Jerryaughtry’s Weblog

May 28, 2009


Filed under: Essay,Uncategorized — jerryaughtry @ 4:52 pm
Over my long career as a military chaplain, I have run across many “line” officers. In military parlance, this means front line leaders who are expected to be there in the battle, in the line, if you will. The absolute best leader that I’ve ever known is retired Lieutenant Colonel Wayne Rush. This may sound a little disingenuous when you think of generals and colonels that I could have known. No, not really. I think that real leadership, ends or is maxed out at the Lieutenant Colonel level if not before. However, this isn’t really what I’m talking about either. Wayne is simply the best military leader that I’ve known at any level. I served with him with we were both instructors at the Army Air Defense School in Fort Bliss, Texas and we were students together at the Command and General Staff College in Leavenworth Kansas. Although I have not observed him in combat, where he served as a “line” officer and also in what I consider probably the most difficult job in Vietnam, that of adviser to Vietnamese troops or officially the ARVN. In fact, I went to a wonderful memorial service on Saturday and couldn’t help but compare. My good friend from Alaska, his sister just died from pancreatic cancer. She was incredibly brave and literally made a decision not to undergo treatment as it would take away from her what time she had left for enjoying family and friends. Earlier, like, not even a year, my friend’s Mom died. She was like 92 and this amazingly remarkable teacher whose life had been filled with raising three children by herself after her husband died unexpectedly and at an early age. The service was just amazing, in terms of the testimony to the Mom and Daughter.
Both had been teachers and their impact upon people, who were at the service was remarkable. I was moved. Melva, the daughter, Wayne’s sister had transitioned from teaching to being a principal. Not as part of the Memorial service, but was mentioned, a Middle School Library had been named as the Melva Rush Literacy Center.
In light of Rose’s anticipated service, I have thought lots about this. I am so hoping that Rose’s service will be one of celebration. My friend’s was but in a kind of different way. I can’t quite get my thoughts together on what I mean or how. I do know this, every single person at Rose’s service will have a Rose story. I’ve yet to meet any of them who didn’t.

May 26, 2009

The Best Years of Our Lives

Filed under: Uncategorized — jerryaughtry @ 1:32 pm

“You are just another unemployed war hero.” This might have been a line out of a modern day movie but it wasn’t: it came from the classic 1950s, The Best Years of Our Lives, when America, fresh from the “big war” was trying to figure it out. A really great movie with all the issues of what it means to start over.

The same issues that soldiers face today are the same ones they faced then–the struggles of Reentry, getting back the check book, and fitting in. And then there were the hastily conceived marriages born of desperation, soldiers going off to warb and not knowing what tomorrow brings.

The story is built around three reentering servicemen who meet on their way home. Unlike present day soldiering, these men have not been gone for months, rather years

The three bond and although not as likely as the movie presents then, they still hang together in the context of the story. Dana Andrews as the bombadier with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) called “shell shocked” back then. A sailor, having lost both hands, is the second emotionally scarred serviceman with the third of the trilogy being a banker who was a top sergeant in the war but now confronts the cruel banking system where promises to vets is more likely scrapped than made. One issue then is tight credit for veterans. Sound familiar.

In the end, it all gets resolved. Dana Andrews calms down and finally gets the right girl. There’s some questions,, never answered on how he became an Air Force Captain. But, it’s the movies. Our sailor finally accepts who he is and the people who love him. And, our banker, although maybe drinking too much does the right thing.

A wondeful movie that is as relavant today as it was then. Let’s hope that the modern American society has learned the lessons of living up to the promises made to vets but I doubt it.

May 12, 2009


Filed under: Uncategorized — jerryaughtry @ 10:01 pm

As one who understands the military, I’m fairly skeptical about the replacement of the top general in Afganistan. There’s more than meets the eye, I assure you. Politics abound among general officers, especially at that level and is just as political as any politics anywhere. The military to include the secretary of defense that is slightly suspicious to me: a Republican, Bushman, Texas A and M for God’s sake. And here’s what I love: part of the team in Afganistan is a general who had been his right hand man for awhile: yes, we believe it is just coincidental. Politics! The secdef concocks a story, just need a new team, etc.

The worrisome thing to me at this stage is that the President is going along. He doesn’t have much choice and it isn’t about the generals as much as the true story. I don’t even know the good general McKiernan who got fired but my suspicion is that there’s more than meets the eye. The guy of an Orishman and we know hardheaded. Maybe he told them the truth: That we have ourselves in an unwinnable war under the best scenario. And, of course, the truth is not about to fly.

In Afganistan and Iraq, we are in no solution wars. And, somehow we have to admit it. And, appointing a couple of new generals is not the answer.

May 10, 2009


Filed under: Uncategorized — jerryaughtry @ 5:43 pm

Making do with what you have is a backdoor compliment that my wife’s Dad said about her deceased mother. What brought about the comment. I think is pretty much what I’m doing now: cogitating my navel about mothers.

On Mother’d Day, I’ve done lots of thinking and talking about mothers. A buddy just called and said he was going to Israel to visit his mother. Did I want to go? “I don’t think so, Michael, since your Mom is dead”. We laughed but the comments of remembering Moms are always real. Mothers day is everyday.

