We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
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Thursday, July 13. 2006
Speech by Marine Maj Gen Michael R Lehnert, commanding general of Marine Corps Installations-West, Camp Pendleton, CA, to the San Diego Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Advisory Council, 26 June 2006.
Good morning ladies and gentlemen,
Eight days ago, I was present in the audience when Tom Brokaw addressed the 2006 Stanford graduating class. After the initial pleasantries and one-liners, Mr. Brokaw said something unexpected. He told the class that they were the children of privilege, fortunate to be attending one of the finest educational institutions in the country, the anointed because they had both the test scores for admittance and parents who were able to afford their tuition. He noted that they could likely expect rapid advancement in almost any endeavor they choose and that they were destined to lead the most powerful country in the world.
The class was beaming.
And then Brokaw reminded them that the liberties and freedoms they enjoyed were being defended by young people their age that did not have their advantages. That at this time thousands of men and women were fighting, dying and suffering debilitating injury to ensure that the rest of us could live the American dream.
There was an uncomfortable shifting in the seats, followed by slow but growing applause from the audience. When we sent my son to Stanford four years ago, we filled out a form asking for demographic information. One of the questions for the parents said, what is your profession? After it was a list of about thirty professions including doctor, lawyer, congressman, educator, architect. Military was not listed so I filled in "other."
Read the rest, below.
My son was the only graduate who had a parent serving in the armed forces. As I was introduced to his friends’ parents, it was interesting to watch their reaction. Few had ever spoken to a member of the military. One asked me how my son was able to gain admittance with the disadvantage of having to attend "those DoD schools". Many voiced support for our military and told me that they’d have served but clearly military service was not for their kind of people.
This year of the so-called elite schools,
I wonder how many of you know the young people who are serving today. I won’t embarrass anyone by asking for a show of hands to ask how many really know a young enlisted Marine who has been to war.
I’m going to try to give you a better feel about those who serve our nation.
Our Marines tend to come from working class families. For the most part, they came from homes where high school graduation was important but college was out of their reach. The homes they come from emphasize service. Patriotism isn’t a word that makes them uncomfortable.
The global war on terrorism has been ongoing for nearly five years with Marines deployed in harms way for most of that time. It is a strange war because the sacrifices being levied upon our citizens are not evenly distributed throughout society. In fact, most Americans are only vaguely aware of what is going on.
That isn’t the case aboard the Marine bases in
One of the huge differences between the rest of society and our Marine families, is when Marine daddies and mommies go to work, some of them never come home. The kids know that. The spouses know that. Week after week we get reports of another son, father, husband who won’t be coming back. During the past four years, over 460 Marines from
You will never know or meet Brandan Webb age 20 or Christopher White age 23 or Ben Williams age 30. They were all assigned to First Battalion First Marine Regiment,
Last Friday, we hosted a golf tournament at
I asked these Marines if I could buy them a beer. They looked at me and smiled. One of them said, "We can’t ask you to break the rules sir. None of us are 21 yet."
They seemed much older. As I left them I wondered about a policy that gives a young man the power of deciding who will live and who will die but won’t let him drink a beer. I thought about these young Americans who had never shot golf but had shot and killed other men in order to carry out foreign policy.
On the 10th of August we will open a wounded warrior barracks at
Now let me introduce you to another enlisted Marine. His name is Brendan Duffy. Brendan was an infantry Marine. Like so many others, Brendan had dreams of going to college but no means to do so. While he was in the Corps, he immediately began using his Montgomery GI bill benefits by enrolling in
Brendan left the Corps this week and has been accepted to the
Later this morning I’ll be meeting with educators across the
Several months ago, I along with senior leadership of all the Services, met with Governor Schwarzenegger and told him that
Some of you may recall almost exactly two years ago when a four man sniper team from 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines was killed on a rooftop in Ramadi. It made news because sniper teams aren’t supposed to get ambushed and because an M40A1 sniper rifle was now in the hands of the enemy.
