Because of an excess of spambot activity, I have blocked new registrations. I hate taking such drastic measures, but I don't have time to clean up all the false registrations that result from whatever attack list I landed on. I will likely revise this in the future once I've upgraded some of my code, but until then, please email me if you would like a user account. Most days, you'll get a login within a few daylight hours. Please let me know:
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The WatchCat spent a year in Russia and the Middle East in preparation for a government career. Unfortunately she got in a little too deep, and health problems sabotaged her career before it began. The future? Now there's an open question. She gets her paws in the action whenever possible, with or without a paycheck. WatchCat keeps busy supporting the troops, recruiting pararescue candidates, yelling at traitors and helping people navigate the grey areas on international everything.
A close family member is active duty US military, but due to OPSEC (and the general need for family peace), WatchCat is unable to write about that person's activities. She makes the most of the opportunities that God gives her, knowing that she should be dead by now.
And yes, she is married & is going to stay married. Smacks upside the head are delivered as needed to those who don't understand this.
A discussion of the reactions to Kayla Mueller's death by the Jerusalem Post recently gave me a bad few hours. Amidst the feel-good commentary we all know, there were also statements amounting to "she got what she deserved" because of her Palestinian sympathies, "cultural marxism" and past activities with a nonviolent group that "interfered with Israeli soldiers." Let's break that down. The blogger in question cites 1) Beliefs 2) Feelings of guilt over blessings, and 3) participation in noviolent protests.
The devaluation of human life due to an individual's beliefs Must. Stop. Now.
The story and the criticisms of Kyla Mueller hit hard, because it so easily could have been me years ago. I saw injustice in the Middle East and I considered working for a similar organization. I said and wrote things which I regret. My peers did the same, and some did go on to do the same kind of things Kayla Mueller did. Their intentions were and are good. Yet the push for cultural understanding often overrode critical thinking. How does one prepare for hearing a mother scream that it's American money that paid for the bombs that leveled her home and left her children as refugees? Where is the balance between compassion and critical thinking when blood spills? It took me years to unpack the realization that guest speakers had lied to us.
I remember hearing that one of our government agencies didn't like it when people learned the language in country, because it often created sympathies for the host country. I thought it was moronic at the time, but now I'm not so sure. My experience with international programs says that counter-American opinions are always rewarded, while opinions which are in line with American politics are punished as narrow and unenlightened. It reminds me of Stockholm Syndrome; one assimilates to avoid a psychological crisis. But foreign affairs ARE a psychological crisis of hard choices for the welfare of a specific group. It is to our shame that we produce so few people who can wisely operate at that level.
Kayla Mueller will remain controversial, as any person who dies for a cause is controversial. I don't ask you to like her. I don't even know if I would have liked her. I don't think I like the person I was in the Middle East years ago. But she could have been your sister or neighbor or classmate. She was a victim of terrorism and of human frailty.
We preserve our humanity with our recognition of others', regardless of their fate.
Last night was a short night, with long conversations about the future that lingered long past the final goodnight.
Today I woke up to the news of the shooting rampage in Paris.
I'm not eighteen or twenty five or even thirty any more. I'm a wife and mom with a smattering of health issues and I can't just hop on a plane to apply at INTERPOL or any of the other "usual suspects" that come to mind when there's an insidious enemy to fight.
Many of you who have been on this blogging journey with me through the years are facing similar changes. Both abilities and priorities shift, but these terror attacks bring a sting of the old callings.
Now, we build. Our fight is not in destroying what is evil, but in strengthening what is good. Our mission is promoting health and creating beauty and raising the next generation of builders. We are made in the image of God and as such, we are meant to create new things.
We will build faster and stronger than our enemies can destroy.
I've written before about spending Christmas in foreign lands, about the meaning of Christmas, and of course remembering those who can't be home for Christmas.
Today, though, has the ache of death nearby. I'm grieving my own losses, and wishing I knew a way to send flowers to a particular Gold Star mom. Moreover, my last remaining grandparent is in the hospital, and while treatment is progressing well, the concept of "borrowed time" is quite apparent.
