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How I got my appointment to West Point
Clear Day When I was in high school, the Junior ROTC, of which I was a member, was still in vogue. One of the supporters of the St. Anthony’s ROTC in Long Beach , California was Brigadier General James J. Meade, USMC (Ret). He was very influential in guiding me toward one of the service academies pushing the Naval Academy, of course. He advised me on how to approach my local Congressman to begin the process.
Representative Clyde Doyle, of the then California 18th Congressional District, was above all, straight forward and fair on his selection process. He made all appointments through Civil Service competitive examination. Congressman Doyle had no appointments for West Point open in 1950, only one in 1951. He advised me, at the end of my junior year of high school, to take the examination for the Naval Academy, which I did in June 1949. As a result, I was appointed 3rd Alternate under the Principal, one Lawrence Allen Shumacher. On 14 September 1949, I Took and failed the examination for admission to the U. S. Naval Academy as a Midshipman. As it turned out, that was a blessing. I would have made a terrible Squid.
I graduated from St. Anthony’s High School on 10 June 1950. Fifteen days later, North Korea invaded the South. I mention this because I was a Weekend Warrior in the U. S, Naval Reserve stationed at Los Alamitos NAS, units of which were being mobilized. Undeterred, I was allowed to take another Civil Service examination in July 1950. This time, I moved up to First Alternate under Principal Ned Theodore Jones. I also moved with my family shortly thereafter to the Presidio of San Francisco; joining my father whom we had not lived with since World War II (coming home from Europe, he had been assigned to Adak, Alaska).
In San Francisco, I attended the Drew Preparatory School, along with two future classmates, John Hotchkiss and Jack Cohan. The Navy transferred me to the Alameda NAS on the San Francisco Bay .
My resignation from the Navy was subject to acceptance to West Point. As an aside, the paperwork got screwed up, and during Beast Barracks I was called into the Commandant’s office (shudder, shudder) and advised that the Navy said I was AWOL from the Carrier Wasp, at that time off the coast of Korea. Fortunately, I was allowed to remain at the Academy and not placed in a brig.
The studies at Drew paid off as Hotchkiss, Cohan, and I passed the West Point Examining Board test on 5 March 1951. On 27 April, a Department of the Army letter, signed by Major General Edward F. Witsell, The Adjutant General, advised me I had been “. . . authorized to report to the United States Military Academy, West Point, New York, on 3 July 1951 . . . for admission as a cadet . . .” The celebration that ensued was only abated by walking through the Beast Barracks portal on that July morning.
13 AUG 2010
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Cry, the Beloved Country
As I look in the mirror, it occurs to me that in the not too distant future, the image I see will no longer be there. The chair in which I sit will be empty, the books no longer read, and my college diploma hanging on the wall ignored. All physical things will still be as they were, but feelings, knowledge, actions and other things associated with me as a person will have vanished. There will be no aches and pains, no anxiety over a busy schedule, or genuine apprehensions of an America going terribly wrong and a world threatened by Islamism.
It’s rather a creepy thought that all the things, both physical and nonphysical, that go into making Vern what he is will be gone—a box or urn full of ashes all that remain. As I look around, I try to imagine that everything I see will still be there; but not me. Those I know and love will have similar thoughts and feelings—strong at first but lessened with time and disposition of my possessions. Whatever impact I may have had on others will gradually diminish. That fact is a depressing certainty as it is hard to accept that one might have spent a lifetime all for naught.
But then, I’m not dead—yet. In fact, at the moment, I sit here with most of my senses working reasonably well. I’m at my usual place at the keyboard, expounding on ideas that no one knows or even cares about.
Despite the fact that I’m very much alive, why do I have this awful feeling of death all around me? Something is dying. I sense it. I smell it. I see it. Like everyone else, I don’t hear it because its passing is subtly silent. It’s like stepping inside a crypt. What is it that I am sensing and beginning to comprehend? Gradually it dawns on me. It’s my country that’s dying; or at least the country that I have known.
