The interview panel is ready...
Now, the first question...
What has been your favorite moment as a Dad?
Any time one of my children take on some new challenge, they try hard, they do well and enjoy it, and they are beaming with pride (as am I). Spud with her acting, she's really very good, Little Manly with his war games (Axis and Allies, believe it or not) or playing baseball (leftie pitcher and first baseman), Jilly Beans when she went on her first job interview after college and aced it to get hired.
That's if I don't count them being born and being present for each one. They were and are gifts from God, unique. Being their Dad is an awesome responsibility (in all senses of "awesome").
What do soldiers think of the mainstream media's portrayal of the situation in Iraq?
Most of us decided long ago that most of what's found in MSM is hopelessly slanted, politically driven, and completely out of touch with reality on the ground. Embedded reporters, especially those working during the active ground combat phase of the war, produced some great stuff. You could get a good idea of what it was like to be a soldier, how incredibly fast everything happened, how stunning and complete our military victories.
Since then? The "professionals" took the story over, editors editorialized, potential content was filtered against the storyline. There is no inevitability of the resurgence of the "Iraq is Vietnam" storyline, other than that a predisposed and politically inclined media was unlikely to see anything past their own stereotypes. Same problem with fledging emergence of Iraqi democracy, "No story here, now move along."
Some soldiers were against the war, but they know first hand it isn't a quagmire, and we face no significant opposition. A determined bunch of terrorists - just like determined Mafia, or LA gang members, or criminals or butchers anywhere - can keep this low level of violence up indefinitely, with funding and media assistance.
What is your best memory about Iraq? Your worst? (if you're willing to share it).
My best memories are all related to seeing Soldiers off at the LZ. We ran a program to send our Soldiers to Qatar for a 4 day pass, and a Rest & Recuperation (R&R) program that allowed 95% of our Soldiers to go home for 2 weeks (or to alternate destinations, like Thailand or Germany).
I made almost every one of those SPs (I think it stands for "start patrol" or "start point" but it means leaving). There was no better sight for a First Sergeant than seeing our Soldiers off on a well-deserved break from 12-14 hours a day, 7 days a week duty in a place like Iraq. I don't want to make it sound corny or goofy, but it felt like an act of love, of service. I prayed for them and that they would be safe and enjoy their time away. I loved the ride myself, which was a bit more fun than running a convoy over to Forward Operating Base (FOB) Speicher, where we would catch the military fixed wing that would take us to Qatar (pass) or Kuwait (gateway to US or elsewhere).
I completed about a dozen or so of the convoys - we had guys that did 50 or more as gunners or truck commanders (TC) or passengers (PAX). I remember those vividly, especially the run back and forth from FOB Summerall, which was longer at above an hour one way, but I wouldn't call them a "best" memory, just vivid. You take things like the pre-convoy brief very serious, you practice the combat and response drills, casualty evacuation (CASEVAC), vehicle disabled, response to improvised explosive device (IED). You are never more alive as you sit in the seat, loaded down, locked and loaded, weapons ready, scanning every piece of trash, every person, every vehicle for potential threats. Then, getting where you're going, pealing off the layers, soaked in sweat, standing there alongside the clearing barrels or later over at the post exchange (PX, or military store), just breathing deep with "we made it" satisfaction.
Worst moment? Realizing that what we thought were the only fatalities on our FOB within our Division HQ and subordinates, were likely due to an act of homicide. Knowing that some in the press would talk about "friendly fire" as if it was Vietnam redux. I can't say more, there's a trial pending, military justice is working its (necessarily slow) process. (John at Blogotional posted the latest news I've seen.)
Now, a couple of questions from a student in Finland...
I am one of the students in Finland trying to interview people having a blog.
So, would you please mind to answer my question about danish cartoons?
No problem, I want to talk about them.
First, what do you think about journalism publishing things like that?
