Military Awards & Decorations

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I don’t mean any ill will against patriotic young people, or to be negatively critical, but didjaever see one of today’s Jr. ROTC members, a high school student who is enrolled in the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps — in a dress uniform?

Merit badges for young scouts are good, but getting a ribbon, for example, for attaining a grade of “B” or better in a particular class, be in good academic standing, actively participate in cadet corps activities, and participate in at least 50% of all unit service programs. (awarded once per year.). That’s it. Participate, do well, and here’s your ribbon.

Where’s my ribbon for surviving 2019? I need to add it to all the other yearly ribbons I’ve won for getting through the years without a major heart attack, and those for practicing enough safety to undergo the number of long motorcycle rides without incident except for the time I totaled one bike.

Now for active duty folks. The military will give you a medal nowadays if you’re breathing and show up for work on time. Geez, if you finished boot camp you get a ribbon. Whoopie! You did something that everyone else did.


It’s all well and good i guess for those who received team sports trophies for participation and graduated kindergarten complete with cap and gown. But it seems to me that awards and decorations have just gotten completely out of hand so the ones you really earned above and beyond the call of duty have little place beside those worn for serving a tour of duty overseas and does the same job as one who is stateside but gets no ribbon.

I never could figure out why i got a good conduct medal. I guess it means i didn’t get caught.

I served a couple of enlistments in the Air Force, 3X overseas including Vietnam, for a total of 7 years, 3 months, and 10 days. For my first assignment in a very remote area working rotating shifts for 15 months without a leave (vacation) I received nothing, not even a promotion, although the unit did get an outstanding unit award. Nowadays, most all units receive some type of unit award just for accomplishing their missions and members of the unit get either an achievement medal, commendation medal, or meritorious service medal depending on their rank. and, as all those who served in Southeast Asia, got the participation service medals.

I went back into the service, in the Navy, and managed to retire. Unlike many fellow officers who received a number of merit type medals, some at every assignment they served and reading their citation, sounds like they just did their job as expected. Allow me to let you on a little secret. I know some of those men who wrote themselves up for the medal, being the senior officer in their office, or had a friend do the write up, and in some cases the XO processed the write up simply because it was expected. In some cases it is expected that unless the officer fell on his own sword he got an end-of-tour award, usually a Commendation Medal or Meritorious Service Medal, depending on one’s rank. I know that in some commands today, someone is appointed to choose medal recipients and to write them up for the awards.

I did receive an Air Force Commendation medal for service in Vietnam. I was what was then referred to as a REMF, a rear echelon guy serving in a relatively safe zone working in an office doing intelligence work. There’s no doubt that the work I did was extremely important and probably saved lives, but it was nothing more special IMO than anyone else doing their assigned work. I noticed that it seemed to be for the Air Force REMFs of the Vietnam War, at least in my command, that for the rank of E-5 and below, one generally received a commendation medal and for those who were E-6 and above, a Bronze Star and they were automatically given at the end of one’s tour or at a commander’s call after they returned home. No heroics involved, just a job well done.

I served a number of different assignments while in the Navy, both in the Navy and with Marine Corps units. Reputation was a key factor in promotion in my profession, and other things in one’s career (getting one’s career ticket punched). I never had a great reputation. I was too radical in some ways, spoke my mind when I probably shouldn’t have, went outside the chain of command with suggestions and ideas, and in general never played the “game”, so to speak.

Just to relate one incident that will give you a better idea of dear ole Bob, at the end of one 2-year stateside tour of duty, I know I was being written up for an end-of-tour medal by the XO at about the same time a new CO was being assigned and a change of command ceremony rehearsal, which the XO was in charge of producing, was scheduled. I had had a super relationship to the old CO and had already established a good relationship with the new CO. The last week, I was in the process of cleaning out my office for a reassignment and told the XO that I would miss the rehearsal but I had done enough of them that I knew the procedure. I had never really gone through the XO much during that assignment, always going directly to the CO for various reasons concerning issues when they needed command attention. That was the second XO that I didn’t get along with well. In short, because I missed the rehearsal, he never forwarded my medal write-up, which suited me just fine. I didn’t need his or the command,s official rewarding compliments on my job. People who really knew me and my work knew my worth and accomplishments and that’s all that mattered to me.  (Thankfully, medals were not important in my particular field as to promotion boards).

I had had a couple TAD (temporary duty) assignments, including a deployment with deployed Marines unit to the Mediterranean and to the 2d Marine Division during Operation Desert Storm. Both of these assignments were very strenuous and demanding. Both times I left the units following their activities they were involved in and back to my permanent unit without even thinking of receiving any type of medal. I could have taken the time to recommend myself or have a senior officer, or even the command sergeant major with whom I had a cordial and working relationship, recommend me for a medal knowing full well that they would have been approved. Just not my thing and besides, at the times I never even thought about it.

So now I’m a veteran and member of various Facebook veteran groups. What I’m seeing now is some of the old farts who served back in the 1950s and 1960s are an entirely different breed from the guys who served in the late 1970s after the Vietnam War, and later, including Desert Storm and later Middle Eastern tours of duty of the 1990a and 2000s, who received so many ribbons on their chest they walk stooped over and since some of the new stuff is retroactive some veterans are busy having their records changed so they can get the stuff they weren’t awarded but are now qualified for. Then, there’s the “special” medals and participation certificates they are now eligible for by having “been there, done that.” It’s quite interesting watching the discussions on some issues, the difference of opinions between the old and the newer guys.