Melodramatic? Perhaps. Nevertheless, just as if I died, I observe that everything is still physically here, but the spirit, the real America, is passing. And with this realization, I do what most survivors do—I cry. I now understand the emotions of the Reverend Stephen Kumalo in the novel, Cry, the Beloved Country, as he becomes deeply aware of how his people have lost the tribal structure that once held them together.
Our spacious skies, amber waves of grain, purple mountains, and fruited plains are all still here. Our flag waves high and “The Star Spangled Banner” is sung before every athletic event. The 4th of July, Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving and New Year celebrations come and go each year. But the heart and soul of the country appears shallow and weak, aching with divisiveness, greed, declining morals, and lack of spiritual guidance. Is then, America dying?
America is like no other governmental configuration that ever existed in the history of humankind. No tribe, no village, no city, no state, no country ever embodied the collective original thoughts of self-government that bonded a people in unity for the benefit of all as did the designers of the American system of government. In modern parlance; these people really did think outside the box. How can such a unique country possibly die?
History shows all great powers progress through a cycle of growth, stability, maturity and decline. Is America, in its uniqueness, immune to the “cast-iron” certainty of past world history? Are not our intellectuals and great universities now openly opposed to and teaching against the values and beliefs of our founding fathers? Where are the people who possess the confident, self-disciplined values and principles that helped to create this great country? Are not our wealth and comfort undermining the self-reliance and discipline that built our nation? It seems we are now a nation of “takers,” not “givers.” Finally, who are the heroes that youth and others look up to and emulate?What type of leaders and renowned celebrities do we admire; besides athletes, actors and musicians? Historically, unsatisfactory answers to those questions are the seeds of cultural collapse and ruin.
But America is not dead. Our skies, grain, mountains, and plains are all still here. We still have our flag and national anthem, and celebrate the holidays each year. All of these things still mean something to a great many citizens. Yet, it seems an ever-increasing number of people are uninformed and apathetic about our country’s downward trends. They are naive and easily hoodwinked by those who want to “fundamentally change America.”
I regularly hear, “So, even if I agree with what you say, what can I do about it?” As Yogi Berra once prophetically said, “It ain't over till it's over.” First, as a concerned citizen, you must educate yourself to the true threat of socialism and Islamism. This is no small task, as the government, media and culture are now thwarting any such enlightenment. However, there are many sources, particularly the Internet, which offer endless opportunities to learn. Next, realizing the peril, you must make sure your friends, relatives and neighbors become educated. Socialism, communism and other such political ideological isms may be difficult to debate with someone whose views are on the far left, but Islamism threatens America’s way of life for everyone alike, regardless of political affiliation.
Therefore, everyone must get to know and understand the issues and what the candidates stand for . . . and then, VOTE. Citizens, standing together, must elect like-minded representatives to school boards, city, state and national public offices. Thereafter, everyone must actively inundate these representatives with emails, phone calls, letters and personal contacts; constantly reminding them of their “election promises” as each bill of consequence comes up for a vote. Letters to the editors of local newspapers can have an impact. In other words; get involved.
All of this requires considerable commitment and effort. But remember, although each generation seems to believe America is “at a crossroad,” never before have the forces of evil merged into such a perfect storm determined to destroy America’s culture and way of life.
Think about this ; when 56 citizens of the colonies, including John Hancock, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin, signed the Declaration of Independence, they were willing to sacrificeeverything for their cause, as evidenced by the following statement:
“And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”
The America these unbelievably brave and committed men established is in serious danger. Our military still fights and dies bravely in lands not worth saving asdestructive powers marshal together, using every facet of influence and technology available, to ensure our demise. For the past seven years a pusillanimous president has led from behind, resulting in the rest of the world showing us their behinds.
The grave is dug, the pall bearers lined up, the bag pipes already inflated, and the rifles for the three-volley salute are at the ready. And although we won’t face being executed for treason, we’re also being asked to pledge our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor—this time to save, not establish, our country’s principles, values, and way of life. As the famous German minister and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote before being hanged by the Nazis, “Not to act is to act. Not to speak is to speak.” Are we the ones who will act; who will speak up for preserving the country of our birth? Or, we the type of people who are just going to stand idly by and lamentably cry, our beloved country?
Edited by Ted Ingalls
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