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On Death and Remembrance

So yesterday was a bittersweet day. A great man, Naval officer, husband, father and American was laid to rest. I tried hard to be there, but I just couldn’t swing it. So I took myself down to the local Irish Pub and set about remembering him, and telling anyone who would listen, about Captain Carol LeFon, Neptunus Lex, or just Lex to those who knew him and followed him online.

There was Corned Beef consumed, and many glasses of Guinness, and shots of Paddy’s Irish, with a nice glass of Red Breast for to finish it off. Dessert was 800mg of Advil and a large container of water before hitting the rack.

There is hurt in my heart for him, his friends and family, and also some in my head from celebrating his life. But that shall pass. His memory shall not, as long as we remember him, and pass along his writing and the stories he so wonderfully told. In them, and in our hearts, he’ll live on.

Time passes, and all of us shall pass. In Henry V, Feeble remarks that “we all owe God a death”.  Richard Sibbes, a medieval theologian wrote a short discourse upon death, which I feel holds true here.

“We cannot live long in this world.
We owe God a death.
We owe nature a death.
The sentence of death is passed upon us.
We cannot enjoy the comfort of this world long.
And for favour and applause of the world,
we must leave it,
and it
will leave us,
we know not how soon.
And this meditation should enforce us to be willing,
however it go with us,
for anything here, for life, or goods, or friends, or credit and reputation, or whatsoever,
to be willing to seal the cause of Christ

with that which is dearest to us.”

– Richard Sibbes –

And so we shall each go on, filling each day as it comes to us, and living our lives as best we can, because that is what we each must do. And we will remember our friends, our shipmates, who have gone before, so that we too shall be remembered by those who follow in our stead.
God Bless ya, Nep Lex. May the angels fly your wing, and bring solace to those left behind.


Lonely At The Top

Command is a two-edged sword. It’s something you long for, that you spend your career preparing for. Then, when you get the prize, you find it to be perhaps not what you thought it would be.  The thing is, on the way up, and this applies to enlisted as well as officers, you develop these bonds with your shipmates that are simply amazing. You share experiences of joy and fear, highs and lows unfathomable to many others.

Yet, when you get that command, you have to set all that aside. It doesn’t mean that the old friendships don’t have meaning, that it was all for naught. But you cannot have any friends in your command when you may have to issue orders that will likely result in the deaths of some of them. A commander at any level, anyone who may have to order another into a risky or deadly situation must be able to set aside his feelings and deal with the mission tasked to him. It’s why those appointed to commands come from somewhere else.  It helps in the transition.

As an allegory, though not on quite the same level, is the difficulty of being a parent. When you are blessed with children, you are given a responsibility to safeguard and teach them, to give them the physical, mental and emotional tools needed to survive once they become adults. Sometimes the lessons can be tough for both the parent and the child. You can and do love them, you would give your own life to protect them, you want them have the best that you can provide and yet, like the commander of a military unit, you can never be their friend.

In the end, it is you the parent that will have to make the hard choices,  to have the final say in difficult decisions, because you are the parent. You are the one in charge.  Currently, I’m in that place. I want to do the right thing for both my daughter and myself, but one of us will not be a happy camper depending upon my decision. It will be my decision to make, but it’s one I’ve got a little while longer to decide on.

In short, I want to move away from here. I’ve come to the conclusion that the economy is NOT going to be getting batter anytime soon, and that with a fixed income, and prices going up, I will be forced to leave in order to remain solvent, to have any real financial choices left.

It’s too damned expensive here. I love Maine, but between the property taxes and the energy costs, I’m being priced out. Here’s the rub, though: My daughter is giving me some serious pushback. She starts High School in the fall, and wants to stay with her friends.  I understand that. This is the only home she’s ever known. She has a circle of friends and a comfort zone. I get it.

We could move out of the house and get a smaller apartment that includes most of the utilities. It would save us a bunch, but it would mean selling off much of what we own, paring down considerably. Oh, I could rent a storage unit, but then where’s the savings? Plus, you have folks living all around you with an apartment, and they may not share the same desires you have for peace and quiet, bedtimes, etc.

My own choice is to relocate south. Texas beckons, as does West Virginia. I had given very serious thought to Western Maryland, until I saw their draconian gun laws and onerous taxes. I can deal with heat a lot better than cold these days, so energy savings would be there. Plus, it would give us the chance to finally own our own home. Home prices and property taxes are outrageous here in Maine. I just can’t do it. I can get a VERY nice house, with some land, ready to move into, for less than half what a similar house would cost in Maine. Plus, most of the property taxes are half or a quarter what they are here.

But my daughter doesn’t want to move. Sigh.