(Pet peeve, I never figured out why there no ground medals given to compensate for those serving on the ground while their peers received all those air medals for doing the same job but in a different environment).

I don’t understand it. Why not be satisfied with what you did and what you got when you did it and got it? And BTW, you know how to tell a real combat troop and hero? They never talk about it.

© Feb. 2018. Bob Haines

We Were There Also

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Speech for the Vietnam Veterans Tribute ceremony.
Kanapaha Veterans Memorial Park,
Gainesville, FL
1 Feburary 2020

© Feb. 2020
Robert A. Haines, Chaplain Bob Haines
All Rights Reserved

The Chaplain’s Tent

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please like and share my new page. thanks.

Let the Confusion Begin

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     About 10 years ago I wrote a scathing letter to the Orlando Sentinel about the differences between Veterans Day and Memorial Day as it was being confused by the various ceremonies even those done by service-connected groups. I used to cringe at our local American Legend services. I entitled the letter, Don’t Play Taps on Veterans Day. I sent the letter next year to other papers and added it to my blog and have been re-posting annually on each day. Then, the last few years I have noticed it has been picked up on by comments during the services, in editorials, in social media and the news broadcasts. It’s still often confused, but making headway, I think.
     In the last 2 years i’ve added Armed Forces Day to my rants because it is not celebrated widely, mainly at military installations. Maybe this year it will get more visibility and coverage on social media at least.
     BELOW is the blog I published on May 23, 2008, it was an edited version of my earlier original letter to the editor. Some changes have been made on this update.
     How will you celebrate Memorial Day? Like many Americans, you are likely to have a day off from work. You might go to the beach, party on your boat or have a cookout in your backyard with friends. All this is certainly appropriate. However, if you want to honor the day for what it is meant to be, you will attend a Memorial Day service hosted by your local military veterans’ organization to venerate the memory of the men and women who sacrificed their lives in service of our country and the freedom you enjoy.
Because you can google it and investigate further, I will not go into the history of Memorial Day, as there is ample information on the Internet, and you can research it yourself. Suffice it to say that the day is set aside to honor and commemorate all armed forces members who paid the ultimate sacrifice, i.e. those who died in our nation’s service in order to keep our country free.
     It irks me that people don’t pay attention to the reason for Memorial Day. For example, one automobile dealership is honoring active and retired military by giving them a $4.95 oil and filter change during what they call Memorial Day week. First, there is no Memorial Day “week,” only Memorial Day. Second, it is not to honor active and retired military persons, but to pay homage to the deceased military members who died on the field of battle, and in the air and on the seas.
     There are two other days set aside each year to honor those in service of their country, Veterans Day and Armed Forces Day. I have attended regularly these affairs and continue to be confounded by the misunderstandings of the public at large and some military service (veteran) organizations concerning the purpose of the events.
      One example recently was a motorcycle group attempting to celebrate Armed Forces Day with a ride to honor veterans, including a ride to a national cemetery and the playing of Taps. Armed Forces Day is set aside the third Saturday of May each year to recognize, venerate and honor our current military forces, i.e. to honor the men and women serving our country in all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces, at home and around the world. It is not to celebrate veterans or memorialize the deceased. (By the way, there are few events that celebrate Armed Forces Day anymore, and, in fact, it is not even listed on many calendars.)
     Another interesting example is a Veterans Day observance last year by a local group that publicized it as a memorial service. Obviously, they got it confused with Memorial Day. Veterans Day is a day set aside in November to honor all living veterans of the military services. This event is not a day to memorialize the deceased by a 21-gun salute and the playing of Taps, because living veterans did not give their lives, only their service, be it in war or peace time.
     So, as you celebrate Memorial Day and, in November, Veterans Day, and Armed Forces Day, remember the reason for each day. And if you belong to an organization that plans an event to celebrate these special days, please organize it with the proper purpose, and plan accordingly.

© Copyright May 2017
Robert A. Haines, Chaplain Haines


young, naive, and missed opportunity

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i am, slowly, over time, reading the enthralling book, Devil in the Grove, by Gilbert King.


while reading, i keep thinking back to the time in the mid-1980s when i was a young Navy chaplain serving at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, MD.  as i was making my rounds to various wards one day,  i discovered that Thurgood Marshall was an incognito patient on one of the sections that i covered. we often got famous patients connected with the Washington DC crowd in the hospital and i met several during my tenure.


excited, i went to visit Mr. Marshall and entered the room where he was in bed and his wife in a chair next to him. we struck up a conversation and both he and wife told me fascinating stories, mostly centered around chaplains or ministers, religion, and so on.  as in  most cases, the chaplains let the patient lead the conversation and they listen. needless to say, i was impressed.

before leaving the room, i offered to serve them communion of which he politely refused saying he only took communion (if i recall correctly) at certain times.

well, here’s the point: over the past several years as i’ve continued to learn, mature, and reflect on life, i am amazed at how naive i was back then. first of all i knew nothing of the man nor his history and real significance to American life and culture. had i known then what (i think) i know now, i would have engaged him and his wife with much more of meaningful conversation. it’s one of those cases when i really wish i could revisit the past and atone for my mistakes and stupidity.

