KIR: Writing and Depression

Note: This article was written July 31, 2014. It partly explains my then month-long absence from writing to this blog. It’s now been three months and some days since. In addition to what you read here, I want readers to know that I simply got interested and busy with doing other things – including directing some much-needed attention towards developing my seven-month old not-safe-for-work (NSFW) Tumblr blog featuring male erotica. This article is the first posted on Keepin’ It Real since June 26th, 2014.  With its publishing I suppose it’s safe to assume that…I’m back.
Now on to what I was feeling three months ago.

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I looked at my blog drafts folder a few minutes ago. I found that there were more than 200 drafts of unfinished documents I created this year alone; all work where I’d start writing about certain things but for some reason at the last-minute, simply lost interest in finishing – or if an article was finished, I decided not to publish on my blogs.While I have told myself that I’m writing mainly for my benefit, a huge part of that simply is not true. I do indeed write blog articles, Facebook and Twitter post to inform and educate others who may not know RobFather-Xcertain things and/or to bring awareness to or about certain things. Still, it does not hide the feeling I so often get that few to almost no one really cares to read whatever it was or is I have to say; to say nothing of the fact that a number of those unfinished and unpublished documents were what some would call (and often complained) as being “too long” or “too lengthy” to read. My two-part blog article, “The Freedom of Nudity” for example, took months for me to decide to publish after I’d written and edited it. Today, according to my blog service, that article – written in mid-year 2012 but published in March 2013, is one of many of my blog articles that continues to receive a lot of hits at this blog.

Sometimes I’m encouraged to write and publish to the world. Other times I’d write a nice piece about something then just say to myself, “Fuck it”. Who the fuck is gonna read all of this – let alone bother to appreciate it?” It’s often that attitude for why I don’t blog as often as a blogger “should” or is “expected” to blog. It’s also why sometimes I post “lengthy” things on my Facebook page, although I fully realize that many people on Facebook do not like reading anything which has more than three to four sentences. I call those people “lazy and discriminatory readers”. For example, on Facebook I’ve found that if certain things related to something sexual does not stand out or if I don’t post a picture to help attract the attention of a particular audience then some people will see my article or post but won’t bother to read it, read all of it or at the very least, give it a “like”. A “like” can say or mean that they at least agree right make the post, if not with my courage and willingness to express whatever is on my mind, even if they disagree with point of view. Whether I have a Facebook or blog published article, often the evidence of people not reading my work is determined by the type of follow-up questions someone asks or comments they give about topic I wrote about. Sofa-thinking-2 (rz)One can always tell if a person was paying attention to what they were reading or listening to by the response they give to certain things. As such, I can’t be easily fooled when someone tells me they’ve read my work then that same person asks me some silly question about that which was clearly discussed in the article. I also don’t appreciate when someone makes some disparaging remark about the subject matter of my article, as if perhaps expecting me to either recant my opinions or change my point of view to suit their own. Those things irritate me and it’s why I’m happy to have full control over whether to allow comments to be published on anything I write on my blogs.Much of what I write ends up becoming an exercise in writing. I’m often afraid that expressing myself in written form can be a waste of time and effort. Writing is therapeutic for my depression issues and helps offset those bad feelings when I sense a depression bout might be coming. To everyone who has read this far, thanks for reading. I’m good…at least for now. I’ll review what I have saved in that folder. I’ve got a shitload of started and unfinished/unpublished work in a folder from years 2013 and 2012 too but I’ll look at those later.

Depression Mood -
Right now [July 31] I am in one of my depression moods. Succinctly put, depression is a non-discriminatory mental illness disability. It comes in many forms and affects a number of people in various ways for various reasons. People should never assume that someone is imagining things when they say they are depressed. That person just might be! You also should never tell someone who admits to being depressed or whom you know is a sufferer of depression and going through a bout, that “things will get better” or “it” will get better”. BM Thinking-1No matter how good your intentions, you would sound ignorant and appear to be less helpful and insensitive to that person’s situation. For some depression sufferers, a little alone time and/or quiet is very helpful; I know that sort of thing often works for me. Patience, understanding and offers of support to do certain things are also helpful to some depression sufferers, as are conversations sprinkled with humor that bring about laughter or some memory of a pleasant and fun moment. Remember: these are just a few suggestions that can help someone suffering from some form of depression; they are not mentioned here as workable guarantees for every person in every situation.

