to be perfectly clear as to why we're going to do that. We need to communicate the fact that these highest positions within the Navy represent The Navy. That means past, present and future. They can't any longer get away with hiding under the skirt of Lady Justice by saying that their mission is limited to only the Active Duty Navy. A larger bowl of BS could never be served up. They need to see the infrangible relationship between Navy veterans of the past, Active Duty Navy of the present, and the Navy recruits of the future. These really aren't three distinguishable sets of individuals. They are stages of development for any one individual. They're phases in a Navy man's life.
Me: Yes, I remember it well. I was a prospective recruit from about age two, having a retired Navy Lt. running our household. That required everyone to be sitting on the couch watching "Victory At Sea" every Sunday, everyone quiet except for the rambling over-laid narration of the story by my father. He claimed it wasn't as much "interruption" as just requiring a skill of listening to two important sources of information at the same time. So that's what led us to the next stage, the Active Duty Navy. And to go at a time of war was much more glorious than "just joining up." We had a sense of purpose.
Self: Right. And we left the Navy with a pride that we'd done our best, and answered the call, and were just as damn important as any Marine or Army or Air Force or Coast Guard member. And the logical flow of that is, that's how veterans are made. "The Navy" is active in advertising and recruiting. They're active in controlling behavior of whoever is on Active Duty. So why, pray tell, do they think that, when we're discharged, they can turn their backs on us? Especially when we run into problems with other agencies in our government who are claiming the right to define or redefine where we were, how they're going to categorize us and the nature of our service when we were Active Duty Navy? They have an obligation, based on the nature of their position and command, to step forward when the VA challenges the validity of medals issued to us by The Navy; when the DVA decides we were or were not an actual part of a war effort; when an agency tasked with "taking care of us" once we leave Active Duty actually fights us in court for years for the right to sever our benefits which are based solely upon the fact we are Navy veterans and at one time were Active Duty Navy. I contend they have a DUTY to step forward when their veterans are being kicked around by some other government department. Anything less than that amounts to nothing short of leaving us behind....of not taking care of their own.
Me: I suspect they don't think we're a formidable force in affecting their recruitment, when in fact we could probably bring it to a screeching halt. And why shouldn't we? Anyone entering the US Navy at this point in time will sooner or later become a veteran, and The Navy will disown them. They won't come to their aid when promises aren't kept, when it was those promises that induced our recruitment. We're not talking about the standard "bait and switch" routine where they promise to train you in one area, but ship you off to some other rating that the recruit may or may not want. When they just silently stand by and watch and refuse to intervene on their own veterans' behalf is dereliction of duty, behavior unbecoming, and is just a downright mean, rotten and highly unethical thing to do. I would even make a case for it being chargeable under the UCMJ.
Self: Nicely said. So what we're going to do is to haul them before the Mast for that. We can't really give all the information on every single person whose job it is to NOT let things like this happen. So what we'll do is just lay out a few of the individuals who have most recently violated the code of "No One Left Behind." So go for it.
Me: Well, the first line of responsibility falls squarely on the shoulders of the Chief of Naval Operations. The Secretary of the Navy is essentially out of the picture, since that really appears to be just a figurehead wired position. So let's talk about the Chief of Naval Operations. If you recall, the VA started really mucking with the system in 2002, when they passed their internal ruling to eliminate Blue Water Navy from presumptive exposure coverage for herbicides in Vietnam. That includes Vern Clark, whose watch extended from July 21, 2000 to July 22, 2005. Mike Mullen, the 28th Chief of Naval Operations, started his watch in July 2005 and ended that on September 29, 2007. And now we have Gary Roughhead, who took over the helm on September 29, 2007 and is the current CNO.
Self: We have some history with Roughhead, don't we? Should we tell them about that?
Me: You bet. I'd love to tell that story. I was actually invited to attend a gathering with the CNO as he passed through town on his "Conversation with the Country" program. His staff was scurrying around to make sure there was a big enough crowd to make the poor guy feel wanted at each place he showed up. I still have the email, along with the names and contacts for all the honorable Naval Officers involved with this sham. The initial request came from CDR Paul Bieraugel, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations N3/N5, Strategic Action Group, who sent the following contact information:
The invitation, sent to a group of Veteran Advocates, read as follows:
"Gentlemen, trying to cast a wide net of invitations to the Denver Conversation with the Country here. If you have any business, academic, civilian leader contacts who you might think interested in spending the day talking to CNO about Seapower please forward their names and addresses my way and I'll get them out a formal invitation..."
Self: So you responded to this, right?