From a strictly news reporting standpoint, that's their job and I wish they'd do it more often with a bit of courage. Contrary to the widespread reactions of rest of the Western press, the Danish publishers undertook to report that laws restricting free speech or controlling "hate speech" or "offensive speech" are only ever applied against a precise selection of speech. The Danish paper, knowing the risks they were taking, tried to communicate to their readers that hate speech statutes, knowingly manipulated by Islamic extremists, were eliminating free speech in Europe.
What were the risks? As demonstrated convincingly by the Fatwas issued against Salmon Rushdie, the banning of a movie on the Prophet Mohammed several years ago, there is a real risk that Muslim Clerics will call for the faithful to kill you, and there would be a multitude of fanatics who would seek to do as they ask.
Over what, exactly? If you don't publish the cartoons, if you don't see them yourself, then as a citizen of a democratic society, you have no idea whether what was published is or should be "criminally" offensive or not.
Worse, you tolerate ever increasing and ever more brutal offensive speech against Jews in Europe, against Americans, against political figures, but in contrast you prosecute in Europe those who would report on the extreme violence and threats of violence by radical proponents of Islam.
I would wish that all press everywhere was free, offensive sometimes or not. That is the experience we have lived through in America. It can often be offensive, or crass, or pretty uncivilized if you ask me, but it does not lead to violence. It ensures that the people's right to free expression, the freedom of the most immediate and day-to-day sort is protected. Those who strive to limit such speech may have good intentions today - but many don't - but those who may wield those laws tomorrow may be the World's next Hitler or Stalin.
By the way, those cartoons are about as innocuous as any I could imagine. And a fraction as offensive as the average Middle Eastern rendering of Jews or Americans. Anyone who would riot and kill over such things is undeserving of the great legacies of Civilization, not of the Western traditions, neither of Arab cultures, nor of the Muslim faith.
And do you think if it looks like a scandinavian way to think about muslims, not just danish?
All of Europe is under grave threat from radical Islam and those opportunists who seek to wear down the will of Western civilization and European governments in particular. It is not George W. Bush's war that is causing you distress, and it's all his fault. No more so than Churchill was at fault for leading Britain in the fight against Fascism and Hitler.
It looks like Scandinavia will be persecuted along with anyone else that does not succumb and surrender in the advance of the greater Caliphate.
What is the greatest life/spiritual lesson you learned or were reminded of while you were in Iraq?
God is with you wherever you are. He's with you on the mountain top, but He's also with you when you feel totally forsaken in the shadow of the valley of death. I brought all of me (except the biggest parts of my heart) to Iraq. My problems, my shortcomings, the things I struggle with. But God was there when I was ready to reach out. I also brought all of the gifts that God had blessed me with, many of which I had not been aware.
I worked through sharing thoughts on Proverbs, some of Romans, and then several extended studies on various topics, one of which turned into a three part set of sermons, the first I've ever written. I was able to share on my blog Gladmanly, and with family and friends back home. It turned out that God used those writings, and allowed me to be used by Him to reach a lot of people, beyond my power or any previous understanding (at least that I was aware of).
Who is your favorite writer?
Blogger, James Lileks. Best writer on the web.
History and Foreign Policy? Victor Davis Hanson. Those who don't remember History are doomed to repeat it. Those who remember History through the lens of ignorance, prejudice and political opportunism might as well memorize the Los Angeles White Pages instead. VDH should be on required reading lists, instead of the list of authors to be censored at major colleges and universities.
Fiction? I love the Lord of the Rings, for its depth. I read everything Melville wrote, same with Steinbeck, Twain, and Dickens. Most of Faulkner and Hemingway. Hundreds if not a few thousand plays. I greatly admired Checkov, Ibsen, Shaw, Miller, and O'Neil. I very much enjoyed Harold Pinter's earlier works for his elevation of everyday life and dialog to high farce.
Under Milkwood by Dylan Thomas is some of the most beautiful and lyrical writing in English, even better when performed on stage.