I happen to be one of the so-called “fortunate” persons who suffers from a certain form of  depression. As healthy and strong as I so often appear and sound, I too have weaknesses. More Black men need to talk about their mental, emotional and physical weaknesses because odd as it may seem, talking about such weakness is or can also be therapeutic; it can help make that man a mentally and emotionally stronger person. I wish women understood that. Fuck…I wish more men understood it! I have suffered with intermittent depression issues since childhood. Fuck it...not feeling it day (2)For years after first being diagnosed – up until about six years ago, I lied about it and had kept it well-hidden from nearly everyone who wasn’t my doctor: family members, my spouse at the time – before, during and after our marriage, my son and a number of others whom I considered to have a genuine care for me.Today’s [July 31] bout will pass away from me soon, because you see, there are certain things I’ve since learn to do to combat my form of depression. It keeps me from always taking medication. In fact, over the last 12 or so months, I’ve intentionally avoided taking meds for depression because sometimes, strange as it sounds to you non-depression sufferers, I want to ride this out. I don’t want to become dependent on medication. It’s hard to explain and it would take much longer than this article to break it down for you. Just trust me; I got a handle on this monster; I know what I need to do to help myself. Writing is one of the therapeutic things I do…and stated earlier, I do a lot of that! Talking to myself is another. Listening to music and doing certain humorous things that make me or others laugh has also been highly effective. I’ve told people that I’m not always a serious fuck; I maintain a healthy balance of humor and seriousness. Too bad many don’t believe me for if they did I think I’d be emotionally closer to relatives, have a lot more friends – and perhaps a few more lovers, too.

Thanks for listening.

Keepin’ It…REAL!

National HIV Testing Day (2014)

Status is everything, June27 banner (re)June 27 is National HIV Testing Day.
Ok. Now there is one very important question you should ask yourself:
“When was the last time I was tested for HIV or for any other sexually transmitted disease/infection?”

I am posting the link to an article I wrote last year (2013) on National HIV Testing Day. (Click on mentions of the word “article” to read the post.) The same information therein is the same … except for one update: I got tested for HIV last month (May) and I’m again happy to report that the results of the test were negative.

Since my retirement from the military more than a decade ago, I make it a point to get tested annually for HIV in my birthday month; that way I never forget to get tested! Readers of this blog should note that in the article there is a link they should click which upon entry of their zip code they will be shown the nearest HIV and STD testing sites in their area.

I strongly encourage each person reading this blog to GO GET TESTED if they have either never been tested or have not been tested within the past year – regardless of their frequency of sexual activity – or lack thereof, over the past twelve months or so. HIV can show its effects at different times in a person life depending on that person’s physiology. In other words, just because you did not have sex in the past year does not mean that you did not get infected at some point before that. My article briefly mentions home HIV testing kits that one can buy however for many people, money is a problem. I’m not sure if one’s medical insurance will cover the cost of HIV home testing kits. Check with your insurance provider on that. NHTD-Take the Test Take ControlThe only concern I have with a person testing at home is about that person’s psychological reaction to the results of a positive test result. There is also the possibility of a person who does not carefully follow the enclosed instructions of the home HIV test kit somehow administering the test incorrectly which could yield an inaccurate test result. Many home testing kits may be “error proof” but people tend to read and perceive certain things differently. If a person is under duress or harbors some degree of fear of what might be learned from giving him/herself such a test, that person’s reading comprehension might be affected. To alleviate all that, I strongly suggest going to a free medical clinic and getting a FREE test – as noted in my article. Most clinics are now able to give you the test results in the same day. Test results are confidential. Another reason to consider going to a clinic over taking the home HIV test is that you can ask follow-up questions and address personal concerns to a doctor or nurse. However, if you opt to buy a home HIV testing kit then please – take your time and read the enclosed test administering instructions very carefully!!

