23 May 2016


Parkesburg, Pennsylvania Memorial Day Parade and Observance 22 May 2016
Guest Speaker:  Michael R. McCarty, LtCol, USMC (ret)

I first want to thank you for allowing me the privilege of sharing this day with you.
I am a Marine. To my many friends in the Sister Services, I speak today mainly about Marines, your big brothers, because they are the men I have known and led, loved and cherished, for more than half a century. Take it as no mark of disrespect or lack of affection for any man or woman of any Service who has “seen the elephant.” I mean, I am forced to admit that the blood that flows in my veins is mostly Army, with a dash of Navy for seasoning.
I am a descendent of four veterans of the War for Independence, one from the War of 1812, three of the Civil War (in two generations—one a 12 year old drummer boy with Thomas at Chickamauga)-- and my Dad who was a Chief Pharmacists Mate, USN, who made five landings in the Pacific in WWII. I am the 11th combat veteran in that line, and my son, Lt Colonel Matt McCarty, USAF is the 12th. Two of the 12 were killed in action in the Civil War. (My prayer always is that the distinction of being combat veterans ends with us. But that is unlikely, for as the philosopher, Plato, wrote some 2500 years ago, “Only the dead have seen the end of war.”)
In his book, "Fix Bayonets!", Colonel John W. Thomason, USMC, wrote of his experiences as a Lieutenant of Marines at Belleau Wood during “The World War” (serving in what, some 50 years later, would be my battalion—1st Battalion, 5th Marines). He described an Embassy party he attended in Santiago de Chile seven years later where he met an Army Major of the General Staff who had also been in those woods in June1918.
The Major told him, “They looked fine, coming in there. Tall fellows, healthy and fit--they looked hard and competent. We watched you going in, through those little tired Frenchmen, and we all felt better. We knew something was going to happen…”.
It did! And sadly, in the next thirty days, the Brigade suffered 100 percent casualties, including over 1800 killed in action and another 9,000 wounded in action until it could be reported “Wood now US Marine Corps entirely.”
Recalling the conversation with the Army Major, Colonel Thomason continued:, “and we were silent, over Chilean wine, in a place on the South Pacific, thinking of those days and those men.”
Today, we mark the 150th Memorial Day remembrance. When I was a boy in northwest Missouri, my grandmother still referred to it as Decoration Day, appropriately enough because its foundation as a holiday came from the desire to place flowers on the graves of their honored dead by the Mothers, Wives, Sisters and Daughters, many of whom were also widows and orphans, of the of the fallen of the Civil War. Even now, nearly 70 years later, the fragrance of May lilacs and peonies take me back to our local cemetery, remembering the barked command “Firing Party, fire three volleys”, followed by my Dad playing taps on the battered old bugle of his Legion Post.
This is not a “happy” holiday. Commerce may have made it a day of sales and picnics and time off from work and school, playing on the shore or attending the release of the Summer’s new movies, but that is not its intent.
Rather, it is a sacred day, particularly so for a privileged few of us for whom some of the honored dead have names and faces and bring forth fond memories of “those men and those days.” It is a day when, in the words of a memorial stone on the campus of Illinois State University, we remember those who gave “all of their tomorrows for our today.”
In the intervening years since Thomason’s stories were written, we have had to begin numbering our wars: “The World War” became World War I after Pearl Harbor brought to us World War II. Next came Korea, followed by Vietnam, Gulf Wars I and II, and Afghanistan, as well as, in Thomason’s words, “scores of skirmishes in which a man can be killed as dead as ever was a chap in the Argonne”.
But the men (and now women) who have sacrificed their all remain the same: bone-tired but brave, resolute, funny, self-sacrificing, loyal, good-humored, … and above all, young. As the English poet Laurence Binyon wrote a century ago “They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old. Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we remember them.”
Every veteran here has names that are special to him or her. Call them Buddies or Shipmates, Mac or Ski or Fitz ……….
or Lucas and Zimmerman, Chip and Tews, Unfried and Phipps and Wandro....
they are forever young in our hearts. PFC Jimmy Phipps, the third youngest Marine to receive the Medal of Honor in Vietnam, will always be to me the skinny, grinning Marine who laughed at life and then willingly gave it up for two others on that hot Memorial Day 1969 in what we called “the Arizona Territory.”
No one who has served in combat would ever call it glorious. It is the dirty, deadly, discouraging business of going about the profession of violence, with a perseverance and acceptance that it may be our lot, in Jefferson’s words, to “water, from time to time, the tree of liberty with the blood of patriots”.
My late wife always told me “You were never young after you came home from Vietnam.” That may be one of the reasons that we cherish this day, for when we remember them, a part of us is still young with them.
So, we pause today to thank God for, in James Michener’s words, “men such as these,” who fought on to the very end, so that, as Lincoln reminded us at Gettysburg, “government of the PEOPLE, by the PEOPLE, and for the PEOPLE shall not perish from the earth.”
The ones we remember today—no matter in which Service they served or which uniform they proudly wore—Navy or Air Force Blue, Army Green or the Forest Green of the Marine Corps: each of them can claim the motto that we Marines first learned and absorbed into our DNA at Parris Island, San Diego, and Quantico. Each and every Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Coast Guardsman, and Marine who, for us the living, laid down his or her life on the altar of duty was, still is, and always will be ALWAYS faithful. May they rest in peace, these good and faithful servants.
Semper Fidelis.