Satire: If President Obama Had Been the Commander in Chief During World War Two

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– he would have stopped the bombing of Germany for humanitarian reasons.

– he would have stopped the bombing of Japan for humanitarian reasons.

– he would not have dropped the A-bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima for humanitarian reasons.

– he would not have retaliated for the Pearl Harbor incident for humanitarian reasons.

– milllions more American troops would have been killed by the enemy because of the lack of the COC’s determination to have total victory

– Russia would have taken all of Berlin and the entire country of Germany would today be under Russian control and be a communist state

– Japan would control China and the entire Asian continent

– India (there would be no Pakistan)would be under the control of the Japanese Empire..

– Israel would not exist and all the Middle Eastern nations would be dominated by the Nazi Germany cultic practices, and since they are not Aryan, they would eventually be sent to the gas chambers also

© copyright 2014, Bob Haines.
All rights reserved

Who Won This Christmas: Jesus or Santa?

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Isaiah 40: 3 – 5.  The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord; Make straight in the desert a highway for our God.  Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill shall be made low; The crooked places shall be made straight, and the rough places smooth;  The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

Luke 3: 4 – 6.   As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, saying: “the voice of one crying in the wilderness: `Prepare the way of the Lord, Make His paths straight.  Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill brought low; And the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough ways made smooth;  And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’ “

John 1: 12.   . . . but as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of god, even to those who believe in His name.

On 9 November 1990, I returned from a deployment to Korea, having been gone about 3 weeks. The following morning I went to the MCAS Futenma exchange and could not believe my ears —  for I was hearing Christmas music over the store speaker system.
Here it was 12 days before Thanksgiving and I couldn’t even concentrate on Thanksgiving because they were playing Christmas music.  The priority of business economics had taken over even the holiest of holidays.

During the vice presidential debate of the Bush-Quayle presidential campaign, Dan Quayle had, at one point, invoked the name of John Kennedy. This was taken by his opponent, Senator Lloyd Bentsen, to mean that Quayle was comparing himself with Kennedy. At that point, Senator Bentsen said to him, “I knew Jack Kennedy, and Senator, you are no Jack Kennedy!”
I thought of that remark while preparing this message, and as I was thinking in terms of keeping the priorities of the Christmas season straight. If I could talk to Santa Claus
today I would remark to him, “Santa, I know Jesus Christ, and Santa, you’re no Jesus Christ!”
If we were to hold an election in America this season to chose who would control our minds and who we would owe allegiance to concerning the meaning of Christmas, I believe that Santa would win over Jesus. Christmas has taken on a whole new meaning, evolving from the spiritual to the secular.
Which one would you vote for? The Bible proclaims loudly, “chose you this day whom you will serve.

3 priorities that ought to control our thinking and actions concerning a spiritual celebration of Christmas.

1. Preparation;
2. Hope;
3. Receiving


In Luke 3:4 John the Baptist cited the words of Isaiah, the prophet: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.”
By the time Thanksgiving arrived, Christmas preparations were already in high gear in the secular world. Christmas trees have already been cut in the northern woods of the U.S. and were traveling south in trucks.
Department stores were setting up window displays with miniature carolers and moving bunny rabbits. Hundreds of skinny Santas are suiting up with red flannel & pillows. Christmas cards & ornaments have been put on display. You were already stewing over what to get some distant relative that you hardly know, who is so hard to shop for.
What we are doing commercially, we ought to do religiously and even more so. Our real priority ought to be to get ready spiritually for Christmas. The Advent time ought to be a special time for spiritual renewal. Luke echoed the words of the prophet, Isaiah, appropriately when he wrote, “prepare the way of the Lord…” — not Santa.
There are at least 3 ways we can prepare our hearts for Christmas. First of all, we ought to cut down the mountains of commercialism. I don’t mean we ought to get rid of commercialism. But I DO mean it ought to take second place to the spiritual aspects of Christmas. It is a matter of priority.
If Christ were to arrive by foot during the season, He might very well get run over by traffic, be shoved around in the department store and stumble over the Christmas boxes piled high in the living room.
The commercialism of Christmas must not present a barrier to the presence of the Lord in your life or the lives of your family and friends. The real meaning of Christmas lies not in the bombardment of TV sets, new cars, mechanized toys, gimmicky appliances and sentimental knick-knacks?
Into this material-mad society Jesus comes, not to give us more things, but to deal positively with our personalities and our characters. He wants to give our lives meaning and genuine significance. He wants to deal with us as people, not as customers. So, let us get ready for Christmas by cutting down the mountains of commercialism which tends to block the way of Christ.
Let us also get ready for Christmas by clearing away the underbrush of sentimentality. There’s a lot of secular sentimentality at Christmas which makes it difficult for the Christ to make an impact — the swarms of Santas, the innocuous cards that say “Seasons Greetings,” but with no spiritual meaning at all, etc.
There is also an underbrush of ‘spiritual’ sentimentality as well which is as serious a hindrance as the secular kind. It is the superficial acceptance of the religious trappings of Christmas without really coming to grips with what Jesus really came to teach and to do. It is enamored with the baby Jesus without regards for the risen Christ. It sings about “peace on earth, good will to men”, yet does nothing about the real needs of our fellow human beings.
Let us not just pay our respects to a sweet tradition once a year, but instead serve the Lord as a living reality every day. The real priority of Christmas lasts all year long.
Then, thirdly, let us get ready for Christmas by building up a roadway of love. Let us not fall into the trap of a superficial cordiality which can be faked or forced for a day or two. Christmas is not a command performance, nor tradition for tradition’s sake. Let us look for the kind of love which Jesus said is the heart of the commandments, the love to God and to others — His Love.
It is the love which is self-giving, sacrificial, and continues even in the face of disagreement and rejection. This is the kind of love that God introduced to the world at Christmas.
His love is exemplified in the Golden Rule – to treat others like you want to be treated. It is a love that includes forgiveness – to forgive others as you have been forgiven, not holding grudges, not “you owe me one!”