Whenever it comes to personal health I often tell people – particularly men but most especially BLACK men – since statistically many men do not like to visit the doctor, that NO QUESTION OR CONCERN IS STUPID, DUMB OR ODD. I tell them that if it pops in your head PUT ASIDE PRIDE and EMBARRASSMENT and MAKE THAT QUESTION/CONCERN KNOWN to the physician or nurse practitioner trained in that area to address those questions and concerns. People can save themselves a host of worry and assumptions about their health condition when they speak up. Furthermore, if anyone has a doubt about what they have been told by their physician they should simply ask for a second opinion. Usually when it comes to HIV and/or STD testing the result is accurate and no immediate second testing is needed. However nothing prevents a person from requesting a second test or going to another clinic to get retested. That decision is up to the individual.

Bottom line readers: You must be satisfied and understand the results of any medical test that’s been given. You should carefully listen to and consider the advice of your doctor or nurse regarding preventive measures for your continued good health or regarding future care for health that has been compromised.

Read more in my articles National HIV Testing Day and this article from 2012 which sheds some awareness about the high rate of Black men being infected by HIV. Click here for links to websites that provide more information about HIV/AIDS and other STDs and about testing of HIV/AIDS and other STDs.

One last thing: My man Octavius Williams over at Cypher wrote an excellent article you all should read called: National HIV Testing Day: Who Cares? (click the title to access) The brother was on point! Too bad both his and perhaps my message are being ignored – or will be ignored by so many people – particularly by those who are already infected with HIV who should be helping to promote this day/event AND by others who have NEVER BEEN TESTED for HIV, by those who are AFRAID TO BE TESTED or worse, by those who HAVE NO PLANS to ever get tested! It’s very sad that each year, more and more people care less about things/events like this as more and more people get infected with such a terrible disease or some other STD.

Status is Everything (2)

Now go get tested. That’s right: “Take the test, take control!”

Keepin’ It…REAL!

Black, Bisexual, Nude and Proud!

RobFather-X (201206)It’s been over a year since I’ve written anything related to the topic of personal nudity. Well, let me correct that: I did in fact write an article on nude sleeping a while back but that article was just about the pleasant and healthy beneficial aspects of sleeping naked! Not to dismiss nude sleeping but generally when I speak about living life as a nudist, I’m talking about being up and about in one’s home, yard, hotel room or better yet, outside in nature … being completely clothes-free for the most or some great part of your day. I’ll talk a little more about that as this article unfolds! Also, this September will mark a year since I affirmed (not “came out”) in this blog what many readers either already knew or had suspected: that not only am I a proud nudist and naturist but also bisexual. I’ll explain why that was important to mention later. Keep reading.

Now please note: the things you read in this articles and in the embedded links to other articles are unapologetic and shameless in nature. They are a mere fraction of who I, RobFather-X, am as a person. While I am reasonably and sensibly discreet when necessary, I have no fear or hesitation in ever holding candid discussions with open-minded people who genuinely want to learn and understand more about the man I am nor do I harbor feelings of awkwardness or shame in discussing certain aspects regarding nudism, sexuality or my sexual orientation. Before continuing on, read more about me in the recent biographical blog article titled, At 54, I’m Confident. Class. Sexy. Kool!

