Patriot Games

WJXT Sports Director Sam Kouvaris has been a fixture in the Jacksonville sports scene for over 35 years. With Tom and Deb, and George with the weather, Sam and the Channel 4 anchor team were familiar and friendly faces at 6 and 11pm. Pre-ESPN sports junkie viewers like myself enjoyed Sam’s commentary on the sports news of the day. More than just reading scores, he gave insight and even meaning to the “human drama of athletic competition.” With nearby Daytona, Sawgrass, and Gainesville and Tallahassee in their football heydays, Sam was conversant in everything sports and well connected.

In late 1992 naval aviation in general and carrier aviation in particular was reeling. The Tailhook scandal raged, and senior aviators played rope-a-dope, waiting for the media, political, and even intra-service pummeling to pass. It was also during this time that the resurgent Dallas Cowboys were marching to the Super Bowl, and the “America’s Team” hype was back. We at Cecil Field were America’s Team, but how to convey that? Movies like TOPGUN and shows like Supercarrier didn’t help matters, and my neighbors in Jacksonville would see a Hornet high overhead but have no idea how they were flown or why. So I opened the yellow pages and got the address for WJXT, then wrote a letter, in longhand, to Sam Kouvaris and invited him to go on a training hop with us. Then I mailed it, with a postage stamp. Two weeks later he called.

We chatted about doing a story on my squadron, the VFA-131 Wildcats, and how we trained. Sam was a bagger from way back; flying with the Blue Angels is something media personalities around the country do on a weekly basis, but bagging a carrier landing off the coast with my friend Brillo at the controls of a two-seat Hornet is more than most reporters get. Sam said sure, if you can swing it, I’m game. He played it cool…inside he must have been thinking are you kidding me! Hell yeah I want to go on a training hop!

So, prepared to ask forgiveness as I did throughout my career, I pitched it to my CO, Hawk. My vision was an air wing practice strike; Hornets and Vikings from Cecil, Tomcats, E-2’s and A-6’s from Norfolk, Marine EA-6B jammers from Cherry Point, all refueled by Air Force KC-10’s from North Carolina. We’d have the 125th Fighter Wing from Jacksonville, flying F-16s at the time, oppose us as we would fight our way into Pinecastle, bomb it, and then fight our way back out. And, ah, oh yeah, Skipper…I invited Sam Kouvaris to ride along. Yes, sir, the reporter.

Hawk was all for it, and I got to work coordinating it, again with good old fashioned phone calls, paper and pen. Time on target; 30 April 1993.

Sam got his medical and seat check updated, and in the months running up to it I mailed letters explaining what we were doing – deep background – and described a typical training hop that we flew daily to the local practice targets or over the ocean as pre-game warm up drills. The practice strike was likened to a college spring game football scrimmage, and training and learning never ended. Sam and his cameraman Kevin, who has been with him for three decades, came out to Cecil and we showed them around the squadron and put them in the simulator. They spoke to the sailors – the pit crew – and many of them were on the broadcast, with Senior Chief Murchison and Chief Langham featured. They asked questions about flying. I think it was Kevin who asked me if it was possible to fly under the Main Street Bridge or some such thing. I replied that you can do anything once. Sam tells me that quote lives on in the TV-4 newsroom.

Beaner took the reins of the Wildcats and together we brought this project to the Wing Commodore, Spock. Now early 1993, Navy was dealing with the increased budget pressures of a new administration to the already Draconian “peace dividend,” plus the distraction of the “gays in the military” issue which became Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. The Tailhook fallout continued. In this high-threat battle space everyone was gun-shy, and my project had a low positive benefit and a very high negative if it went south.

Spock liked it, but was concerned about a civilian in the middle of a practice strike formation, regardless of the risk-management measures we applied to it. I would lead a two-plane “section” to the Pinecastle target complex with Sam flying with a VFA-106 instructor. After I bombed and strafed, we’d go out to the area and meet up with a Topcat S-3 for tanking practice. So it is written, so it shall be done.

On 29 April Burner and I, with Sam in Burner’s trunk and armed with an 8mm camera, took off for Pinecastle. I’m not sure if formation dive deliveries are done anymore, (guess I could find out!) but in the video Burner is flying formation on me as we overbank and pull down to the target. Sam is not used to this, and must hold the camera on me; once my bomb comes off you can sense him fighting the sudden g force as Burner follows me on the pull off. The strafing clip is excellent, with Burner stabilized right there. That’s the sound of my 20mm cannon on the video, unedited, coming through the Plexiglas canopy from 300 feet away – cool!