So this ain't Pinterest.
This is more like the cold, painful, frightening journey to Bethlehem.
Christmas is faith that God shows up.
Christmas means that death may surround us but it doesn't defeat us.
And the only truly empty hands are the ones that are clenched too tight to allow anything or anyone in.
Christmas says that everyone on the naughty list gets the most extraordinary gift known: God with us.
We buried my grandmother at the same national cemetery years ago, but that was different. I was running late that day, so I barely spoke to the staffers, and since she was "just" a spouse there of course were no military honors. But yesterday is forever etched in my memory, not only for our own loss, but because of walking the same path as the Gold Star families.
The VA administration is profoundly screwed up, but the people working at the national cemetery were wonderful. When we arrived we discovered that multiple issues had been mishandled by the funeral home. On a half hour's notice, they got 3 National Guardsmen and 6 VFW Marines to perform full military honors, including a bugler and rifle volley. Words cannot convey the depths of my gratitude that we could give my grandfather his proper sendoff.
Yet it was also a stark reminder of the road other families must walk. We knew my grandfather's death was coming. But how does someone stumble through it all when the death is a shock? How do you keep the scream from bursting out of your chest when the last salute is fired?
I've been to a lot of funerals. The worst ones are the structureless ones, where the people present are left to the sum of their emotions. Grief needs structure. It needs familiar words and days off work and black clothes to tell the world to back off. My family hasn't been able to take time away from other responsibilities, and that has taken a terrible toll over the last two weeks. But at the cemetery they reminded us to silence our phones, effectively shutting out the rest of the world for a time. It was a time for honor, a time for grief. We shut out the world but connected with the unique brotherhood of all who grieve there.
The gift of the national cemeteries is the reminder that we are part of something bigger than ourselves and our immediate families. Every time I visit, I enter in grief but leave in gratitude.
There are times when I understand why certain governments control their media. I would love to squelch ours right now. I would love it if no news story included information on race. It's not that I don't think that racism is a problem still. I don't often see it in front of me, but I'm a white gal in a liberal northern state. Yet what I hear from my "non-white" friends tells me that there's more work to be done.
But trial-by-media does nothing but fan the flames of hatred on all sides.
What I've read of the grand jury transcripts is a far cry from the street narrative. Here we see two critical issues: 1) The media's disregard for truth in their pursuit of sensation, and 2) people's belief in the media above the judicial system.
It's hard to do anything about either issue when whites and blacks still harbor suspicion about each other.
I have a friend, a middle-aged black writer, who has done a great job of sharing her experiences without lapsing into hatred. I've written before about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the issues that arise when an entire community has been scarred by mistreatment, and I believe that there are parallels. Yes, "reverse racism" is a problem. My friend admits it. But affirmative action won't fix this. More legislation won't fix this. It is a social problem and it needs a social solution.
It needs invitations to coffee.
It needs doors held open.
It needs less edginess and more laughter in the checkout line.
There are different cultures and different struggles, and deep resentments on both sides. Much will not be understood without active engagement. We've lost the ability to draw out the opposing side; we're so busy proclaiming that we're right that we don't bother to find out why someone thinks we're wrong. There's no harm in asking, "Why don't you trust the police? Why don't you trust the judicial system?" The answers might surprise you. I have a personal reason to distrust the judicial system, but I don't let it end there because I recognize it is the best of the options. We need to encourage each other to work for solutions rather than just complain about other people's behavior.
Blame begets hatred. Compassion paired with clear thinking stops the cycle.
Here's the thing: I posted "Pray for Ferguson" on my Facebook wall and did not get a single "like." I have both liberal and conservative friends on FB. What is wrong with us if we cannot even agree to pray for a place that is getting sucked into hatred and violence?
You might start by looking someone of the other "color" in the eye and saying hello.
We'd been expecting it for a long time, and it's pretty amazing that he held on as long as he did. Knowing his service record in the USMC, though, it wasn't a surprise that he held on for a few extra years.