As a Black man in America the issues of nudism RobFather-X armpit, nipple barbell (20140313) rvand sexuality are two of many such subjects that are important to me, especially considering that there are many in my particular ethnicity that are either reluctant or ashamed to openly discuss such topics – let alone want to hear of masculine Black men such as myself expressing themselves so openly and honestly. There are many in my ethnicity that deny or do not subscribe to the belief (the fact!) that bisexuality is for example, a legitimate and very real sexual orientation. Then there are those particular people in my ethnicity who somehow believe that one cannot be Black, masculine, bisexual and an alpha male, all rolled into one spirit, person and form. Well, many of those people have met me and still won’t accept what’s in front of their eyes when I tell them the truth. Knowing how some of my people think and feel the way they do, I make every effort to be among the many Black men like me who work to break through the narrow-minded, uneducated, prejudiced, stereotypical and limited mode of thinking of not just those people in my particular ethnicity but of everyone!

If you are a regular reader of Keepin’ It…REAL! and my other articles blog, Masculine Perspectives, (click title to access) and/or follow me on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter, then you already know that in every article I’ve written and in every status post or comment I make that’s related either to nudism or sexuality or those written specifically expressing my support regarding certain LGBT issues – particularly those concerning bisexuality, you can see there is a clear indicator of my pride in having some involvement – no matter how small, in and with such things.

The Freedom of Nudity – Revisited
A revealing look into my thinking and personal experiences as a practicing proud nudist is plainly laid out in my well-read 2-part blog article from early 2013 simply titled, The Freedom of Nudity. In that article I talk candidly about my love of nudism and my preference for being a nudist. A major work covering personal experiences, the article took me about four months to write then about another two for me to give very careful consideration as to whether I wanted such intimate details about me and my nudist desires published to the world. I felt very passionate about the subject and had so much to share that rather than leave parts out, I split the nearly twelve-page article down into four parts for publishing, then down to three and finally down into the now existing two-part article. RobFather-X (20130801)-1I encourage you to read The Freedom of Nudity if you are maturely and genuinely curious in learning and understanding more about my thinking on nudism or if you simply have interests or concerns about practicing nudism yourself either during part of your day or all day long – as you feel comfortable with doing while in the privacy of your home, dorm, hotel room (if travelling) or outside in the privacy of your [privacy fenced] yard.

Being naked gives me a certain sense of psychological, sensual and sexual freedom that is often hard to describe to someone who does not normally enjoy or prefer to be nude when at home, around a lover or committed relationship partner – outside of sexual relations, or with other adult members of the same gender. Such freedom is often hard to explain to people who have puritan beliefs that the human physical form was always meant to be covered or clothed and that exposure of one’s genitals is an anathema to the very Deity – if there be any, who created them. Such freedom is difficult to explain to people who think and/or believe that the naked human body – as an object of sexuality, is suggestive and/or a cause of provocation of sexual desire from someone of the opposite or same gender whenever it is seen or known to be naked. I’m here to say that is not always necessarily the case. After you’ve read The Freedom of Nudity –Part 1 and Part 2, I invite you to click the blog article titles in the list below to learn more about the normal, healthy and fun things that one can enjoy simply by being nude:
Note: Each article written/published in 2013 unless otherwise noted)

Should you are consider becoming what I call a “hardcore nudist” – one who doesn’t have any psychological or emotional hang-ups or apprehensions about personal appearance nor care about what one’s roommates or adult fellow house guests might think or say regarding your choosing to be nude, then I urge you to always remember these words of mine:
RobFather-XTrue freedom of nudity means your nudism is always about you! Being naked is sensual and sexual but nudity is not about sex. One’s nakedness does not mean or imply that sexual activity will or ever has to occur – especially without your consent. Generally, being nude should always make one feel safe and sexy without necessarily feeling the need to give into satisfying the sexual desires of one’s self or those of a partner – unless of course, you want to.

Pride in Being Black and Bisexual
I could go into some long dissertation about bisexual pride – my pride. Rather than do that, I’d prefer keep it short and to the point. All one has to do read the following statement carefully:

When I look in the mirror I’m both happy and blessed to see a Black, masculine, strong, sexy alpha male looking back at me. That man has the masculine appearance, walk, talk, sound, pheromones and the sexual experience, sensuality and confident swagger expected of an intelligent, positive-thinking, life-experienced, masculine Black man. All of that seems to get better as I get older and wiser. Black, male, bisexual, proudThe carefully watchful eyes and listening ears of men and women I know and those I will meet can very safely assume that I am the same man with the same sexual swagger whenever I am with either gender in the bedroom! Fuck yeah!

