An Almost Late Murry Christmas

Before I type another word, I want to thank several of you who offered to send care packages my way. I truly (truly) thank you for this kind gesture. A very odd thing has been occurring out here with mail. It very often does not get to me. Several reasons, first it was the wrong address. (That tends to cause problems.) And then, with us being in port, I worked at an office for several months, so I was separated from the mail room. And now, I have no idea. Three (3) packages are out there, sent by well intentioned friends (or the random bike gear merchandiser that I could not ignore) and I have yet to receive them! And it has been multiple weeks. . .

So for all you of whom offered to send me something, please do not feel insulted that I asked for you not to. I am in a holding pattern with mail, hopefully it will get sorted out soon.

And to everyone else, who did not offer to send anything, what is wrong with you? Ha ha, just kidding. Merry Christmas and have a great New Year. Your Sailors (at not quite the tippy tip of the spear) thank you always for your support.

I would apologize for the lack of blogging, but you’ve got the calloused hands of Ex Bootneck, guiding you to great media nuggets. (And he posts pictures of his doggies!)

Your ATM Card, Treat It With Care

I guard myself from debit card fraud. Most of the time, the folks perpetuating the con do not even need to resort to elaborate means to pull it off. I was standing at an ATM off-base recently and a Sailor left with a handful of money. Except he did not finish the transaction. So the machine, with his data, was open to me.

Early on in my Navy career, I noticed there was a tone of voice that seniors gave to juniors. As a way to haze them verbally. But also as a means to make it painful, so they will think twice about facing the ramifications again. So I asked the young, dumb Sailor. Hey, you just gonna leave the machine open? Your not going to exit out of it? Stupidly, he returned and logged-off. What if I were not there? Sure, the Japanese locals are honest to a fault. But still. . .

And for the second incident, I was at one of the excellent vending machines on-base. (Bottles of green tea are my kryptonite.) I grabbed two of them and started back up on my base run. And as I jogged past the ATM, sure enough, some clown did the exact same thing. He did not exit out of his transaction. It is possible that with the on-base machines, you must enter in your PIN again, but I was not sure. So I exited out for him and ran him down. Hey, you just gonna go around leavin’ your debit account open for anyone? Once again, sheepish was on the plan-of-the-day. Whoops, he replied.

Care is needed when using an ATM. There are conmen out there lurking:

“Hello, Mr. Welch. Visa Card Services here.” That was how my nightmare started one Sunday morning. I was hungover, sitting on the sofa, when the landline rang. I was surprised because I’d only given the number to about three people. The person on the other end of the phone, Mark, told me there had been a number of fraudulent transactions on my bank account since midnight, adding up to about 1,100 pounds ($1,663). I’d never heard of Visa Card Services before, but then, I’d never had money stolen like this before. Maybe this is what happens?

Mark then confirmed the last genuine withdrawal I’d made, at the Barclays bank opposite Highbury & Islington station in London. He gave me a reference number and told me to ring the telephone number on the back of my card. I did just that, quoted the reference number, and was able to speak with someone who knew all about the supposed fraud. These cunning tricksters had apparently cloned my card at the Barclay’s ATM, then treated themselves to a few things in the Apple Store. Something didn’t ring true about the whole thing—why would someone with a stolen card only spend 400 pounds (about $600) in the Apple Store, for starters? Still, I watch enough alarmist consumer-affairs TV,—the kind of program presented in the U.K. by an estuary gargoyle named Dominic Littlewood—to know that these things happen.

The person now helping me, Rajesh Khan in HSBC’s card protection department, had all my details: full name, date of birth, and crucially, my address. When he said a courier was on the way to collect my card for further examination, I didn’t need to tell him where I lived. I initially flinched at the idea, but when Rajesh explained that the bank’s fraud team needed to analyze the chip, it made sense. After all, I’d phoned the bank myself—this was no cold call, and he had all my details already. That’s probably also why I typed my PIN number into my telephone keypad of my phone when Rajesh asked me to.

You gotta pay attention. . .

A Military Personality

Is there such a thing as a military personality? Psychology Today addresses this very topic:

I don’t believe there is a “military personality” per se. But service members do share a number of mannerisms, beliefs, traits and perceptions.

Confidence, for example – service members have an air of self-assuredness, poise and downright coolness. A purposeful and swift stride, eye contact with strangers and a head held high with a slight controlled swivel is a dead giveaway that a confident soldier, sailor, airmen or Marine is in the area.

Hmm, that would mean there are a lot of military types here, for example. (One weensy editorial qwibble, why is Marine capitalized and not Sailor?)

Give Me Your Tired

Sailors, from the amphibious transport dock ship San Antonio, look at the Statue of Liberty before helping to get water out of the building from Hurricane Sandy.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

–Emma Lazarus, 1883

Who Is This Treasonous Scoundrel?