I can make her happy, and move us to an apartment for the next four years while she goes to high school and remain miserable myself. Or, I can move us south, buy us a home that I could actually leave to my kids some day, develop some equity, and then have to deal with her frustrations as a developing teenager. She’s had enough of a rough go with her mom running off and leaving me the single parent. There’s a lot she’s had to do without.  I just don’t know.

As a parent, I’ve been making sacrifices for my family for over 25 years. It’s part of the job. I’ve been putting them first, last and always because I want them to have a wonderful childhood. They only get to be kids once. It needs to count for something.

And yet, I’d like to do this one thing for me. To live somewhere where I own the land. To spend the remainder of my life in my own home, in a place I’d like to live. If I don’t do this now, I probably will never own a home. In four years I’ll be 61.

So, yeah.  I guess this is just one of those posts where I rant and ramble on for a bit. Not asking for advice, per se. Just sitting on the front porch, thinking things through. Regardless, a choice has to be made by June. We’ll see where this goes.


Greybeards, Old Salts, and Shipmates

I got married after I left active duty in the Navy. I was an airdale, and saw what those deployments and long hours and mission scheduling did to relationships. A great many just can’t handle it.

Thing is, my wife just could never understand the love I had for my fellow airdales, my shipmates. She couldn’t understand how I could get a phone call late at night from someone I hadn’t spoken to in years, yet get dressed and go out to comfort him, or help him out, bail him from jail, whatever.

Long ago, in the faraway, we stood the watch together. We flew together. We had each others back, and knew that when something happened, we could depend on each other to be there. That kind of love is hard to fathom for someone who hasn’t experienced what we did.

When that “Dear John” letter showed up, or something happened back home, or the stresses got a bit much, there was always a brother to lean on, someone to listen. It was as strong as blood ties, and it will stand the test of time.

I keep going, writing what I write, and doing what I do, because those who we lost along the way would have wanted it. We owe them our today, because they sacrificed their tomorrow. As long as I and others remember them, they are alive.

Military service changes you, in ways you won’t understand at first. Only later, as you go along, do you realize the bonds of those shared experiences, the real love of one brother for another.

God Bless those gone before, and know that we greybeards still keep the watch.


Life Goes On

It’s been a very long week. Losing a friend, a mentor, a fellow sailor and airdale, it can be rough. We will bury his remains with all due honors, a military funeral for an American hero, and a loving husband and father.  But in a sense, it isn’t him that we will inter. Just his earthly remains. His soul, his spirit, have already departed, transitioning from one world to another, where, at some time, we will all meet again.

Yet, Lex will live on in all of us who knew him, who read his blog, who clutch tightly to the last vestiges of  his wonderful writing. As long as we remember him, he will be among us. There will be many wakes held for him around the world, literally, this weekend. For anyone who would care to join me, I’ll be thinking of Lex and happy to reminisce with you. I’ll be at Byrne’s Irish Pub. in Bath, Maine from 6pm to whenever. I’ll have a Guinness (for strength!) in his honor, and a toast to all absent companions.

Laurence Binyon (1869-1943), the poet and art critic, wrote many works, but his best known piece came from his service in the 1st World War. Most folks know the 4th stanza, but I believe the whole thing is worth reading today. In my humble opinion, it best says that which we who have served understand, and believe.

For The Fallen
With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

God Bless you Lex. We’ll do our best to take up the slack and carry on for you.

Capt Carroll "Lex" LeFon, USN (ret). 1960-2012


One Of Our Own

One of Our Own

No doubt, most of you reading this blog will have heard of the death of Neptunus Lex.  For those unfamiliar with him, his blog is listed upon my blogroll, on the right of this screen. It is a joy to read, and to dwell upon,  akin to a fine whiskey. To be sipped, savored, and remembered. Once you started to read his stories, you were hooked.

It didn’t matter whether he was writing of the mundane life of a Naval Aviator, or the sharp parries and thrusts of a political debate. The man could duel with words on a footing as equal to, if not better than, his skill with a saber. He was that good.  Many may banter about the term “wordsmith”, but few could define it. Lex’s writing could, and did. Consistently

In Lex’s blog, his stories, his observations, you got the feeling, reading them, that he wasn’t so much reporting but having a conversation with you. He’d pose questions for his audience, often ending with “discuss among yourselves”. He’d let the conversation flow in the comment section,  popping in from time to time to correct something, but mostly letting the regulars and visitors have at it. And it was always a civilized, gentile discourse. Even when it wasn’t.

Now and then, he would use his blog, as I and many other do, as a catharsis. A means to think something through, to act upon the concept that confession is always good for the soul. Whether it was personal demons, family or job issues, the loss of a friend, or any of the myriad things that accost us all, he would write of them, openly and honestly, as if we were each his closest confidant, friend, or some guy sitting beside him at the bar. He was like that, and he was wonderful with what he did.