14 May 2016


One of my all-time favorite television series is The West Wing.  As anyone who watched it knows, the last season had an entirely different feel, as it covered the presidential race between the two contending successors of President Jed Bartlett.  Any time that the story returned to the White House, there was an undercurrent of frustration in the remaining, second-string staff and the President himself.  The source of that frustration was the increasing irrelevance of the incumbent president.

The inexplicably stupid decision of the Obama administration to take action on a non-problem that was sure to inflame the passions of the American people --the “school restroom letter” – reminded me of The West Wing.  This action seems to me to be an effort by one of the most arrogant administrations in history to force the spotlight back on President Obama.  He and his staff seem to be set on finding something –anything—to remake what will surely go down in history as a failed presidency.  A generation from now, when the first true historical analyses of the Obama presidency are written, I suspect that they will focus on the strange case of wasted opportunities to make real progress and a perverse concentration on non-problems that divided, rather than united the Nation.

President Obama’s first, and most important, two years in office were wasted on forcing down the throats of the American people a “health care” program that they neither needed nor wanted.  Millions were out of work and had been promised that the President would be laser focused on “Jobs, jobs, jobs!”  Instead, while unemployment continued to sky-rocket, he frittered away an opportunity to be a second FDR simply to satisfy the left-wing loonies of the Democrat Party.  That “Obamacare” is still disliked by more than half the electorate—a level that will undoubtedly increase when the major premium costs and the decrease in options hit in November of this year-- is the greatest evidence of Presidential hubris in action.

An abysmal second term in which unemployment was decreased by smoke and mirrors doctoring of the definitions of “unemployed” by the Labor Department and wages remained stagnant was focused instead on placating the most dangerous enemies facing this Nation since 1940.  The myth of the “Iran Deal” was written, probably with fingers crossed that the mushroom cloud would appear over an American city during some other President’s term, to paint the President as a great statesman.  Chamberlain probably had the same hope on his way back to London from his German effort.

And then, when all eyes were drawn to the 2016 race, the first in American history, in which both candidates each had a greater “unfavorable” than “favorable” rating, the President decided that the most important issue still facing the Nation was forcing the people to allow people of one gender to use restroom facilities of the other gender—and to use as the laboratory for this exercise in social engineering the Nation’s public schools.

“Why?” one asks.  Why do this and do this now?

I can only assume that it is one last effort to return the national focus to Barack Obama.  He cannot stand his impending irrelevance and will do anything, no matter how dangerous or outrageous, to stay in the spotlight until the bitter end.