Which American uttered these words: 

“I am… on the way to become an Australian citizen, that’s a little known fact,” he told station 4BC after queuing up to buy the new generation iPhone 5.

“It turns out that I get to keep my American citizenship,” he added.

“I intend, you know who knows what will follow through in the next five years, I intend to call myself an Australian and feel an Australian, and study the history and become, you know, as much of a real citizen here as I can.”

 Aw, fine. We forgive ‘em. Half the Sailors I know who’ve visited the Land of Oz would say the same thing.

An Iwo Jima, Guadalcanal, Korea, and Vietnam Vet

United States has many places for retired folks to stroll out their golden years in peace. Presumably, these neighborhoods are cheaper, with available services nearby. If you are retired military, especially Navy or Marine Corps, many of you’all don’t leave San Diego or the Norfolk area.

In my gym this morning, I had three conversations with retired vets. One was a Surface Supply Corps guy who taught at the local high school. He felt embarrassed because even though he had retired many years ago, he asked me if I was in the Marines or the Navy. I smiled and said, Navy, and took it as a compliment. Maybe you Leathernecks might be insulted. Nothing I can do. Blame the Supply Corps and their weak uniform recognition.

The second was a quiet, elderly man. He had been stationed at the ASW (Anti-Submarine Warfare) base over in Point Loma. You know of it? he asked.

Yes sir, my dentist is over there, I said before leaving him and the locker-room.

And the third veteran was one I had chatted with a couple of times in the past. He looks about 65 years old. Except, he fought in World War II, after enlisting at age 16 in the Marine Corps. I’m 86, he had told me once.

I see him working out on one of the machines as I head toward the door.

Hey sir, save some weights for us, you can’t lift ‘em all!

He laughs. Keeping my weight. I was 123 pounds when I joined up. Not anymore. My rifle and bayonet were way over my head when held to my boot.

Marine Corps, are you not the Department of the Navy? I ask with a wicked grin.

He shoots me a look of miscomprehension, before boxing my arm. I guess so.

How long did you stay in the Marine Corps?

Three wars, he replies. (Not, I retired. Not, I did my hitch. Not, I did twenty years. But, three wars.) World War II, in the Pacific, I was shot twice. Iwo Jima and Guadalcanal. Korea, and of course, Vietnam.

I look at my watch. I am late for work, I had lifted weights after cardio. Still, I listen as he continues.  You hear all these guys saying they have PTSD? I had it. We all did. You better not creep up behind me. It’s all part of war. 

How was coming back home?

Different in each one. They offered me a slot at OCS when I was in Korea. I was a Staff Sergeant then. I could sign on as an officer, but I would have returned to Korea.

You still can, we need you!

He laughs. Me and this other guy both got talked to. He took it, and retired a Major. I passed and retired a Sergeant Major. I’m just a guy. A Sergeant. I didn’t have no education. I was happy.

You miss it?

Yes I do.

How was Vietnam?

What you read and what you hear are nothing close to what happened. You know Tet?

Sure.

I was there. Our first day was rough. But after that, we kicked the dog-crap out of the VC. Sixty, Seventy thousand dead. Or more. There was none left for us to fight.

I have always thought you all deserved better when you returned.

Yeah. Maybe. I never got called nothing. No baby-killer. None of that. Maybe it was my look. I would’ve beat the pis out of anyone that did.

Sir, I say. I got to run to work. Thanks for chatting.

He shakes my hand and off I push through the doors out into a San Diego morning. I am late. But it was worth it. I don’t get to speak to heroes like that every day.

Oddly, enlisted Sailor, Marine, Soldier, or Airman is listed as the third-worst job by CareerCast.com to hold. In my eyes, most polls, lists, and surveys reflect bias:

In their annual career survey, an online job bank ranked one of the nation’s toughest, proudest and most critical occupations as the third-worst job to have: sailor.

Sailors stand at attention while manning the rails on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) as the ship pulls out of Naval Station Everett, Wash.

In fact, the CareerCast.com survey didn’t appear to appear to distinguish between the services; the category was named “enlisted military soldier,” but the photo accompanying it features four models in Navy uniforms (BDUs, crackerjacks, flight suit and summer whites). Only lumberjack (first place) and dairy farmer (runner-up) edged out enlisted as the worst-of-the-worst. (To be sure, newspaper reporter was not far behind at fifth-worst.)

To any young man or woman considering enlisting, I can tell you that joining the military is the challenge and time of your life. You can take my word for it or I can introduce you to an old Sergeant Major, the kind of man maybe we don’t raise anymore in this country. He’ll tell you, he wants back in. . .