Over the next two years, that rifle was used against Americans and we wanted it back. Last week, a 21 year old Marine sniper from 3rd Battalion, Fifth Marines out of
He killed the enemy sniper with one round to the head. Seconds later, another insurgent entered on the passenger side and was surprised to see his partner dead. That hesitation was enough time to allow Sgt Kevin Homestead age 26 to kill the insurgent before he could drive off.
When the Marines went down to inspect the scene, they saw that the sniper rifle was one of their own. It was the same M-40A1 sniper rifle looted from the 2/4 sniper team exactly two years earlier.
We are making progress in
The Iraqi Police are the essential element - and the most difficult challenge. In any insurrection, the insurgent specifically targets the local security elements of the government - because they are essential to maintaining control via interaction with the community, intelligence gathering, and law enforcement against petty and organized crime, traffic control. These police units are having good success in places like Fallujah. Ramadi is a different kettle of fish. Some of the police departments haven’t been paid in months and the intimidation campaign is in full force.
My Chief of Staff, Colonel Stu
Your fellow Americans in uniform in
Reconstructing an entire nation takes time. Think about our own experience during the American Revolution. Despite having a homogeneous nation with no incipient insurgency, it was thirteen years from the Revolution to the ratification of the Constitution. We seem to have forgotten that it takes time to build institutions.
Introduction of a stable, representative form of government in
The Iraqis are capable of running
One of my major concerns is quality of life issues for our Marines, Sailors and their families. We are making significant progress but we have a long way to go.
We are building 1600 more homes at
We are replacing worn out World War II vintage barracks that we make our single Marines live in. When I took over, I visited some of the open squad bay barracks at
With our Navy partners we are going after Pay Day Lenders. Pay Day Lenders are the parasites found outside of our military bases in
Let me be clear. Pay day lenders are not providing our Marines with a service. They are parasites, bottom feeders and scumbags. One of them sent me a note recently telling me that he was a member of an honorable profession and that I should back off. He told me that a pay day lending institution had been found in the ruins of Pompey after
We also recognize that military leaders have a responsibility to educate our service members and their families about sound money management. We are doing that. We are using our base papers, information campaigns and personal intervention to tell them that there are alternatives to the pay day lending institutions.
Both the State and Federal legislatures have heard our message as well and there are bills making their way through the process to significantly curtail the excesses of payday lenders.
I know that many of you came here today to find out what I would say about the airport situation at
The Marines came to
The Marine Corps uses its bases as a projection platform for combat power. 25,000 Marines from
Through the years, we have accommodated our neighbors development needs. Often we allowed infrastructure that was unpopular elsewhere but vital to the community.
We examined the proposal for joint use of
If you want us to leave, you should say so. However you must understand that no matter what names are used to describe us in the Union Tribune, the decision whether or not to leave do not rest with the military leadership in
Sadly this controversy has effected local civil military relations. There is no way you can sugar coat it or pretend otherwise. But we are here. If our leadership tells us to leave we will. We will take our Marines, our families, our wounded and if necessary we will dig up our dead. However right now our leadership says we stay. And whether or not we remain in
We know that this is a difficult issue. We know that we have many friends in
If you take nothing away from this talk, I’d hope you understand and appreciate what a remarkable group of young people currently serve in your Armed Forces today. Want to know what Marine Generals talk about when we are together? We talk about what a remarkable privilege it is to lead these extraordinary Americans.
I started by mentioning Tom Brokaw. His book coined the phrase, The Greatest Generation" and our nation responded in kind. Twenty years from now we may recognize that this young generation currently serving has the same qualities of greatness.
On the battlefield today are future CEO’s of corporations, university presidents, congressmen, state governors, Supreme Court justices and perhaps a future president of the
Take the time to meet one of these young people. You won’t be disappointed.
OK, I’ve talked long enough. I’d be happy to take your questions.
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