The manger represents God reaching down to help us even while were are rebelling against him. One of the best possible ways to prepare for Christmas is to fill in the gullies of anger and the valleys of alienation, that allow the Christ of Love to come in and totally control our attitudes.  If need be, make a decision to stop nit-picking and criticizing, but, instead begin to practice forgiveness and sacrificial love.
Some of you may have seething anger in your hearts – anger against parents, or brothers, or sisters, neighbors, or fellow workers. These feelings can only be destructive to others and yourselves. Prepare for Christmas by shoving aside that antagonism and replacing it with love.
Yes, prepare for Christmas by (1) cutting down the mountains of commercialism; (2) clearing away the underbrush of sentimentality; and (3) by building up a roadway of love.


Then, let us set the priority this Christmas season of Hope — HOPE in the wilderness.

Isaiah delivered God’s Word, “In the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord…” (40:3)

The gospel begins in the wilderness. John the Baptist was that “voice crying in the wilderness,” the realization of Isaiah’s prophecy.
Life is full of wilderness experiences. The context for Isaiah’s message was one in which the Hebrew people found themselves in exile, in a wilderness so to speak.
The situation of the community in Babylonian exile was hardly a ground for hope. It was a tough time for God’s people. It was a time for struggle. It was a time of testing of their faith. Many turned away from God.
Isaiah revealed that the exiled community was tempted to interpret it’s covenant life with God as being swept up in the fatalistic natural cycle of life leading to death, i.e. the mortality of man. (verses 6b-7). Isaiah’s Word from God in the situation was one of urgency, “comfort, speak, cry…!” – there is hope.
So, the wilderness setting is a time of proclamation –
proclamation of HOPE.
God’s people have been in the wilderness many times: During the exodus experience; the period of the exile; under Roman bondage when John the Baptist delivered his message of promise; Paul in the Arabian desert seeking guidance from God after his conversion to Christianity; Paul while in prison where he wrote several letters found now in the New Testament; when the Apostle John was banished to the Isle of Patmos,where he wrote The Book of The Revelation.
The image of wilderness weds HARDSHIP WITH GOD’S AMAZING GRACE. Jesus ushered in His salvation by Grace during a time of wilderness. Yes, God’s people are often in the wilderness.
As I ministered to the patients at Naval Hospital, Bethesda, during my tour of duty there, they were in the wilderness of a physical and/or emotional crisis. You may be in your own wilderness today. For some, the wilderness is a very traumatic experience, maybe the death of a loved one. Maybe it is in the setting of a possible wartime situation or an overseas duty isolated from loved ones with no foreseeable rotation date home. Sometimes it is a financial crisis or maybe spiritual confusion.
All of us at some time in our lives,like the Hebrews like first century Israel, are forced into the wilderness. Each of us face a time where we can only depend solely upon God for comfort and hope.
The wilderness is wild, untamed, and so unpredictable. Oh, how we order our lives when things are going right that we fail to depend on God or even experience him.
Whether your wilderness experiences are past, or in the present, or surely will come in the future, listen to the voice of John the Baptist heralding the advent: “The Messiah WILL COME.”
Christ HAS COME. And, as He did come and as He surely will come again in history, He will surely come to you WHENEVER you are in a wilderness – today, tomorrow, next year – whenever. May Christ come to you this Christmas to bring lasting hope for your life. Is He truly a part of your Christmas?


The third priority of the Christmas season ought to be – a time for RECEIVING

In John 1:12, it is written, “But to all who received Him who believed on his name, he gave power to become children of God.”

You have often heard the phrase, “It is more blessed to gift than to receive.” I believe there are times when it is just as important to receive as to give and Christmas is one of those times.

There are at least four reasons Christmas should be a time of receiving as well as a time for giving.

First, when we receive graciously, we honor the giver.
Imagine if your children or loved ones handed your gifts back to you and said, “You may keep these presents, we don’t want them.”
The delight of a little girl hugging a new doll is matched, if not exceeded, by that of her mother as she watches her daughter’s eyes. Watch closely while a present is being opened and notice that it is the giver of that present who is doing the most smiling.
Receiving forms a bond-relationship between the receiver & the giver. The acceptance of a gift is the acceptance of love. Love, by its very nature, must be received.
What is true about our relationship with people is especially true about our relationship with God. We begin pleasing Him, not by giving to Him, but by receiving from Him.
(John 1:12). Receiving Christ forms a bond-relationship between the one receiving and God.
Our highest worship is our willingness to receive His love.
It is not the giving of our sacrifice, but the reception of His love that is the foundation of genuine worship. Humility in receiving God’s love is our best form of worship. Our most important act of honoring God this Christmas is our willingness and graciousness in receiving His Christmas gift of His Son.
God’s greatest joy is in the sharing of His love, His life,
His very being. In fact, that is what Christmas is all about.
Indeed, Christmas is a time for receiving.