So there you go, readers: a revisit and consolidated look at my shameless pride in being a practicing nudist and naturist and in my being a Black, masculine, bisexual man. Few realize this about bisexual people but for me, one of the huge enjoyable benefits in being bisexual is that I never have to think, act or pretend to be anyone else but myself in any given sexual or non-sexual environment or situation. Fuck, this is who I am and it all feels so natural! I feel sensuous, sexually and spiritually free; a man with options – gender-wise, guided by the natural attractions, emotions and feelings of his sexual orientation towards women or men, as the case may be. There exists no reason for me to ever feel ashamed or to hide who I am. I’m simply…me; and I’m very proud of the me’ that I am!

Freedom: Living in My Truth
Before I end this article, I present portions of lyrics taken from a favorite song of mine by pop recording artist, George Michael. The song is called “Freedom” and while I’ve never be told otherwise, when I first heard it some twenty-four years ago, I’d always logically assumed that it was Michael’s public “coming out [as gay]” anthem. I still think that way because for me, it describes my desire to tell the world of my bisexual orientation so I could just live in my truth. However, at the time I’d just married a heterosexual woman to whom – for a number of reasons (one of which you’ll see shortly), I had not been fully opened about my sexuality due to my being in the middle of a twenty-year military career. TRUTH & LGBTThe year 1990 was – for the United States military, a time when telling or admitting to anyone you were gay – let alone bisexual, meant losing security clearances, certain military job specialties where those clearances were required, and getting punishment and dishonorably discharged under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). The UCMJ is the military law under which all U.S. servicemen are subject. Therefore in order to keep my job, continue to support myself and family, finish a career I had already honorably served well for more than ten years and had come to deeply love, I decided to keep my sexual orientation a secret from military authorities as well as from my spouse and family for another decade until I retired from the military. Due to certain other personal issues I would decide to hold on to the revelation of my sexual orientation for nearly another decade. Holding on to such a secret from many of the people I loved during my teen years on though to near middle-age was not particularly desirable yet both private and military life had trained me well in the skills of holding back information without necessarily lying and how to keep secrets, therefore I was able to manage.

RobFather-X  profile (1)I suspect that I may be harshly judged for the decisions I made when certain people read this article. I ask that those particular persons not judge me … only because they do not know and possibly may never understand my full life’s story or the unique circumstances which I was under that gave cause and reasoning for making such decisions. The rest is history; some of which is clearly and openly laid out in this article. In the past several years, I’ve since divorced, raised a fine son and have been determined to live shamelessly in my truth for the rest of my life.

As mentioned, these portions of lyrics taken from the song Freedom sums up my truth nicely. Since its release I’ve sung along to Freedom many times over the years with doubtfully no one ever suspecting that it was my adopted “coming out” anthem. (Thank you, George Michael!) I post the portions of the lyrics here with a hope that it may inspire others to also come to live in their truth  – whether that truth be in nudism, naturism or sexual orientation, and to be proud when doing so! (The complete lyrics to the song Freedom is here.)
bi pride color barFreedom
I won’t let you down
I will not give you up
I won’t let you down
So please don’t give me up
Because I would really, really love to stick around

I think there’s something you should know
I think it’s time I told you so
There’s something deep inside of me
There’s someone else I’ve got to be
Take back your picture in a frame
Take back your singing in the rain
I just hope you understand
Sometimes the clothes do not make the man

All we have to do now
Is take these lies and make them true somehow
All we have to see
Is that I don’t belong to you
And you don’t belong to me
Freedom (freedom) (freedom)
You’ve gotta give for what you take
….today the way I play the game has got to change
Now I’m gonna make myself happy

I’ll hold on to my freedom
May not be what you want from me
Just the way it’s got to be
Lose the face now
I’ve got to live

*Portions of lyrics taken from Freedom, by written and recorded by George Michael from the Listen Without Prejudice album (1990).
bi pride color barKeepin’ In…REAL!

