When we watch a movie there is a tendency to let the movie absorb us and entertain the viewer. We let ourselves be immersed into the drama on the screen as we become a part of the story. Every once in a while a story comes along that is not alien to ones life but instead portrays a life experience of the viewer. This happened to me last week.
In 1997 the History Channel launched a mini-series titled “Rough Rider”. It depicted the brief history of a very unorthodox Army Calvary unit made up of cowboys, Indians, frontiersmen and Ivy League athletes who became infamous by their leader, Theodore Roosevelt, when they fought their way up San Juan Hill in the Spanish American War.
This unconventional unit of hard fisted, hard partying individuals embraced the spirit of everything that made America great. Put the men together, add a little training to solidify the group, insert a measure of leadership, turn them loose and watch what happens.
The opening scene of the movie shows an elderly member of the Rough Riders visiting his homestead in Arizona. He goes through his army chest in the attic. Digging through his uniforms, hat and pistol he comes across a photo of his unit; standing victorious on top of San Juan Hill, Cuba. “Damn we were young,” the older man said as he stared at the picture of his comrades. The movie then relived the story of the 1st Volunteer Calvary, as seen through the eyes of the elder soldier, from the time they first formed until it was disbanded, six months later. As I watched this scene I thought of how surreal the movie.
Last week I attended a reunion for a softball team I played for in Saudi Arabia. It was formed in 1981 by a group of men who came together to play ball in the deserts of the Mid-East. At the time there were about 25 teams in Dhahran so teams came and went on a continual basis. Due to favorable weather conditions there were two seasons.
The team was made up of young men that had not been in Arabia very long. Most were young, married and had small children. This was a perfect environment to nurture friendships in a foreign country. Players played, wives brought children to the games and team parties ensued. Some of the wives played on women’s teams and husbands became the spectators. The team was becoming one large family.
This is reminiscent of the early settlers in America. Bonding together to form a unit what would survive the elements and fight off adversity. This is what is the core of America, that spirit to go where others dared not tread, pursue new endeavors and become relentless to achieve a common goal.
As the years rolled on the children grew and began playing themselves, some adults left to return to America but the team continued to win. The family gatherings were held. Cribbage games took place before tournaments and the occasional penny poker games happened during the week. When the players weren’t on the field they would see each other in the weight room; not because they needed to be there but because they wanted to be there. Then a curious thing happened; at an age that most players become ex-players, the team continued to play.
During Desert Storm the average age of the team was 40 but it was undefeated when playing military teams. This included the Navy SEALS, the championship team from the 82nd Airborne Division and the 2 year undefeated team from the USS LaSalle in Dubai. The team survived for another twelve years. And the children matured.
Some of the team’s children made two trips to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Many went on to play at the college level. One of the “children” broke the strikeout record at West Point. Some went pro and one is now pitching in the major league. Originally coaches were from our softball team.
In 2002, after 20 years, the team hung up the cleats with one member and founder, Loren Schoenholtz, being a member for the entire time. When the dust cleared the team had won 18 Mid East Championships, 8 Arabian National Champs, 6 Dubai Invitational Champs, 5 Riyad Desert Classic tournaments, 2 time North African Tournament and 2 Pangea Champs (Philippines). The Dhahran Clippers has been declared the top international softball team in the Middle-East.
Last week we had a team reunion. For me it had been 25 years since I had seen most of the team. It was as if it had been a week since seeing the team, the bond was that strong. We laughed, we drank and we shared war stories. We also said good bye to several; gone yet still with us.
Dang we were young.

I love Christmas. I love everything it represents, the colors, the smells, and most importantly the feel-good feeling that all of these senses manifest within one self. That is why this yearly post is so enjoyable to write. There is no hate stories and no violence infused in the post. It is, in essence, a State of the Christmas message.
There have been years where I have been quite critical about the lack of the true essence of Christmas that is available on retailer’s shelves. Religious wrapping, nativity sets and lawn nativity scenes had all but disappeared. It was sad to see that the true reason for the Holiday was being ignored and replaced with a more sterile environment referred to as politically correct. The mere name of the Holiday, Christmas, was even being wiped out of our vocabulary as something as innocent as children’s Christmas plays were disappearing from schools. Alas, it is good to report that America is making a turn and returning to a more balanced country when it comes to the world’s most popular and meaningful holiday; at least in North Louisiana.
I am happy to report that WalMart not only has a Nativity set available, it has numerous styles and sizes. In Farmerville there is a small section of the store set aside for these artifacts of Christmas past. Walking through the Ruston WalMart and not only are the Nativity sets there for in-home décor but large Nativity pieces for the yard are also available.
These small victories for a holiday that is meant to celebrate the birth of Christ is tremendous. While it may seem insignificant to many, it speaks volumes for those that feel that the true meaning of Christmas had been hijacked by those that don’t want to believe in the birth of Christ. These mis-informed individuals not only desire to be removed from Christmas, these individuals also want Christmas to disappear.
America goes through cycles where an individual doesn’t like what the majority of people like and wants the majority to change. This individual or minority of individuals wraps up in the Constitution and plead discrimination; and America changes for a while. Fortunately, like John Locke wrote, the state of nature will come back to equilibrium and a calm sanity returns. We have seen it with prayer at football games and we are now seeing it with religious retail sales at Christmas.
Let us celebrate the season for what it was meant to be and of course tradition is important. The jolly little ole man still has a very important place in the hearts of all the children. Let us spend time with the children and between the turkey and dressing, the decorated trees and the wrapped gifts; take time to tell the Christmas Story. Let the wonderment of Christmas live in the face of a child as they gaze upon a lighted Nativity on a courthouse square. Enjoy the feelings that come from listening to Christmas carols as a grandchild holds a finger while walking along a street filled with decorated windows.
Even though we started Christmas about two months too early, relish the season and enjoy the happiness that it brings.