Christmas is also a time for receiving because only if we have first received are we in a position to give. John the Baptist could “bear witness to the light because he had received the light.” (John 1:8).
Paul said to the church at Corinth, “For I delivered to you…what I also received.”(I Corinthians 15:3).

We can’t give away anything we don’t have. We can’t give away a Christmas gift that we don’t own. Teachers must first receive knowledge before they can share it. Parents must themselves have a religious faith before they can give it to their children. We must have a solid pattern of family life before we can pass it on to the next generation. Church members cannot share with their neighbors a religious conviction they don’t have. In order to give love to others, we must have love within.

Christmas is also a time for receiving because it often takes more character to receive than to give. Gracious receiving takes humility. Some people are the temple to pray thought he was the perfect religious specimen who needed nothing from God. It was the publican who knew that he needed God’s free mercy and was willing to receive it that he “went down to his house justified, rather than the other.”

Receiving takes humility. Gracious receiving also takes trust. We’re always a bit suspicious of anything offered free.just too proud to accept anything free and, since some of the best things in life ARE free, they cut themselves off from some very great blessings.
In the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican in Luke 18, the Pharisee who went up to
We’ve been told many times that there’s no such thing as a free lunch so we tend to be apprehensive about any kind of a free deal even when it’s offered by God. Only when we trust completely in God can we really receive His FREE gift of forgiveness salvation.

Now, the most important point – Christmas is a time for receiving because receiving is the ONLY way we can obtain God’s gift. You cannot work your way to God. God’s love is a free gift. This is the heart of the gospel.
Many of Jesus’ own countrymen had rejected Him. (John 1:11).
“But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.” (1:12) The only way to become a child of God is to receive Jesus in one’s life.

There you have it. We don’t become children of God by doing philanthropic things; or by going to church or chapel, by buying stained glass windows, or by refraining from kicking the neighbor’s dog. We become children of God, not by doing, but by receiving the gift of His Son into our lives.
In Ephesians 2:8-10 we note that we are saved “unto good works”, yes, but – NOT saved by works. Notice that receiving has an object – Him – that is, Christ. We don’t just receive a theology, a creed or even the Bible. We receive a PERSON.
By an act of the will, we accept the offer of Christ to forgive our past. By a decision of the mind, we choose him as the Lord of our lives. By a commitment of the whole person, we choose His lifestyle as our standard and we adopt His love for others as our example.
From Him, we receive a new reason for living. From Him we receive the presence of the Holy spirit in our lives. From Him we receive a new vision and a new hope.

Thanksgivings Past

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For the past 18 years I’ve enjoyed Thanksgiving Day at home with family and friends.  Today, while looking at some Facebook posts of pix of military troops overseas, I began thinking about all those years in far away places.  Here’s a few.

– (50 years ago, 1962) –  Basic Training, Lackland AFB, Texas

– 1963 – HQ USAF Security Service, Kelly AFB, Texas

– 1964 – Peshawar Air Station, Budaber, West Pakistan

– 1965 – Keesler AFB, Texas

– 1966/67 – San Vito Air Station, near Brindisi, Italy

– 1968 – USAFSS (had Thanksgiving meal with Cast C of Up With People at Fort Hood)

– 1969 – Tan Son Nhut Air Base, Republic of South Vietnam

– 1970-72 – at home in Altoona, Florida (while at L-SCC & Stetson U.)

– 1973-74 – at home in Waldo, Florida (While at UF)

– 1975-78 – Bellewood Home for Children, Anchorage, KY (while in grad. school)

– 1979 – at home in Altoona, Florida

– 1981 – at home in Palm Coast, Florida

– 1981 – Naval Station, Newport, Rhode Island

– 1982-83 – Naval Station, Mayport, Florida

– 1984-85 – at home in Jacksonville, NC (while at Camp Lejuene)

– 1986-87 – at home in Rockville, MD (while at National Naval Medical Center, Behesda, MD)

– 1988-89 – at home, Andrews AFB, MD (while at Naval Air Facility, Washington DC)

– 1990 – at the home of my CO, Col Heaviland, MAG-36, MCAS Futenma, Okinawa

– 1991-93 – at home in Waldo, FL while at Naval Air Station, Cecil Field, FL

– for the past 18 years I’ve enjoy Thanksgiving at home in five different places.  Maybe one day I’ll get settled down. 🙂

Thank You Veterans


[© 1994, 2010, 2012, 2014 Robert A. Haines, Jr. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED]

Today is a time of reflection and remembrance.

I would like to make a few points that I hope are relevant to Americans, veterans and non-veterans alike.

President George Washington said, “The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional as to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their country.”