Everyone loves their jargon, and Sam stopped me once after I referred to “filming.” We don’t film, we tape, get it right! So we flew over Daytona and over the Atlantic where I demo-ed in-flight refueling as Sam taped with Burner flying form. After some intercepts we flew over the city and into the break at Cecil. That afternoon, Air Wing Seven squadrons arrived from Norfolk, as did the Marine Prowlers.

April 30, 1993 was a severe clear day in Jacksonville – one less variable! – and we briefed this gorilla. It had 8 of us Wildcats and 8 Gunstars from our sister squadron. Two divisions of Dakota and Dog F-14’s and four Blue Blaster A-6’s, plus E-2s from the Bluetails, and the Marine EA-6Bs. Roles were assigned and fuel was allocated, as were take off and target times. The guys that helped me plan it flew it; you’ll see my roommate Bullet (who remains on active duty, and yes, we called him Bullet then) who was alternate lead, with Comet, who later became the Commodore, Box, Tails, Gucci, Possum, Smack and Bags. There’s Biff, of whom Rick Reilly told his Sports Illustrated readers to run from, and Durt who survived a night in the gulf and took it all in stride. Smurf, and Leo – what a great guy Leo was. Air Wing Seven’s call sign was Freedom, as it is today.

Walking to the jet I was pumped, and Bullet slapped me on the back; “Freedom freakin’ Lead!” The size of the strike didn’t really hit me until on the taxiway and seeing all the Toms and Intruders – uncommon to Cecil – taxi into position. Game time.

We joined on the KC-10’s off Savannah, got our gas, and then pushed south. Every mile and minute is structured, but you must be ready for what-if pop-ups. You, listen, monitor, decide, and talk only when required. The Vipers intercepted us and the sweep Tomcats and Hornets dealt with them. About 16 of us pressed down to Pinecastle, going feet-dry over Ormond Beach and rolled in from a high dive, a tactic passed down from our ancestors.

We flew back out the way we came, then knocked it off. Sam and Kevin met me at the flight line and I didn’t spike the ball, acting as if we’d been in the end-zone before. You know, the image-is-everything routine. He prompted me to show some emotion, c’mon, man! Guess I needed Crash Davis to coach me up on post-game media interviews.

They then got to work editing, and decided to call it Patriot Games, after a recent title of another best-selling techno-thriller from a remarkable new novelist.

Two weeks later Channel 4 aired the story over two nights, in reverse order of how the events occurred. Lites, then the Gunstar Commanding Officer and no stranger to squadron press coverage, laughed as he bowed down to me in mock supplication; you win, you win!

Bullet soon departed for Pentagon shore duty, and months later told me he had seen the clip in a Public Affairs briefing of what Navy needed more of.

Sam, with Kevin alongside, serves ably at Channel 4, delivering a first class broadcast night after night in a town he loves and where he raised his fine family. The local P-3 and Seahawk guys got with the program, and Sam has flown with them too. He is a loyal advocate of naval aviation, and cites his experiences with us as the highlight of his career. Check out his unforgettable Rampager Change of Command speech sometime.

He said people would often ask him if he was a pilot, and he was tired of saying no. He did something about it, and today is an instrument and multi-engine rated general aviation pilot. Me, I just write about flying.

Hope you all enjoy watching Patriot Games, which was taped 25 years ago this week.

 

 

Flying With Spike

Next to the academic building at Naval Aviation Schools Command in Pensacola is a F/A-18 Hornet painted in the livery of Strike-Fighter Squadron 81, the Sunliners. All who begin their naval aviation adventure begin it in Pensacola, and this building and the jet parked next to it are familiar landmarks. There is a name painted under the canopy, a high honor for such an iconic static display aircraft, one that is viewed by hundreds each month as they take the first steps in the long journey to wings. The name is a challenge to them, a name carefully chosen of one to emulate. Be like this name, the stenciling suggests.

CAPT SCOTT SPEICHER

It is doubtful that any of today’s students were alive when this name was in the news over 27 years ago, but certainly some are aware of this man and his actions in combat. To Americans of a certain age – a nice way of saying much older –  this name may jog a memory. Where have I heard that name before?