Lex was many things. He was a Naval Aviator, flying F/A 18’s in combat.  He was a squadron commander, did his XO tour at Top Gun, and retired as a US Navy Captain. More than that, though, he was a husband and father whose love for his family was evident in the occasional comment and article. He wrote about life as he experienced it, things which interested him, and gave each of us a glimpse into the life and times, the joys and tribulations of an extraordinary soul.

Lex was more than kind to me, an old airdale who followed his lead into blogging. He’d suggested I take it up and when I did, he graciously offered advice and mentored me. He humbled me by linking to my poor site, as one of his “Bloggers in Arms”. More than anything else, though, when I lost a younger sister to cancer, he not only wrote about it on his own site, but sent me a poignant letter of condolence. He was the kind of officer that I would have followed anywhere.

Though I had been reading his blog for awhile, I first met Lex in 2007, at the Millblog Conference in Washington. He was blessed with an infectious smile that must have melted many a womanly heart, and a southern charm that fit him like a tailored suit. He could laugh and listen and treat you as if we’d been acquainted for years. He was a gentleman, and a gentle man, and I like so many others, shall miss him.

It was Lex’s gift to be granted that which so many of us old salts dream about: a second chance. We all think about how we’d like to be able to fly one more mission, to gear up and do what we loved for one last time. Lex, the fighter pilot, the dashing Naval Aviator, got the chance to fly fighters again, as a civilian contractor helping to train the young pilots of his beloved Navy. His skills as an aggressor helped to hone those young mens flying skills to a keen edge, to make them masters of their domain, at least as long as he’d let them.

In the end, Lex left us doing that which he loved to do: flying a fighter.  We should remember his family, praying that they will find solace, and be ready to help them wherever and whenever we can. It is the least that any of us could do. Most of all, we should remember Lex as a gifted writer and storyteller, a true wordsmith, and as our friend.  He let us into his world, and see it through his eyes, and left us always wanting more.

God Speed, Lex.  We’ll miss you mightily.

Also read;

Steve Ambrose: Don’t Blink

Chap at USNI Blog:  Pardon Him

Susan Katz Keating: Neptunus Lex: 1960-2012

Castle argghhh!!!:  A Fraternity of Aviators

CDR Salamander: Thank You and Farewell

Instapinch: Lex

The Sandgram: Cleared West

John Donovan: We were Bloggers Once

USNI Blog: A Remarkable Man

Homefront Six: Fair Winds

SteelJaw Scribe: Ave Atque Vale

EagleSpeak: Beat The Drum Slowly

NavyCS: Thank You For Everything

Pirate’s Cove: If All You See

Doc In The Box: Remembering

NavyTimes: Neptunus Lex

BlackFive: McQ, Pinch & Subsunk

XBRADTC:  RIP Carroll LeFon

Bouhammer: God Speed

The Sniper: RIP Lex

Villainous Company: Lex

Time/Battleland: Life, and Death


Stolen Valor: Not A Victimless Crime

Over to my other hangout “This Ain’t Hell”, my buddy TSO (Mothax) has an excellent roundup about the Stolen Valor Act which will be argued before the Supreme Court on Wednesday. He’ll be there, since he has a press pass to attend, and his insights as an attorney and veteran are always worth the time to read and consider.

Two points of his:

As I have said, this isn’t about an opinion or some material fact that the government has no interest in.  The most obvious thing that keeps the Government from outlawing lies on Facebook about your marital status etc is that the people should vote out anyone that would go that far in office.  This is about a verifiable statement of fact.  One either has the medals, or does not.  And the Government should be interested in this, since it directly impacts something under their purview, the awarding of medals to the military.  The rules for governing the military, and the awarding of medals is right there in the Constitution.

Article I, Section 8:

Absolutely agree

 This isn’t some slippery slope down a route where the Government can prosecute willy-nilly.   What this is is an attempt to preserve to those who actually earned the medals the rightful honor they have returned.

Go and read the article, and bookmark TAH on your blogroll. It’s always worth a few minutes to read.

As for myself,

Broadly, this also goes to the heart of protecting the honorable service, and thus reputation, of every veteran.

I would have no problems with locking up anyone who falsely claimed to be a veteran. I would not be surprised to find that 90% of those folks we see panhandling, living on the streets, claiming to be a veteran have never served.

It’s just so damned easy to roll into a surplus store, grab a boonie hat, a blouse and some trinkets/patches and invent a new persona as a “homeless vet”. I personally know two who used to pull this scam until they were outed and had to leave the area.

These guys end up diverting funds to help them when those same funds could be used to help actual veterans in need, or to reduce our tax bills.