© RobFather-X! Productions 2014

Rest in Peace, Maya Angelou.

Maya Angelou

Rest in Peace, Maya Angelou.
I am blessed that your work was required reading in my childhood home and in my elementary and high school days. Thank you for your many, many generous contributions of class, talent and wisdom – not just to our shared ethnicity of people but to the world!

Learn more about the life of this extraordinary woman here:
Click here to see a list of her written work.

*NOTE: If links fail to load or work that may be due to the heavy influx of other people trying to access the sites at the same time. Try using another browser or be patient and try again later.

Keepin’ It…REAL!

Memorial Day: It’s About Those Who Died in Military Service

Memorial Day-collage (Robz Edit)
It’s Memorial Day.
As a retired U.S. Navy veteran, I don’t much like hearing people say “Happy Memorial Day”. I avoid saying those words, choosing instead the greeting, “Have a GOOD Memorial Day”. If you think about it you may come to understand why I prefer to use the latter rather than the former.  That first greeting is so often and casually used by the media and by people who say such things to each other (and to me) without thinking. There is often confusion between the meaning of Memorial Day and Veterans Day where there should not be. Many people – particularly those who never served in the military or who didn’t know someone who did serve or who never lost a loved one or friend in military service, simply don’t have an understanding of the true meaning of the Memorial Day holiday. Still, I and many of my fellow veterans appreciate the thought and the sentimental greeting and don’t make it a big deal when people say to us, “Thank you for your service.” We know people mean well. Some of us simply remind them that Memorial Day is actually for those men and women who died while in military service.

Sadly however, many other people have a certain amount of ignorance or worse, a form of disrespect for Memorial Day (and Veterans Day) and just don’t give a damn. Those particular people (some whose comments I’ve encountered on Facebook) tend to think of this day as “national BBQ day” and/or ignore the meaning of Memorial Day completely. They attack or speak ill of both my deceased and living brothers and sisters in uniform. They try to write comments or verbally attack anyone who chooses to put on a military uniform, who willingly subjects him or herself to the authority ofPresident Barack Obama on Memorial Day 2014 some elected or political-appointed civilian and/or and higher military ranking as being war mongers, “baby killers” (yes, that old anti-war term is still being used) and destroyers of lands and the way of life of other nations and cultures. They also say that anyone who would intentionally put their lives at risk for capture or death in some foreign ocean, land or air space while serving in the military deserves their fate. There are some very nasty people out there and it’s sad that so many are on social media. People with that mindset probably ask of themselves – and I know they’ve rhetorically have ask others, “Why should they give a fuck about what Memorial Day is, let alone bother to give recognition to people who wage war?” I shake my head at these people for therein lays one of the first signs of ignorance. You see, admirals and generals – and the men and women who take orders from them, do not wage or start wars; they fight them. Only CIVILIANS wage war.
Allow me to digress.
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You know, the very reason people can ignore Memorial Day and have their “national BBQ day” in the first place is due to the efforts and ultimate sacrifices of this country’s brave men and women in military service. The military in many ways is indeed a society and an environment unlike no other. However, some aspects of the military job are awfully shitty. Let me repeat: some aspects of the military job are awfully shitty. Somebody goddamnit, has to got to do that job! Often that means the military service person has to go in harm’s way and take in some burning bullets or fiery explosions from some fired, thrown, dropped or hidden grenade or bomb. People who feel so damn strongly against the military ought not to attack those Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors, Marines, Coast Guardsmen or Reservists who put their lives on the line nor should they disrespect any date on the calendar designated to give remembrance and honor to those servicemen. Instead such people ought to use their First Amendment right to free speech and the rights and privileges they have as Americans to communicate their concerns and objections to their elected leaders; rights and privileges – which by the way, were protected by thousands of servicemen and women who are now deceased – and the very same rights and privileges which continue being protected daily by many living military personnel on military bases, ships and joint foreign command posts all over the world.
US Armed Forces-logos