To me, and many readers of this blog, the callsign under the stenciling conveys warm feelings of friendship and shared good times, of loyal devotion to duty, of trust, and courage. And an infectious smile.

SPIKE

I first met Spike in 1986 at Cecil Field when, due to hangar overcrowding, our A-7 squadrons were shoe-horned together for a period of time. Spike was in VA-105, a squadron that years later would hold special meaning for me. What a great group the Gunslingers had; Shoe, Mongo, Duck, Lady, Bone, Bud-Man, Frailes, Roots. We had fun hanging out in the cramped ready room, and it was evident all the guys had high regard for Spike.

Spike was a year or two senior to me, and before I could become a shore-duty instructor in the F/A-18 I had to first learn the jet. Spike was one of my instructors in the Gladiators. My logbook records that our first “flight” together was March, 12, 1988, each of us in a Hornet conducting 1v1 Basic Fighter Maneuvering training over the Atlantic. I do not have a memory of this hop, but later that month my class went to Fallon for Air-to-Ground training and Spike was one of the instructors. It was on this det we got to know each other better as squadronmates. I’m sure he led formations I was part of, and I probably bought him a beer or two at the Silver State O-Club as penance for small in-flight infractions

With the airline good-life beckoning, junior aviators were resigning from the Navy as fast as they could. Back at Cecil the JO’s were herded into the ready room for a meeting with the Wing Commodore. Like any good leader he wanted to know what was on our minds and what could be done to keep us in uniform. He got an earful, and, exasperated, he asked, “Is anyone going to stay in?” In a room with Frailes who would one day command a carrier and wear stars, with Irish who rose to CAG, with Kid who 15 years later commanded the Gladiators, and others like me who stayed for careers, only one lieutenant ignored the peer pressure and raised his hand: Scott Speicher.

That August I was hanging around the ready room and Spike had an open back seat for a Fighter Weps hop he was instructing. I asked to jump in and he said sure. The set up was Spike leading a student in another Hornet against two A-4 “bandits.” I’m sure we had an enjoyable chat over the cockpit ICS as we led the student out to sea south of Ponte Vedra. However, once over the Atlantic it was all business. With a 40 mile split both formations came at each other as the Hornets worked their radars and communicated what they were seeing to each other on the radio. This is intense, fast, difficult, and at the merge damn dangerous. It is fun to be sure, but professional reputations are on the line and all of it will be debriefed in detail. Spike had to fly our jet and in a sense that of the student he was instructing. All I had to do was observe and keep a lookout. I think it was on this hop we were coming down the back side of a loop – we were inverted! – about 16,000 feet and a single red party balloon floated by our left wing, both of us incredulous that it was “out here” at least 30 miles east of St. Augustine.

The following is a vivid memory.

We were egressing west after an engagement, unloading for airspeed and with our wingman in sight. I saw an A-4 about two miles at our three-o’clock going to four and nose-off. I keyed the ICS.

“Tally one A-4 three-o’clock, two miles!” As soon as the words came out of my mouth I regretted them.

Spike snapped the jet right and into the “threat.” At once he saw the Skyhawk was no factor and yanked it back to the left to resume. “That guy’s no threat!” he scolded me with an edge and made it clear that future bad calls from me were not appreciated. Spike was easygoing and relaxed, but in this environment he was a fierce competitor first, even in this canned training scenario.

A minute later all was forgiven and forgotten, replaced with the exhilaration of flying a Hornet and enjoying Florida’s First Coast float under us on the way home. He led us into the break and let me fly a landing from the backseat. What a great time. They were all great times.

Though Spike was taller and better built, we resembled each other. One day as he picked up his daughter at the Orange Park preschool, my 2-year-old toddled over to him with outstretched arms thinking it was time to go. Another time I was summoned for a fitness report debrief. The skipper placed the paper in front of me and I read it. After I finished I said, “Skipper, this is a great fitness report. Unfortunately for me I’m not Scott Speicher.” He said something like “Doh!” and gave me my fitrep, which was more like what I was expecting.

Needling is part of squadron life. With my brother arriving at the airport in three hours, I led a division gun hop. In a hurry, I left the power up and “cruised” the formation at .93 Mach all the way out to the area off Amelia Island with Spike and the others hanging on. We shot the bullets, joined up, and hauled for home, also at .93. Spike laughed at me in the debrief as the lead of the shortest air-to-air gun hop he’d ever flown. I met my brother on time.