When remembering the millions of people who have been liberated by American forces around the globe by history’s most evil oppressors, another cliché’ rings true, “Never was so much owed by so many to so few.”

Approximately 25 million of our fellow citizens once carried the title of Marine, soldier, airman, sailor, Coast Guardsman, National Guardsman, Merchant Mariner, and now carry the title of veteran. We know them as our neighbors, friends, colleagues, and family members. They make us proud to be Americans.

Veterans understand profoundly the meaning of service and sacrifice – so they are not the kind of people who take life for granted.

Many of you once swore to uphold the security of our country and I thank you for that service.
. . . 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 . . .

The armistice to end the great war (WWI) to end all wars went into effect at that time.

It is indeed an honor to mark a date set in history, a day to give thanks for the sacrifices made for us in the past, to celebrate our progress from those efforts, and to rededicate ourselves for peace in our future.

On this day, in this month, at this hour, our nation remembers the moment when the guns of World War I went silent — and we recognize the service and the sacrifice of our nation’s veterans. From Valley Forge to Vietnam, from Kuwait to Kandahar, from Berlin to Baghdad, our veterans have borne the costs of America’s wars – and they have stood watch over America’s peace. The American people are grateful to the veterans and all who have fought for our freedom.

On this Veterans Day, we give thanks for the millions Americans who strengthened our nation with their example of service and sacrifice. Our veterans are drawn from many generations and from many backgrounds. Some charged across great battlefields. Some fought on the high seas. Some patrolled the open skies. All contributed to the character and to the greatness of America.

On this Veterans Day, we also honor a new generation of men and women who are defending our freedom. Since September the 11th, 2001, our Armed Forces have engaged the enemy, the terrorists, on many fronts. At this moment, more than a million Americans are on active duty, serving in the cause of freedom and peace around the world. They are our nation’s finest citizens. They confront grave danger to defend the safety of the American people. Through their sacrifice, they’re making this nation safer and more secure — and they are earning the proud title of veteran.
We are deeply grateful to the men and women who rise every day in defense of America and our friends. Today’s generation of American service members are performing their duties with skill, with effectiveness, and with honor. They are deployed on many fronts in the war on terror, tracking the enemies of freedom and holding them to account. And at this hour they continue their work — striking hard against the forces of murder and chaos. Members of the active duty armed forces, National Guard, and reserves have faced hard conditions – tough duty, long deployments, and the loss of comrades.

Veterans Day is an American holiday honoring military veterans – all veterans, men, women, combat and non-combat, overseas and stateside of all ranks and occupations. Today we honor, not only the infantry in the field, the special forces and recon troops behind the lines of combat, but the mail clerk, the cook, the humvee and jeep drivers, the engineers, the medics and corpsman, and, yes, even the chaplain, lawyers, doctors – we honor ALL veterans who have served, stateside, as well as overseas, on the seas, and in the air.

We are not celebrating to debate whether any war was right or wrong, or any thing such as that, but simply to honor our veterans. Thank you veterans.

Simply put, Veterans Day is largely intended to thank living veterans for their service, to acknowledge that their contributions to our nation’s national security are appreciated, and to underscore the fact that all those who served have sacrificed in many ways to have done their duty.

As we celebrate another Veterans’ Day, I wonder just what its meaning is to the ones that did not serve in our military.

A day to relax and have fun. I wonder how much of the history behind this holiday is being taught in our schools today, and if the high school students, especially the ones that are nearing graduation, are aware of the sacrifices that the veterans made that ensures these students the rights to make decisions as to what they are going to do with their lives when they finish school. They can choose whether to get a job, or go to college, or join the military.

As a Vietnam Veteran, our choices were limited, it was college or military and most of us couldn’t afford to go to college so we were drafted or volunteered for the service. And a large majority of us went to Vietnam. World War II and Korean veterans didn’t have any choice, it was go to war. That is why I’m adding this little tidbit, so that if there are any young people here, that they might understand the sacrifices that was made in the past to give you the freedom to make the choices you have today. If you appreciate these choices, take the time out this Veterans Day to thank a veteran.
By the way, if you are a bit confused about why we have two days each years to pay homage to military people, Memorial Day in May honors service members who died in service to their country or as a result of injuries incurred during battle. Deceased veterans might also be remembered on Veterans Day but the day is set aside to thank and honor living veterans who served honorably in the military – in wartime or peacetime. Again, thanks, vets for your service.

Today our nation pays tribute to those living veterans who have worn the uniform of the United States of America. Each of these men and women took an oath to defend America, and they upheld that oath with honor and decency. Through the generations, they have humbled dictators and liberated continents and set a standard of courage and idealism for the entire world.

America’s veterans have placed the nation’s security before their own lives, as well as the comfort of their families. Their sacrifice creates a debt that America can never fully repay.

Again, a new generation of Americans is defending our flag and our freedom in the first war of the 21st century. The war came to our shores on September the 11th, 2001. That morning we saw the destruction that terrorists intend for our nation. We know that they want to strike again, and our nation has made a clear choice. We will confront this mortal danger to all humanity.

We will not tire or rest until the war on terror is won.