It makes the "if onlys" a bit harder. We weren't close, but it still feels like the rug got pulled out from under me. He was part of my foundation, a key piece of who I am, and that piece is part grit and part too-hard shell. I broke through that shell with him once, and he told me about the blood sloshing around on the floor of the hospital ship.I hope that in that moment, he knew that he was heard. I could love and accept and be proud of the warrior he had once been. But he kept those memories locked down most of the time, maybe to protect us, maybe because he just couldn't bear to relive them.
A good friend of mine recently made an offhand comment about me not being a very affectionate person. It wasn't a criticism; she was just making an observation while discussing an issue. It surprised and stung me a bit, because I don't think of myself that way. But I realized that my deepest feelings do get buried. Thus I'm more like my grandfather than I realized.
Did my grandfather love me? The more I think about it, the more I believe that he did. But we primarily knew each other's walls, not the things inside. I wish we had given each other more of a chance to be real; I think it would have turned out well.
If you love someone, no matter how imperfectly, don't let them doubt it. Hug them a few seconds longer, send a two line email just because, give them grace when they screw up. Someday one or both of you will have to say goodbye.
One of my closest friends is a newly-minted sergeant. She's no glory hound; in fact, I remember her commenting about her trip home from Afghanistan and how problematic it was when people wanted to talk about her service all the time when she just wanted to get a nap before coming home. So it surprised me yesterday when she remarked about going into a particular store while in uniform, and no one there made the slightest acknowledgment of her service. I know the store in question. It's a hotbed of liberalism, so I wasn't really surprised. Just...sad. She's an amazing woman who has truly found her niche. But liberals probably see her skin color and the uniform and pity her at best. I almost wish someone had actually said what they were thinking; they might have learned their lesson.
Long ago, I thought only the old guys were the veterans. But then after Desert Storm, it was the dads, the uncles, the older cousins. Then it was the brothers, the classmates, the husbands... Now, fellow moms are veterans, and the older kids are enlisting.
I cannot imagine how not knowing any veterans would feel. No wonder liberals want to legislate the heck out of everything; their world must feel totally insecure. To know a veteran is to know sacrifice and honor and backbone. We understand it to varying degrees, but the collective character of veterans is a gift to our country that extends far beyond time in service.
So, to my family, friends, and those veterans I don't know by name: Thank you. You protect our freedoms, you keep our enemies at bay, and your character makes this a better country. We are truly blessed to have you.
"Even to the death fight for truth, and the Lord your God will battle for you." -Sirach 4:28
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Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!" -Isaiah 6:8
As many of you are aware, the PJCountry blog disappeared in November 2008.
I'm doing my best to help the pararescue community by sharing PJ-related news and events on my blog. The following information may be helpful:
You will find answers to many questions at pararescue.com and specialtactics.com
If you're ready to become a PJ, you'll need to decide between Active Duty and Reserve. This will determine who will handle your official recruitment. Visit Contacts and POCs to find the appropriate person or email me.
304th Pararescue Team (Reserve) (Oregon)
If you're on the west coast near Oregon and are considering being a PJ/CRO on the Portland Pararescue Team (commitment of 4 years beyond training), contact TSgt Stanley Iakopo at stanley.iakopo AT us.af.mil or email me.
I have no official role with pararescue or other SpecOps but I know enough to get you connected to the right people. Email to CAT at THEWATCHCAT dot NET
Jubilate Agno, Fragment B
[For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry]
by Christopher Smart
For he is the servant of the Living God, duly and daily serving him.
For at the first glance of the glory of God in the East he worships in
For is this done by wreathing his body seven times round with elegant
For he keeps the Lord's watch in the night against the adversary.
For he is of the tribe of Tiger.
For he purrs in thankfulness when God tells him he's a good Cat.
For he is an instrument for the children to learn benevolence upon.
For every house is incomplete without him, and a blessing is lacking in
For he is the cleanest in the use of his forepaws of any quadruped.
For he is the quickest to his mark of any creature.
For there is nothing sweeter than his peace when at rest.
For there is nothing brisker than his life when in motion.
For by stroking of him I have found out electricity.