Spike left for his department head tour in VFA-81, and I saw him shortly before Saratoga deployed. He was genuine, and when he said let’s get together after the cruise, he meant it. In August of 1990 our world changed, and in the ensuing months many of my friends deployed to the Red Sea and Arabian Gulf. My ship didn’t go…I watched Desert Storm on TV…but steeled myself for losses. We didn’t know what to expect from a combat-experienced Iraqi Air Force in a new and unproven environment.

We received a call the Spike was missing, and that morning SECDEF himself declared him KIA. We were stunned. Not Spike. A month later we were stunned again. Not BJ.

The years rolled on, and rumors surfaced that things did not happen the way we were told that night. Spike ejected, we found out, with evidence he was alive on the ground.

Twelve years later Baghdad fell. Then at the Pentagon, I was told that finding Saddam was job one, with finding Spike a close #2.

Spike didn’t come home, and his story has been told and will be told better in time, but Spike was a shipmate in the truest sense of the word. An uncompromising warrior, those of us who knew him knew him as a devoted husband and father, a devout Christian who lived his faith, a superstar athlete, a model officer and superb aviator, a fun guy to be around…a great guy. There are a lot of great guys out there, but he really was.

Yes, the years roll on. It doesn’t happen often anymore, but being of a certain age there are occasions I am asked if I knew Spike. Yes, I smile, and tell them that he was one of the greatest guys I ever served with.

 

 

 

 

 

In Love and War

This A-4E Skyhawk, on display outside the main gate at Naval Air Station North Island, is for the most part ignored by thousands of motorists each day. It is somewhat hidden by a tree, and of course each driver is digging in pockets for an ID card or drivers license to show the sentries as they approach the gate. Being an airplane junkie I glance at it most every time, having flown the two-seat training variant of the A-4 in flight school. A fun little jet, and I’ve bombed, strafed, shot rockets from it, trapped aboard USS Lexington in them off Pensacola, fought them in multi-plane engagements over east central Mississippi. One of the guys I fought in training was Major “Tamer” Amos, who had a successful career in the Marine Corps. As a Hornet pilot I fought quite a few “adversary” A-4’s, and one of those pilots was a cool guy named Lex Lefon. Roughly 100 TA-4J hours in my logbook prove that I was technically a Skyhawk pilot, but I would never claim that I flew the legendary Skyhawk in my career, because it would dishonor those who did, like the man who flew a Skyhawk into combat in September of 1965.

Commander Jim Stockdale was the Wing Commander, the “CAG,” when, flying a VA-163 Saints A-4E as replicated on this jet, he catapulted off USS Oriskany and headed west into North Vietnam. CAGs and squadron CO’s like Jeremiah Denton who led from the front were targeted by North Vietnamese gunners; anyplace in the skies of North Vietnam was dangerous, but flight lead losses were fearful, as they were for the eight-plus years of that conflict. Stockdale’s Skyhawk was hit and he ejected.

That morning in Oriskany’s wardroom he ate breakfast on china plates and white linen. For the next 7.5 years it was meager rations, solitary confinement, threadbare clothing and torture, brutal torture to include the dreaded ropes. The North Vietnamese were quick to identify and punish resisters, to break their will, and finding himself as the senior POW, Stockdale was targeted for more than his share of punishment. During this time – years of misery we cannot fathom – he led, from the front as Wing Commanders do, and organized the prisoners into a military organization that allowed them to not only draw support from one another but to serve with honor. And survive.

Vietnam was tearing the country apart, but in San Diego…and Lemoore, Oak Harbor, Jacksonville, Virginia Beach…families of POWs were hurting. Missing absent husbands and fathers was one thing, but not even knowing their fate or being denied even a letter was itself torture. Like her husband, Sybil Stockdale was a leader, and founded the National League of Families to call attention to the plight of the POWs and petition the government to lean on North Vietnam for humane treatment. Our government, and the Navy, consoled Mrs. Stockdale, saying they were doing everything they could and to please refrain from more public statements. She had none of it, and like her husband in captivity 8,000 miles away, she also led, working for the families to find resolution and pressure the enemy to improve the treatment of their loved ones.

At the time I was a boy living in San Diego’s University City; children of POWs with the names Burns, Shumaker and Rutledge were my schoolmates. We knew things were bad for POWs and many like my parents wore POW bracelets. “POWs never have a nice day” – remember that bumper sticker? To a large extent it was through the efforts of Sybil Stockdale, and others, leading from the front, in this case the home front.