In the few short years since September the 11th, the evil that reached our shores has reappeared on other days in other places.  In the past years, we have seen  terror offensives.  All these separate images of destruction and suffering that we see on the news can seem like random, isolated acts of madness. Innocent men and women and children have died simply because they boarded the wrong train or worked in the wrong building or checked into the wrong hotel. Yet, while the killers choose their victims indiscriminately, their attacks serve a clear and focused ideology, a set of beliefs and goals that are evil but not insane. Some call this evil “Islamic radicalism,” others “militant jihadism” and still others “Islamofacism.” This form of radicalism exploits Islam to serve a violent, political vision — the establishment by terrorism, subversion and insurgency of a totalitarian empire that denies all political and religious freedom. These extremists distort the idea of jihad into a call for terrorist murder against Christians and Hindus and Jews and against Muslims themselves who do not share their radical vision.

Many militants are part of a global, borderless terrorist organization like al Qaeda, which spreads propaganda and provides financing and technical assistance to local extremists, and conducts dramatic and brutal operations, like the attacks of September the 11th. Other militants are found in regional groups often associated with al Qaeda — paramilitary insurgencies and separatist movements in places like Somalia, the Philippines, Pakistan, Chechnya, Kashmir and Algeria.

Still others spring up in local cells, inspired by Islamic radicalism, but not centrally directed.

Islamic radicalism is more like a loose network with many branches than an army under a single command. Yet these operatives fighting on scattered battlefields share a similar ideology and vision for our world. We know the vision of the radicals because they have openly stated it in videos, in audiotapes, in letters, in declarations and on websites.

These extremists want to end American and Western influence in the broader Middle East, because we stand for democracy and peace, and stand in the way of their ambitions.

Over the past few decades, radicals have specifically targeted Egypt and Saudi Arabia and Pakistan and Jordan for potential takeover. They achieved their goal for a time in Afghanistan, and now they’ve set their sights on Iraq.

With the greater economic and military and political power they seek, the terrorists would be able to advance their stated agenda – to develop weapons of mass destruction, to destroy Israel, to intimidate Europe, to assault the American people and to blackmail our government into isolation.

Some Americans might be tempted to dismiss these goals as fanatical or extreme. They are fanatical and extreme, but they should not be dismissed. Our enemy is utterly committed to their goals, as Zarqawi has vowed: We will either achieve victory over the human race or we will pass to the eternal life. And a civilized world knows very well that other fanatics in history — from Hitler to Stalin to Pol Pot – consumed whole nations in war and genocide before leaving the stage of history.

Evil men obsessed with ambition and unburdened by conscience must be taken very seriously, and we must stop them before their crimes can multiply.

Like the ideology of communism, our new enemy is dismissive of free peoples, claiming that men and women who live in liberty are weak and decadent. Leaders of terrorist movements have noted that Americans are the most cowardly of God’s creatures.   But let us be clear, it is cowardice that seeks to kill children and the elderly with car bombs, and cuts the throat of a bound captive, and targets worshipers leaving a mosque. It is courage that liberated more than 50 million people from tyranny. It is courage that keeps an untiring vigil against the enemies of rising democracies. And it is courage in the cause of freedom that will once again destroy the enemies of freedom!
The terrorists’ goal is to overthrow a rising democracy, claim a strategic country as a haven for terror, destabilize the Middle East and strike America and other free nations with increasing violence.

Our goal is to defeat the terrorists and their allies at the heart of their power, so we will defeat the enemy in Iraq.

The work ahead involves great risk for for our American forces. We’ve lost some of our nation’s finest men and women in this war on terror. And, it involves patience for the American public.

The terrorists are as brutal an enemy as we’ve ever faced, unconstrained by any notion of our common humanity or by the rules of warfare. No one should underestimate the difficulties ahead, nor should they overlook the advantages we bring to this fight. Some observers look at the job ahead and adopt a self-defeating pessimism. It is not justified.
With every random bombing, with every funeral of a child, it becomes more clear that the extremists are not patriots or resistance fighters; they’re murderers at war with the Iraqi people themselves.

And our debate at home must also be fair-minded. One of the hallmarks of a free society and what makes our country strong is that our political leaders can discuss their differences openly, even in times of war.

We don’t know the course of our own struggle will take or the sacrifices that might lie ahead. We do know, however, that the defense of freedom is worth our sacrifice.

We do know the love of freedom is the mightiest force of history, and we do know the cause of freedom will once again prevail.

I encourage you all to make an effort to educate our young people of the sacrifices that all veterans have made in service to their country and remind them that the freedom they enjoy in this great country, the United States of America, that freedom is not free!

I am reminded of a story I heard while serving as a Navy chaplain.  A man with bird in his hand said to a wise man; “Is this bird dead or alive?”
Well, the wise man knew that if answered that the bird was dead, that the man could let it go proving that the bird was alive. If he answered, “alive,” the man could crush it to death, proving that the bird was dead. Finally, the wise man said, “The answer is in your hand.” The bird is a symbol of your life and the spirit of humanity. You can kill it or keep it alive.

As we show our flag and our pride today, we remember that the men and women of America’s Armed Forces serve a great cause. They follow in a great tradition, handed down to them by America’s veterans. And in public ceremonies and in private prayer, we give thanks for the freedom we enjoy because of their willingness to serve.

