Monday, September 28, 2009

Commitment to Courage

The Commander-in-Chief of the British Army in 1918 was Sir Douglas Haig. In one of the final offensives launched by the Germans, Haig gave a message to his troops. It stated, "With our backs to the wall and believing in the justice of our cause, each one of us must fight on to the end...Every position must be held to the last man. There must be no retirement." It would become one of the most famous directives given in the Great War. A couple of months later, the same tenacity would be shown when U.S. Marines were encouraged to retreat along with the French soldiers at Belleau Wood. Captain Lloyd Williams replied, "Retreat? Hell, we just got here." [Thx to John Keegen & M.E.S. Harries for the stories]

What I love about both stories, is the commitment to courage being displayed. Retreating & retiring were not options. The only option was to stick their ground and fight for what they believed in. In the face of adversity - they chose to keep going. I admire that spirit and desire it for my own life. How many times have I duck & run when adversity and struggles hit? How many times have I allowed fear to dictate my response to situations? If I truly believe in what I am doing - why shouldn't my response be to stand my ground? Too often when my back is against the wall I choose to simply roll over and die. This is probably for a variety of reasons, but the primary one seems to center on my lack of commitment to courage. Until I can learn to overcame that, I - unlike the soldiers under Haig & Williams - will never learn to defeat the obstacles and challenges in my life.

Saturday, September 26, 2009


Any man who is under 30, and is not a liberal, has not heart; and any man who is over 30, and is not a conservative, has no brains.
-Winston Churchill-
Generally young men are regarded as radicals. This is a popular misconception. The most conservative persons I ever met are college undergraduates. The radicals are the men past middle life.
-Woodrow Wilson-

Friday, September 25, 2009

Up The Road We Staggered

Up the road we staggered, shells bursting around us. A man stopped dead in front of me, and exasperated I cursed him and butted him with my knee. Very gently he said, "I'm blind, Sir," and turned to show me his eyes and nose torn away by a piece of shell. "Oh God! I'm sorry, sonny," I said. "Keep going on the hard part," and left him staggering back in his darkness...A tank had churned its way slowly behind Springfield and opened fire; a moment later I looked and nothing remained of it but a crumpled heap of iron; it had been hit by a large shell. It was now almost dark and there was no firing from the enemy; ploughing across the final stretch of mud, I saw grenades bursting around the pillbox and a party of British rushed in from the other side. As we all closed in, the Boche garrison ran out with their hands up...we sent the 16 prisoners back across the open but they had only gone a hundred yards when a German machine gun mowed them down. -Edwin Vaughan; WWI wartime officer-
Vaughan wrote this in response to his experience at Passchendaele - an experience that would net no real difference in the war outside of adding thousands of more soldiers to the casualties list of both sides. What I don't get is why generals continued this type of senseless destruction of human life and why the soldiers themselves would subject themselves to it. Obviously desertion came at a high cost (in many cases - the deserters were killed) but staying in does not seem like it was a worthwhile decision either. Beyond a few successful campaigns, most of the Great War centered on skirmishes like Passchendaele in which a small tract of land was exchanged back and forth with heavy losses of life.
My question is this. As a society of people, do we still see the type of honor, courage, and commitment that the common WWI solider displayed? The conflict may have been pointless and futile - but I cannot help but look up to the soldiers on both sides who fought long and hard simply because they believed in their country and fought for what they thought was its honor. It seems now the people don't stand for anything and at the sign of any discomfort they tuck their tales and run. Their was obvious examples of that in the Great War - but for the most part you saw men willing to walk into No Man's Land with a high chance of death and little glory. That is incredible to me.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Swine Flu Paranoia

Monday, September 21, 2009

In proving foresight may be vain

Plans. Goals. They are absolutely necessary, but what happens when they go askew? What happens when on paper your plan looks great - but when reality hits you realize that success does not have a chance. How do you modify your plans when bumps come along the path of life that prevent your plan from working? The German Empire had the Schlieffen Plan in tow. On paper it would have crushed France in 40 days which would theoretically keep England out of the war and allow the German Empire to concentrate on breaking down Russia (which it would eventually do with help from the Bolsheviks). But problems along the way prevented that from happening and the Germans went from a succesful war strategy to trench warfare to losing and getting devastated in the aftermath of "peace." I can resonate with the German Empire. Sometimes I struggle with even thinking plans & goals - because so often life prevents obstacles that I just cannot be prepared for. My plans go to as they say "hell in a hand-basket" so often that I question the point of plans. I get stressed out in making new plans because I fear those to will fall apart. And yet I know that plans do prevail sometimes. So how do you go about making the right plans? And when even the best plans go askew what do you do to keep going on? For now I read Robert Burns and realize even the best schemes...can bring grief & pain.

But Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!