We watched the POWs return home in 1973 and I get emotional thinking about it, seeing my schoolmates on TV run up to their fathers deplaning at Alameda or Miramar whom they had not seen in years. The family of one absent aviator who lived up the street didn’t have a joyous homecoming; their dad was Missing-in-Action, and decades later I read his remains were finally identified.

Stockdale was a legend I knew about as I entered flight school, as was Denton, John McCain (who also flew a Saint A-4E from Oriskany when he was downed), Bud Day, Leo Thorsness…names few Americans could remember by the early 80’s. But in 1992 America was reintroduced to retired Vice Admiral James Stockdale, the presidential running mate of billionaire Ross Perot. At the televised vice-presidential debate, standing alongside Dan Quayle and Al Gore, neither of whom was qualified to carry his helmet bag, he opened with this line to try to generate interest in this newcomer to national politics. “Who am I? Why am I here?”

The line backfired, and the white-haired grandfather, appearing confused and hard-of-hearing, was transformed into a national laughingstock, ridiculed for not being as sleek and smooth as Quayle or Gore. Maybe the Perot-Stockdale ticket cost Bush the 1992 election, but regardless, James Bond Stockdale retired from public life having tried to again serve the public through servant leadership. By the early 2000’s Alzheimer’s set in, and he succumbed in 2005 at the age of 81.

Once you go through the VADM James B. Stockdale Gate at North Island, the birthplace of naval aviation with piers and runways familiar to Commander Stockdale, you’ll see the Stockdale Training Building, and drive on Stockdale Boulevard. Go south along the bay, under the bridge to the 32nd Street Naval Station piers and you may see USS Stockdale, an Aegis guided-missile destroyer named for the Medal of Honor recipient, a warship bringing the Stockdale name back to the Western Pacific on each deployment. And there is the Stockdale Leadership Award, a coveted award one can receive only after nomination by ones peer group. Stockdale Award recipients are considered the best of the best, and good people.

Several years ago we were at a Change of Command ceremony aboard the carrier John C. Stennis at North Island, and during the hangar bay reception spied Sybil Stockdale. Elderly and suffering from Parkinsons, guests whispered in reverence that “Mrs. Stockdale is here,” and all were honored by her presence. There’s no escalator from the pier to the quarterdeck; she walked up the brow on her own power. The ladies present honored her with their gentle greetings, knowing exactly who she was and how special her being at the ceremony was for everyone there. The living legend passed away later that fall at the age of 90.

She and her beloved husband wrote a book about the Vietnam experience they shared half a world apart called In Love and War. It is a story of faith, in God and one another, of conviction, of devotion to duty, and courageous leadership in the face of enemy fire and US government bureaucracy. Published in 1984, it is only available “hard copy,” but it is a priceless story, a true love story, and one that is required reading for today’s generation of military couples. Anyone who has experienced a deployment homecoming can relate to this cover image, but imagine coming home after 7.5 years to a teenage son taller than you.

In Love and War by Jim and Sybil Stockdale is unforgettable. Do not pass it by.

 

Why We Lose, and What Can Be Done

This photograph, that I took 20 years ago over the North Arabian Gulf, is still a common sight. Those F/A-18C Hornets are still flown today and with similar weapons on the wings, and that Iranian oil-rig flare-stack down there is probably still burning as bright as it did in the 90’s when it served as a landmark for us. There is an American aircraft carrier nearby, such as there has been in the Gulf for almost every day of the past 20 years, and seven years before that.

I am not acquainted with Harlan Ullman, the author of the recently-released Anatomy of Failure: Why America Loses Every War it Starts, but was aware of him through his writings and guest appearances on cable news and CSPAN before I picked up his thought-provoking book. He is a naval officer by trade, a combat-experienced Vietnam swift-boat commander who went on to serve in “The Building” and defense think-tanks. He is a product of the Washington defense establishment, and is a sought-after commentator on defense issues. He has quite the pol-mil pedigree, and comes across as a serious guy who is speaks truth to power.