My simple solution, to go hand-in-hand with the Stolen Valor Act, is a National Veteran’s ID card, given to every veteran upon discharge. It could be like the VA Patient card, and have the Veteran’s DD-214 data on a swipe strip on the back, with an national data-base number to call, along with an image of the veteran on the front, and his branch of service and date of service on the front.

Having such a card would, to my mind, solve an awful lot of problems right off the top.

Regardless, I am hoping for a positive outcome that reinforces the SVA, but I’m not counting on it.

Seems to me we are all Tommy now, as the new variants attest:

O then we’re just like ‘eroes from the army’s glorious past.
Yes, it’s “God go with you, Tommy,” when the trip might be your last.
They pays us skivvy wages, never mind we’re sitting ducks,
When clerks what’s pushing pens at ‘ome don’t know their flippin’ luck.
“Ah, yes” sez they “but think of all the travel to be ‘ad.”
Pull the other one. Does Cooks do ‘olidays in Baghdad?
It’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, know your place,”
But it’s “Tommy, take the front seat,” when there’s terrorists to chase

. An’ the town is full of maniacs who’d like you dead toot sweet.
Yes, it’s “Thank you, Mr Atkins,” when they find you in the street.
There’s s’pposed to be a covenant to treat us fair an’ square
But I ‘ad to buy me army boots, an’ me combats is threadbare.
An’ ‘alf the bloody ‘elicopters can’t get in the air,
An’ me pistol jammed when snipers fired. That’s why I’m laid up ‘ere.
Yes, it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, “We ‘ave to watch the pence”;
Bold as brass the P.M. sez, “We spare them no expense.

But I’ll tell you when they do us proud an’ pull out all the stops,
It’s when Tommy lands at Lyneham in a bloomin’ wooden box!.

Yeah, lying about military service and awards doesn’t cheapen the real veteran’s service now does it… bastards.


A Clear Choice: Liberty or Slavery

I’ve been pounding the media trails for quite a number of years now, saying the same thing to anyone who would listen: Islam is not compatible with Democracy. Those who would believe that there is some possible way to reconcile Islam with Western Civilization are deluding themselves. Unless and until Islam develops a period of “Enlightenment”, whereby it understands that a bright line must be drawn between secular law and ecumenical law and respects both, then nothing will change.

Fortunately, there ARE Muslims who also understand that 14 centuries of tradition, unfettered by progress,  leads only to stagnation and slavery. Slavery of both the body and the spirit. It is corrosive and destructive and it was not until Christianity reached a similar epiphone that the West blossomed and planted the seeds which grew into the tree of liberty. One such author is Ibn Warraq . It is a pen name used by a Pakistani author and historiographer, founder of the Institute for the Secularisation of Islamic Society (ISIS) to protect his true identity, as there are those who would kill him for simply considering such a concept as separation of church and state. To the Islamist, there can be no such division. I’ll let Ibn Warraq say it himself:

“In the West we are free to think what we want, to read what we want, to practice our religion, to live the lives of our choosing. The notion of human rights, and freedom were, I believe, there at the dawn of Western civilization, as ideals at least, and further developed during the Enlightenment…  It was the West that took steps to abolish slavery; the calls for the abolition of slavery did not resonate even in black Africa, where the rival African tribes took black prisoners in the West. By contrast, stoning to death someone for adultery is a clear violation of the human rights of the individuals concerned; punishments. Laws concerning inheritance, and the rights of women prescribed by the Sharia, Islamic law, also flagrantly violate the rights of individuals. Under Islamic law, women are not free to marry men whom they wish, homosexuals are killed, apostates are to be executed. The Koran is not a rights-respecting documenting.  We are free, in the West, to choose; we have real choice to pursue our desires; we are free to set the goals and contents of our own lives; the West is made up of individuals who are free to decide what meaning to give to their lives. In short, the glory of the West is that life is an open book, while under Islam, life is a closed book. Everything has been decided for you: God [Allah] and the Holy Law set limits on the possible agenda of your life. In many non-Western countries, especially Islamic ones, we are not free to read what we want; in Saudi Arabia, Muslims are not free to convert to Christianity and Christians are not free to practice their faith—all clear violations of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights… A [Western] culture that gave the world the spiritual creations of the classical music of Mozart, Beethoven, Wagner, and Schubert; the paintings of Michelangelo and Raphael, and Da Vinci and Rembrandt, does not need lessons from societies whose idea of spirituality is a heaven peopled with female virgins for the use of men, whose idea of heaven resembles a cosmic brothel.”
—-Ibn Warraq.


One should always bear in mind that “Islam” translate as “submission”, not “peace”.  I will never submit.