Well over two centuries have passed since George Washington first took command of the Continental Army. Yet we can see in today’s military the same virtues that won this nation our independence, and which have safeguarded our country despite all the challenges of history. The men and women who wear the uniform in the year 2012 follow in a long, honorable, and unbroken tradition of service passed down to them by our veterans. To every veteran, this nation owes a debt we cannot possibly discharge but we will always acknowledge. And so on this day of reflection and appreciation, I offer our esteem and gratitude to all the veterans of the United States Armed Forces.

To all our veterans we have a simple yet heartfelt message – thank you – all of you, for your service. We want you to know that your example serves to inspire others who follow in your footsteps. Thank you for your selfless-service in peacetime and war, here in this nation and throughout the world. For all veterans, regardless of their service and the era in which they have served, have paid a price for the freedom we enjoy.

Let us thank them not only today — Veterans Day — but every day. Remember our veterans and the price they paid physically and emotionally to keep this nation safe. Remember our troops – America’s future veterans – America’s sons and daughters, who have selflessly made the decision to defend your right to make the decision to come here today – and for your decision to be here today to honor our veterans, I thank you and applaud you for your decision. You set the example for all Americans, and should be justly proud.

Additionally, remember that veterans’ families also have paid a price for freedom. We may never be able to adequately thank our veterans, our Soldiers, and their families, but we must always support them.

The freedom of the press, the freedom of religion and the right to vote. These are freedoms that are granted to us by the Constitution of the United States. And they are freedoms that are protected every day by the men and women who courageously serve in our armed forces.

I thank you for honoring those who serve today, and for honoring those who have set such a sterling example – our nation’s veterans. May God bless our veterans, may God bless all who wear the uniform, and may God continue to bless the United States of America.
Veterans, we salute you.


A Tribute to the Military

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I want to take the opportunity to express my appreciation to the United States military armed forces, to give honor to the men and women who serve our country, defending and protecting our American heritage and way of life.

In the history of our country, service in the military has been institutionalized from the beginning, from the very first militias, down to the present day Department of Defense. In the earliest years, the armed men were organized for the protection of civil rights and property in time of need. It can be said that service in the military was a cornerstone in the structure of democracy. It was, by no means, a power base for the pursuit of imperialism, and that remains so today.

In our fledgling country, it was the privilege, right, and, dare I say, an obligation for citizens to seek, not what they may get from the state, but rather what they can give to it by their service. These men were truly citizen-soldiers. Democracy could hope only to survive if the citizens met this obligation freely and wholeheartedly. With the completion and opening of the World War II memorial in our nation’s capitol, we are reminded of the sacrifice of the many soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, merchant sailors and others, who participated in the greatest example in history for the cause of liberty and the democratic way of life. Thousands upon thousands of men and women freely answered our nations call to protect our way of life and extend it to other nations, especially those in Europe who were already under the domination of Nazism – socialism to the highest and cruelest degree. It is astonishing to know how many of these young men were under age and had to lie about their age to serve, and many served honorably and bravely. I would hope that somehow, the present youth of our nation could be enlightened to the necessity of, once again, gaining a spirit of realization that freedom, indeed, is never free, and that it takes sacrifice and the willingness, in every generation, to pay the price for something as noble and meaningful as political and economic freedom.

Jesus’ pronouncement, that there will always be wars and rumors of wars, speaks to the evil intentions in the heart of evil men who would rule over other the populace in a malevolent manner. Taking for granted our freedom, without paying a price, will open up opportunities for future evil ones to once again seek to enslave by autocratic rule. Sadly, even many of our political leaders – congressmen and senators – have not seen the necessity, themselves, of serving in the armed forces so that they bring no record of service other than their own political ambitions. This fact provides no example of the need to uphold the traditions of our forefathers who served proudly.

It was Jefferson who said, “It proves more forcibly the necessity of obliging every citizen to be a soldier.”* Furthermore, he stated, “I think the truth must now be obvious that our people are too happy at home to enter into regular service, and that we cannot be defended but by making every citizen a soldier; . . . and that in doing this all must be marshaled, . . . ”**

No doubt, you have heard the phrase, “freedom isn’t free.” In the 1960’s, the Up With People group had a song which proclaimed, in part, “Freedom Isn’t free. You’ve got to pay a price, you’ve got to sacrifice, for your liberty.” The achievement of freedom is accompanied by responsibility and constant alertness. The battle for freedom is never one that is fought and won, and then forgotten. In reality, once freedom is won, or re-won, the struggle has just begun. Cries for freedom continue to be heard throughout the world.

The break up of the USSR brought about new nations which shook off the shackles of their enslaved past and now live in liberty, albeit knowing the pangs of establishing this new found freedom in their governments and in the populace-at-large. These nations, once under the heels of a repressive system, are exerting themselves in new directions of economic and cultural enterprises. One of the liveliest issues on the world stage once again, is freedom and how to take freedom to places where it has never really been. Of course, we see that in countries that have never really known democracy as we know it – in the current struggle in the Middle East and other countries. The struggle goes on.

And so, the acknowledgment I want to make is this: I pay tribute to those who have fought down through the years for freedom, liberty, a democratic way of life – our veterans and those now serving, many who have paid the ultimate price. Thank you.


*Thomas Jefferson to James Monroe, 1813

**Thomas Jefferson to John Wayles Eppes, 1814

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