At its core, Anatomy is a study of the presidential administrations and the conflicts each has presided over since and including Vietnam. Though Ullman touches on the post-WWII world order, he cites military actions the United States has engaged in since he came of age in the 1960’s. It is not a record of success. While military men and women are justifiably proud of their service in combat, it is Washington, and primarily the White House, that almost every time manages to lose the peace. So then, why are we still patrolling the Arabian Gulf, and with airplanes and weapons that are 20-years old and older? Why is our annual defense budget some $700 billion with a new-normal of behind-schedule and over-budget acquisition programs? Why?

Ullman’s primary causal factor is that the occupants of the White House, even ones with résumés that say otherwise, are not well-versed (or just versed) in the realities of geopolitics. Unwilling to learn – they are already the Commander-in-Chief so why should they? – a succession of presidents and administrations, congresses, defense departments, diplomats and even uniformed commanders make blunder after blunder with lasting consequences in their wake. Groupthink takes hold, and I am reminded of my time in Washington after 9-11. By early 2002, going to war in Iraq to finish the job – regime change – was next; it was in the air. Look at the above photo; I knew the situation better than most citizens, had a sense of the risks involved, and supported the effort to change Iraqi governments. Ullman did not, and calls 2003 a catastrophe of the highest order. I would point to 2011 and the unilateral pull-out – abandonment – of Iraq on an artificial timeline, but serious political and diplomatic mistakes were made in 2003 and 2004 that made the situation much worse. Reasonable – and informed – citizens can disagree. This brings us back to Ullman’s first point. To have these educated conversations and debates, one must be educated. Short of sending every American to War College for an advanced degree in National Security Policy and Strategic Studies, self-study through reading is the answer.

Ullman’s book is not tearing up the charts on Kindle. While it is well-written and thorough, it, like most pol-mil literature, is dry and frankly over the heads of most Americans; not you, Dear Reader, but most and particularly our young Americans. If you admit to liking War College reading assignments (okay, okay, I read most of books assigned, but late at night…after the kids were asleep!) you’ll enjoy Ullman’s book. Alas, most of our citizenry has never heard of it and would not even crack it open were it handed to them. That’s fine…except every 2-4 years those same citizens wield a very powerful weapon – a vote.

If non-fiction books like Ullman’s are not going to be read by even a fraction of 1% of our population…how do we expect our population to know anything about the current challenges we face? We learn through stories. Movies are the easiest way, just sit back and watch, but even movies about real events can be quite flawed. Black Hawk Down and We Were Soldiers are exceptions. Movie fiction can be even worse, but there is a place for fiction.

Luke Ryan at SOFREP says it well that fiction allows the reader to get inside the character, multiple characters, on both sides of a conflict, and experience the drama and emotions of a fictional occurrence that could happen. To use hard-hitting and direct language to convey the feeling of being terrified or confused. Autobiographies do this well – hard to argue with a first-hand account – but fiction can take that to a higher level, and history is full of compelling stories that resonate with readers long after they’ve finished.

“Thank you for your service” rings hollow when the person saying it has no idea, zero, on how our men and women in uniform are deployed and what it is like for their families left behind. Especially today with instant global communications and 24-7 news. Our population is not being taught much of this in school – I assure you – and if they do not have a basic understanding of history and geography then geopolitical life is going to be harder for us as a society. Each of you have a favorite book, fiction or non-fiction, that encapsulates to you a story that every American should know. Give the gift of a book, as many do, to help friends and family understand.

Regrettably, Ullman discounted the 30-year “War on Drugs” as not worthy of his study. Those I know who have spent careers “fighting” it quip that our efforts such as they are only serve to prop up the price for traffickers. Books, more than movies, can deep-dive into philosophical questions of warfare and when to wage war, and when not to.

In Washington’s where-you-sit-is-where-you-stand political coloring (pretty sure I know where Ullman sits), Ullman does a good job calling them as he sees them, giving it to both parties who have much to be ashamed of. Our country and especially the active-duty military serving it deserves better, much better. It is not too much to ask of our elites in high-level defense, legislative, and diplomatic positions to read works such as his, and other works by well-known authors such as Stavridis and McMaster, to name a few. We should demand it of them. Popular market biographies of such as Powell, Cheney and Rumsfeld are also helpful to educate the public on how DoD functions and the realities of geopolitics, and there are plenty of authentic stories out there. Every American, and there is no excuse if you have a college education, should read at least one true-life account or authentic novel about our military in their lifetimes. That is supporting our troops, and that helps when making an educated vote every-other November.

And if you or your family cannot find the Arabian Gulf on a map, you have work to do. (I and others can help.)

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