I have a Theater Degree (can't you tell?), and love great literature, so predictably I love Shakespeare, for the richness of his language. Reading his plays is like luxuriating in some idyllic pool of images and emotion. (My Christian friends may appreciate that for the same reason, I prefer the New Kings James translation of the Bible.)
What are you most proud of about your time in Iraq?
Getting all of our soldiers properly trained, deployed to Kuwait, and then to Tikrit, Iraq via a 550 mile convoy. We made it through 10 months in Tikrit, completed over 100 convoys, had ten soldiers participating in real combat patrols and security missions at a remote site, and never sustained a combat injury. We had a few soldiers evacuated due to illnesses, but otherwise, we brought every one of us home again, safe and sound.
What's your favorite passage of scripture?
I think Isaiah 40:31:
31 But those who wait on the LORDMany people pointed me to this scripture during my mobilization. It speaks of that capacity of faith, of how those who seek God can access this inner strength that gives them endurance. My wife and I were involved in 12 Step groups becoming born-again (and with Christian 12 step groups since), and we were always told, "God never gives you more than He gives you strength to endure." My mobilization and time away from my family while deployed, has deeply reinforced the truth of that for us.
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.
When I think about this question, I invariably think of Jeremiah 29:11, although I am more familiar with it in a translation that has "plans" in place of "thoughts:"
11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.On reflection, I realize this is Mrs. Dadmanly's favorite verse, and it's all over my in-laws house in one form or another. So I think of it often, but it's
Who's the greatest character in all of literature?
How about Oliver Twist? He endures tremendous hardship, overcomes adversity, and proves his worth at the end. He not only doesn't surrender to evil, but triumphs with honor and humility. All from a young foundling.
Is there anything you wish you personally could have done better or differently?
I wish I had written more letters (the old fashioned way), and used some of my time and opportunities more wisely. Out of respect for the sensitivities of having a First Sergeant showing any signs of "proselytizing" his subordinates, I was very reluctant to talk about faith with my fellow soldiers. In hindsight, there were opportunities for fellowship with other believers, working more with the Chaplain, and I regret not having acting on ideas to start a Bible Study, as long as we could ensure we didn't cross that line of an "official" endorsement of specific religious practice. I worked some with the Chaplain, and I certainly worked with individual soldiers with their problems, but I feel I could have done more.
What is your favorite dessert?
Ice cream, preferably hard. Although I can be quite devoted to Boston Cream Pie ("Believe!") and German Chocolate Cake when I am not trying to lose weight. (Okay so that applies to the ice cream too, but you got me thinking about it.)
Who is the greatest U.S. President prior to your generation?
Abraham Lincoln. His Gettysburg Address is immortal, his second inaugural should be used for motivational seminars for anyone fighting the Global War on Terror. He grappled with the most difficult issues of Democracy and representative government, and at the same time fought against one of Civilization's great evils. He was subjected to scorn and criticism at every turn, and managed to retain a dignity and humility that is quite beyond the reach of any modern politician. That, and he was a deep thinker, and had a great sense of (usually self-deprecating) humor.
What is the most important thing Americans need to know about Iraq and its people?
They were, are, and will be worth the sacrifice. They deserve the opportunity for freedom from brutality and oppression no less than any citizen of the world. They have shown remarkable courage in the face of grave dangers, and they have risen to all the challenges they've faced, from surviving one of the world's most brutal and corrupt regimes, to ignoring a largely ambivalent world audience, to forming the a new Democracy in the heart of the Middle East when few gave them any hope of doing so.
They will be great allies in the Middle East, against the many enemies we still have there, who's days are numbered in less quantity, thanks to the Iraqi People.
Star Wars? Or Star Trek?
Star Trek, but really more The Next Generation. Bill Shatner always made me cringe. I can't follow the sequencing for Star Wars, they lost me. My son Little Manly understands how it works, and he's tried to explain, but I'm hopeless.
Thanks loads for agreeing to the interview. We're delighted you were able to take the time to answer the questions. I really appreciate it.
Tomorrow, it's Fuzzybear Lioness from Fuzzilicious Thinking.