Friday, September 18, 2009


One of my favorite stories from World War I has to be the story of the Christmas Truce of 1914. In the midst of trench warfare with both sides losing thousands upon thousands of men, a brief pause in action was able to take place. Christmas trees (or the Tannenbaum to the Germans) were put up, carols were sung, men from both sides crossed into "no man's land" to shake hands and exchange chocolate, spirited beverages and cigarettes and even in some sectors games of football broke out. For a brief moment in the ugliest war that the world had ever seen - peace was able to happen. As Stanley Weintraub described it, "But perhaps more important, many troops had discovered through the truce that the enemy, despite the best efforts of propagandists, were not monsters. Each side had encountered men much like themselves, drawn from the same walks of life - and led, alas, by professionals who saw the world through different lenses." John McCutcheon would later sing about "the ones who call the shots won't be among the dead and lame, and on each end of the rifle we're the same." Every time I think about this, it reminds me of the people I "fight" and "struggle" with. Despite my differences with them, are they really that different from me? Are the people we consider our enemies whether that be the opposite political party, the Taliban running rampant in Afghanistan, or simply the people in our lives that we don't like - truly our enemy? And even if we find ourselves consistently opposite of one another - is it really worth the fight to prove who is better or right? Instead of pulling the trigger every time we encounter someone opposite of ourselves, perhaps we could learn a lesson from 1914 and see that the "others" are really just the same as us - they've just had a different lens upon which they have seen and viewed the world.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Game One a Success!

I was nervous. I was angry. I was excited. I was happy. I was moody. I was all over the spectrum. But in the end - pure joy. Good to see the Packers win the first game of the 09 season.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Send It On

Ridiculous how a Disney song can get stuck in your head to the point that you actually start liking it. While watching Phineas & Ferb with the boys, I kept hearing the song "Send It On" by Miley Cyrus, the Jonas Brothers, and the other two chicks that I don't know. Well now it is stuck in my head and I find myself singing it. My goodness what has the world come to.

Sunday, September 6, 2009


"Good propaganda must keep well ahead of actual political events. It must act as pacemaker to policy and mold public opinion with appearing to do so. Before political aims are translated into action, the world has to be convinced of their necessity and moral justification." -Erich Ludendorff-
As I study the Great War, I dwell continuously on the impact of propaganda in the war. It kept men in certain political/military positions far longer then they should have been there and helped prolong a war that was incredibly unpropitious and destructive. Despite the damning effects of the stalled war effort as assisted by the promulgation of its key leaders, propaganda remains one of the most often used tools in leadership today. Why is that? Are people so blind that they are willing to submit themselves to a plan of action that has no basis in truth simply because it is sugar-coated? The other side of the coin, is can a leader lead without the support and backing that propaganda can bring with it? Even if I am not convinced of the "necessity and moral justification" of something - that doesn't mean it shouldn't be put into action. Nor if I am convinced does that mean the plan should be executed. The line between words, decisions, and actions is a blurred one. As a leader, how does one handle the blurriness - especially in light of knowing that your molding of the public opinion might influence a decision that is both costly and completely unjustified at the expense of a blind following.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Glad its back!

Man is it great to see college football back! I especially loved seeing The U (anyone from Minnesota will know that is what our beloved University is called) win @ Syracuse and then watching ASU hammer Idaho State. Looking forward to watching football for the next few months!

Friday, September 4, 2009


"There's a difference between interest and commitment. When you're interested in doing something, you do it only when its convenient. When you're committed to something, you accept no excuses; only results." -Kenneth Blanchard-

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Extraordinary & Peculiar Aptitude

"The basic reason for German failure at the Marne, 'the reason that transcends all others,' said Kluck afterward, was 'the extraordinary and peculiar aptitude of the French soldier to recover quickly. That men will let themselves be killed where they stand, that is a well-known thing and counted on in every plan of battle. But that men who have retreated for ten days, sleeping on the ground and half dead with fatigue, should be able to take up their rifles and attack when the bugle sounds, is a thing upon which we never counted. It was a possibility not studied in our war academy.'" -Barbara W. Tuchman, The Guns of August-

What is inside of you? What will keep you going in the face of certain defeat? When everyone else would be willing and wanting to quit - what will keep you fighting? In the face of your enemies can you keep moving forward despite their advantages? The story of the fighting on the Marne in WWI is incredible to me. Not because the Allies won decisively (they didn't) and not because the Germans gave up a chance to end the war within 40 days of starting it (they did) - but because in the face of certain defeat the French (and their British allies) pulled together to display the needed "cran" (as the French call it) to fight back. The Germans were unprepared for it, the British had to be surprised by it. That is the spirit that I want to capture within me. That is the spirit I want to display when facing odds stacked against me. When the going is tough, I want to know that deep within me - there is a base level of cran that will keep me going. Will I stand or will I falter? Only in times of trouble, can I really find out.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Go Twins!

That's 9 wins out of the past 11 games! Go Twins! Nice hit Morales.