As I said, many people tend to do certain things out of ignorance. Am I bias towards the side of the military because I served in the military? You goddamn right I am! I will call to task any person who shows and/or expresses disrespect for those men and women in our armed forces who have served and died in honorable service to our country! I will call to task any person who shows and/or expresses disrespect for those who are now serving honorably!

**For my hearing impaired readers, here is the clip transcript that starts at point 0:40 with the camera on Nicholson.
The part of the movie speech I like and which I want you to pay attention, is in bold.
A Few Good Men (written by Aaron Sorkin)
Jessep: (Jack Nicholson) You want answers?
Kaffee (Tom Cruise): I think I’m entitled to them.
Jessep: You want answers?
Kaffee: I want the truth!
Jessep: You can’t handle the truth! Son, we live in a world that has walls. And those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who’s gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinberg? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: that Santiago’s death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives…You don’t want the truth. Because deep down, in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall. You need me on that wall. 
We use words like honor, code, loyalty…we use these words as the backbone to a life spent defending something. You use ‘em as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it! I’d rather you just said thank you and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon and stand a post. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you’re entitled to!
Kaffee: Did you order the code red?
Jessep: (quietly) I did the job you sent me to do.
Kaffee: Did you order the code red?
Jessep: You’re goddamn right I did!!
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When I saw that movie upon its release some twenty-two years ago, me and every military person in the theater shouted in unison praise! It was wonderful! You just had to be there!

Anyone who appreciates their American freedoms usually knows and understands what it took – and what it takes to keep much of what is and has been happening over there (in some foreign country) from coming over here to American shores. They understand that freedom, while taken for granted by so many in the United States, is indeed not free – and is an expression that is more than some easy cliché. One does not have to be a veteran or someone serving on active duty in order to be supportive of our men and women in the military who now protect and who have once protected that freedom. They simply need to know and be thankful that someone is always on the front line as they sleep at night!
(Digression ends)
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21 Gun SaluteDuring my military service, I’ve participated in my share of military burial details – both on land and at sea. I’ve done the full military honors thing that included being in full military dress, giving the 21-gun salute, folding of our nation’s flag, carrying the coffin to a burial site or committing the body or the ashes of the deceased serviceman’s body at sea and I’ve endured the playing of Taps afterwards. Each and every one of the ceremonies in which I’ve participated, while beautiful in performance – and which I was honored to have been a participant for that fallen Sailor or Marine, is still ominous and sad.

Burial at SeaI will always know the history of – and recognize and respect the sacrifices of the thousands of men and women who served in our military long before me, during my period in service and the period after. As a veteran, I too have lived through periods of loss of brother Sailors and Marines during my years of service. I’ve either known personally or were once acquainted (since we served in the same command) with some guys who lost or gave their lives in the honored service of America. May those men continue to rest in peace.

At this writing, I’m remembering a few incidents during my twenty-year career span in the U.S. Navy where servicemen gave/lost their lives:

  • the U.S. Marines, Sailors, and Soldiers who, with other friendly foreign military servicemen, lost their lives when the barracks in Beirut, Lebanon was bombed October 23,1983. Some 241 lives were lost;
  • the 37 lives were loss on board the USS Stark (FFG-35) on May 17, 1987. I commissioned and had served on two ships built of the same design as the Oliver Hazard Perry class/type guided-missile fast frigate Stark. I’m therefore intimately familiar with the location on the 453-foot ship where two Iraqi Exocet missiles, fired from an Iraq Air Force jet, struck her. That was during the Iran-Iraq war…what many like to refer to as the First Persian Gulf War (1980-1988). The Stark incident touched me deeply and personally. Perhaps someday I’ll tell that story.
  • the 47 Sailors who died from a gun turret explosion on board the great battleship USS_Iowa_BB61_broadside_USNUSS Iowa (BB-61) in 1989. Though she was not attacked by an enemy there were still innocent lives which were needlessly lost on Iowa because of a mixture of carelessness and other factors I won’t dare get into in this article. However, it needs to be noted that there simply are things that cannot be loosely tolerated, short-changed or – to use a Navy term for slacking off, “gundecked” on any warship – for  the crew on any warship must first and foremost always prepare and ready that ship to rely on itself for support when at sea until help – if needed,  arrives.
    …and a year after my retirement from the Navy…
  •  the 17 men who died on the destroyer ship USS Cole (DDG-67) when Al-Qaeda suicide terrorists bombed her in Yemen – specifically in the seaport of Aden in October 2000. I recall my ship USS Nashville (LPD-13) having moored there years earlier during Operation Desert Storm, which is one reason that incident – in that area, means something to me.

I could go on with more stories regarding the sacrifice of the American military serviceman which occurred during my career and shortly after I retired, and of course, about the thousands of American military lives lost in Iraq, Afghanistan and other regions before and after 9/11 but these few instances will do for the purpose of this article. I encourage you to click on the links of each to read or refresh yourself of the history regarding those examples of great military sacrifice.

Let me close with this reminder about Memorial Day:
Memorial Day is not to be confused with Veterans Day which is in November. Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while in military service to our nation, while Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans in wartime and peacetimeWhile I and many of my fellow veterans appreciate people giving me/us thanks for my/our military service, I must tell you that such greeting and salutations is [officially] about six months early. Don’t get me wrong; we understand your well-meaning but the focus on Memorial Day needs to be on those military servicemen and women who died in battle, from battle wounds and even hose veterans who later passed on to the next life years after their honored service.

Since it is Memorial Day, here’s another reason it’s important to observe the day this year! July 2014 will mark the 100th anniversary of World War I. Click World War I Centennial Commemoration to learn more about events happening in the U.S. to commemorate this point in our country’s history that lead up to America’s entry into what was called,“The Great War”. Click First World War Centenary to learn of other events happening around the world to commemorate the occasion. Many considered World War I to be the war to end all wars“, a catch-phase created after author H.G. Wells’ book with a similar name was published shortly after WWI started. You may begin seeing and/or hearing media ads and promotions about the centennial of World War I.

If you happen to see a military serviceman/woman in uniform on the street or know a veteran, by all means, please express your appreciation for what they do. Such genuine, impromptu greetings often make that servicemen’s or veteran’s day. Trust me! Stop by a military or veterans memorial cemetery or park and look at read the engraved names of our deceased brave military service men and women on markers in the ground. Take your children with you!

Finally, remember that America –with all her problems, is still the land of the free. Let’s not forget there are thousands of nefarious people who plot everyday to take away our freedoms and change and/or destroy our way of life! With that in mind, I’m aware that there are many people who have stated repeatedly that they would like to move out of this country due to their distaste in current political leadership, intolerance with certain social issues, conflicts with religion regarding those social issues and a host of other issues which are things which any free republic has to endure. Meanwhile, hundreds of people all over the world are trying to move to this country. People want to live in a place where they can be free to be who they are and where they can [legally] express themselves without fear of retribution. America seems to be that place – to some extent, more than any other country on the globe. If you’ve never visited or never had an extended stay in another country there is little doubt that you will ever truly appreciate nor completely understand the many freedoms we enjoy and often take for granted here in the United States – even though we still have a very long way to go with regard to issues of equality covering race, gender and sexual orientation, just to name a few.

America is a free nation because of the sacrifices of thousands of brave men and women in military uniform and those in that particular sub-culture who died protecting that OUR freedom. Remember that… and again, be sure to teach your children!

Have a good Memorial Day!

Keepin’ It…REAL!