My wife thinks that I put my Mom on too much of a pedestal. Probably. She was great in my eyes but as an adult, I’m the first to realize that she was a “controller.” However, she didn’t mean to be as she never really grasped the concept. Still, I can’t deny she was.

What fascinates me is how we look at our mothers. One guy I met at a coffee shop said he always told his Mom she was the best of the best when she really wasn’t. To tell her otherwise just opens up a can of worms he went on.

How many of us see the enormous contrast in how we see Mom? One person whose Mom was simply awful in every way is idealized by her child. Another whose mother made every sacrifice and the adult doesn’t have the time of day for her.

What is it? Genetics? When I see frustrated children who seem to either rebel against what Mom was and said and then there are the others who constantly seek Mom’s approval. Both types, of course, waiting to pen their memoirs.

I personally think most Mom’s do the best they can, even the “Mommy Dearest” types. Let’s face it, most of us who are parents should be in a better place to understand Mom as we would all like to have a few “do overs.”.

Recently at Sam’s in NC with my nephew, our waittress told us this wild tale about her three sisters and herself given up by their Mom for adoption, all to different families. Always she has wanted to find her birth mom while her sisters have no interest. She found her birth Mother and within milli seconds into the visit, the birth mom is telling her own story of woe, unrelated to her child and the “why’s” of giving her up. “A bust,” according to her. “Will you ever want to see her again?” I don’t think so.

Most mothers are unbelievably heroic I think. Recently, I was out for a run in North Beach in San Fran, close to where I live and am walking after mastering a gigantic hill. I see this African American woman, on her bike with three bunches of flowers. “What are you doing,” I venture?
“I’m taking these flowers to some mothers I know whose children can’t be giving them flowers.”
Why not?
“Well, one is deceased, another is in jail and the last boy is just sorry.”

She lightens the mood by saying and I’m not talking the “brothers” type of “mothers.”

“You must be a pretty special person,”
I say. After a little chitchat, I asked about her own mother. She launched into this tale about how her own mother realized that in order to give her children opportunites, they had to get out of the South. This was the fifties when blacks couldn’t sit at the lunch counter, separate bathrooms and schools and water fountains. Separate but equal was the “lie” in the room. Her Mom went to New York, no money, no job and within a few years had all of her eleven brothers and sisters out of the South. All have gone on to live successful lives. Inspiration is not even close to the concept. Wow.

I think the best way to close out what I hope is a continuing tribute to MOMs everwhere is the plot of the movie, Forgotten. Julianne Moore is a mother who can’t get over the loss of her son. He, along, with five other kids are lost, plane disappeared, presumed dead. The somewhat farfetched plot involves everybody associated with the loss saying, there never was a child. She refused to quit believing. Long story short, all who’ve known their children no longer have memories of them. The plot is science fiction and plays out that some force who is all powerful is attempting to prove that the bond can be broken in any relationship. And, they prove it with the one exception: the character played by Julianne Moore. She refused to give up her memories and to erase him from her memory bank she kept photos, etc In light of threats, death, she refused to be subdued and hung on to the bond. Consequently, the experiment failed, the “Force” was defeated and the children restored. Way out? Sure. The point is that the bond between mother and child is more often than not, simply unbreakable. When I was in Vietnam, artillery rained in on a little village killing several innocent civilians. When we got to the village, my first sight was a mother cradling her dead child in her arms. She was wailing a cry so deep that to this day, I have the memory and can hear the sound. For most of us, if we still have an earthy mother, it should be Mothers Day everyday.

May 5, 2009


Filed under: Uncategorized — jerryaughtry @ 6:20 pm

All of us know about the “dog eating the homework” but what about the dog “eating my teeth.” This is Henry talking. he’s a “homeless” guy that has staked out his territory at Fisherman’s Wharf. I’ve talked to him lots. His sign says he’s a vet and I love this, “I don’t drink and l don’t do drugs and I don’t cuss.” There you have it. He tells me he’s been married a couple of times and he’s lived with a couple but finds that he’s better off by himself. He doesn’t like living in a resident hotel but prefers the streets. And, the biggest mistake of his life is getting out of the “service.” He would have been at least a sergeant by now he says. I say, “Probably at least a sergeant major.” He smiles and I can see he has no teeth. I say something like, “why don’t you get the VA to get you some teeth.” He smiles again and says, “they already did once.” Well, where are they, ” I’m thinking. He’s reading my mind and kind of sheepishly says, “my dog ate them.” I decided not to ask how all this came about.

In some ways this could be one of “those only in San Francisco things.” However, homelessness is a global and for us a national problem which is not going to besolved. Here in San Fran, having had some experience in working with the homeless, the term means many things. There’s a group who loves living on the streets. They are doing dope. It is a lifestyle. Then there’s another group who should be institutionazed. Well, many of them. Finally, there’s a small group that we could actually help. Thiy often have children. And, they are the ones we should concentrate on. The others are beyond us. Homelessness is a little like immigration policy. We’re doing about the best we can.

The dog ate Henry’s teeth and getting him another set is not going to solve his problem because Henry doesn’ think he’s got a problem.

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