Me: You bet I did. I actually wrote Bieraugel an email asking if I could be included in this get together with the CNO, but that my interest was in talking with the CNO about Blue Water Navy issues. I stated that I knew it was off-topic, so if he felt it more appropriate, I would be willing to meet for about 15 minutes either before or after his planned event. When that went unresponded to for a week, I followed up again asking for his assistance in meeting with Broadhead.
Self: I think you mean Roughhead.
Me: Ah, right. There I go again; giving this guy the benefit of a more expanded mind. Anyway, that wasn't answered either. Here I was, a Civic Leader and Executive Director of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Association, and these jerks don't have the courtesy to respond. It felt like a kick in the groin. There were a whole slew of people copied on these email, including, Captain David E Westin, USMC AFSPC CoA MarSptBn/MCSB; CDR Weldon Steven, NIOC, and LCDR James B Knapp, USCG AFSPC CGCU CO/NSAC. So there were Marine and Coast Guard elements in the planning of this also. Those alphabetic codes after their names, by the way, are sort of like peacock feathers, giving the illusion of being really hot stuff.
Self: Do you want to know what I think?
Me: Sure... I ought to know anyway.
Self: I think these guys figured that if they ignored you, and buried their head in the sand, that the incident would pass, you would go away, and they could get on with the rest of their lives ignoring things that had even a hint of being unpleasant.
Me: Or maybe none of them knew what to say. After all, it was a fairly complex question. And when you get up to those levels in rank, a lot of ability to think for one's Self gets trampled under. Sorry, Self, but I think that's what happens.
Self: Well, if that's what they're willing to give up, I guess it's their choice. But this Roughhead character. What are we going to do about him?
Me: I'm thinking he ought to be busted to SA and sent to the galley. I also think it's worth noting that there are a couple other offices within the Department of the Navy that ought to be given a dishonorable mention in this kettle of fish for their inaction in stepping forward the whole time the DVA has been Sailor-bashing. Did you know there is a Navy Office of Legislative Affairs? Let me just read from their official self-description about who they are and what they do:
"The Office of Legislative Affairs is a United States Navy function which coordinates activities between the Department of the Navy and the United States Congress.
The office reports to the Secretary of the Navy and the Chief of Naval Operations. Its relationships with Congress include policy discussions, briefings and posture statements, comments on pending legislation, and supporting and hosting congressional visits and travel. It has a Senate Liaison Office located in the Russell Senate Office Building and a House Liaison Office located in the Rayburn House Office Building.
The current Chief of Legislative Affairs is Rear Admiral Michael H. Miller."
Self: So let's make sure everyone gets this straight. There is a special office within the Department of the Navy whose actual job it is to work with the Senate and House on legislative matters. Some more of their rhetoric states:
"The Navy's Office of Legislative Affairs coordinates congressional inquiries. It is our top priority to respond to these inquiries promptly and accurately. Below is a review of the key entry points, phone numbers and fax numbers for congressional inquiries.
In order to facilitate as speedy a response as possible, all written inquiries, with applicable privacy waiver authorization, should be faxed to:
Chief of Legislative Affairs, FAX # (703) 614-7089. After faxing, if desired, send the original to:
Chief of Legislative Affairs
1300 Navy Pentagon
Washington, DC 20350-1300.
You may receive assistance by calling the general correspondence telephone number: (703) 614-3710.
The following direct points of contact are provided if you need additional assistance with your Navy inquiry:
Director, Congressional Information and Public Affairs, (703) 695-0395
Deputy director, (703)695-9359
For Senate matters visit or contact:
Senate Liaison Office
Russell Senate Office Building
Tel - (202)685-6003 • Fax - (202) 685-6005.
For House matters visit or contact:
House Liaison Office
Rayburn House Office Building
Tel - (202) 225-7126 • Fax - (202) 685-6077
Me: We realize that's an awful lot of information to soak up during just one sitting. But luckily, we're no longer on Active Duty, and have developed skills of Self-thought. We suspect that if a few thousand calls and faxes and emails went to these guys, they might sooner or later get the idea that something is wrong out here. Maybe one or two would be given the authority to grow some balls so they can step forward and address this issue of the Haas ruling, and why they would let the VA "re-define what is meant by the Republic of Vietnam," specifically intended to target those who "served in the waters off-shore," and a few things like that.
Self: So, what's our best next move, do you reckon?
Me: I'd say, given that this band of idiots just took off in the last life boat, that we get this tub righted, plug up the holes and man the guns. They're probably still within range. Sight them in and give them the departure salute they deserve. All guns, high explosive, fuse quick, fire for effect.
John Paul Rossie bluewaternavy.org