I always capitalize the title of my story as a normal announcement of what the article addresses. For this article I will not honor the subject of this article by capitalizing the name of the dog that is the focal point of news coverage around the world.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was born in Iraq near Samarra in 1971. His actual birthdate is not documented. He had three brothers. One was killed while in the Iraqi army, one would later become his bodyguard and one would be an outspoken critic of Al-Baghdadi. His family was farmers and he was raised in a religious environment. It is said that as a child he would play with his friends and teach them from the Quran. He had to repeat his exams to graduate from high school but he later embraced education in college as he received his BA, MA and PhD. Classmates said he was quiet and non-assuming. Ahmed Al-Dabash, leader of the Iraqi Islamic Army, an organization that opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq, knew Al-Baghdadi in college. He is quoted as saying, “ I was with Baghdadi at the Islamic University. We studied the same course, but he wasn’t a friend. He was quiet, and retiring. He spent time alone … I used to know all the leaders (of the insurgency) personally. Zarqawi (the former leader of al-Qaeda) was closer than a brother to me … But I didn’t know Baghdadi. He was insignificant. He used to lead prayer in a mosque near my area. No one really noticed him.”
It is unclear if he was radical before the U.S. invasion or if he was radicalized after the invasion. What is known is that he was arrested by coalition forces following the invasion and was placed in a medium security prison. In December of 2004 Al Baghdadi was released after being deemed a low-level risk.
Al-Qaeda was a radical Islamic organization and was known as ISI for its’ Iraqi affiliation. In 2010 Al-Baghdadi became the leader of the Iraq Al-Qaeda organization following the death of its’ leader. A year later the leader of the overall Al Qaeda organization, Osama Bin Laden, was killed by American SEALS. Al-Baghdadi vowed retaliation and launched a series of attacks within Iraq.
In 2013 Al-Qaeda moved into Syria. At that time Al-Baghdadi announced that the he was breaking with Al-Qaeda and was forming a new radical Islamic organization. Its’ name; ISIS. He then called for a caliphate or holy war. Immediately the Muslims from around the world condemned this and rejected the call for a holy war. Al-Baghdadi was undaunted and he continued with his war. His caliphate grew in size and thousands of fighters poured into Iraq and Syria to join the Army.
ISIS gained popularity through shock and awe; and shock they did. As ISIS moved into a new area the decapitated bodies of innocent civilians and soldiers lined the roads. Prisoners were not captured and held; captured soldiers were summarily executed. When the ISIS army appeared on the battlefield, the Iraqi army fled. Priceless archeological artifacts were stolen and sold on the black market. Other archeological sites were destroyed. Captured civilians were decapitated on internet and a Jordanian pilot was filmed being burned alive while in a cage over a pit of gasoline. A captured American aide woman became Al Baghdadi personal sex slave and was finally murdered by ISIS.
ISIS grew and other terrorist organizations in Africa swore allegiance to ISIS.
Finally, with American and coalition leadership, ISIS was destroyed on the battlefield and was relegated to small land holdings. Even though the massive ISIS army was gone, Al Baghdadi remained a threat and he was still wanted for his past horrific acts.
Last week Al Baghdadi’s compound in Northern Syria was attacked by a coordinated attack comprised of American special forces. Taking refuge in a tunnel, a whimpering and howling Al Baghdadi blew himself up like a piece of trash. I would have referred to him as a dog except I have more respect for our four-legged friends and would not want to insult them by referring to them as an Al Baghdadi.
Ironically, the Kurds, the same ethnic group that we left in Syria to fend for themselves against the Turkish invaders, provided the intelligence as to where Al Baghdadi was living.

Several years ago Russia had disintegrated as a world power that was determined to destroy the United States and dominate the world under communistic rule. The iron curtain had corroded and crumbled, civil liberties were taking root in Eastern Europe and Asia and market conditions existed in countries where governmental central control once ruled the population.
After several years of rebuilding a large part of our globe, Russia and the countries that made up the Soviet Union wanted a more aggressive growth. I recall reading a comment from one of the Russian leaders sending the message that they didn’t want any more advisors, they wanted investments and growth. That investments did happen but not at the level Russian expected. Immediate changes to a way of life can act like whip lash in an auto accident and many individuals in Russia that had been raised in a country that provided everything began wishing for a return to the old way of life.
Russia eventually elected Vladimir Putin as president and it was apparent from his background that changes were coming. Soon after Putin was elected and changes began to take place, I wrote about his background, how Russia was at a crossroads with acceptance of capitalism vs socialism and how much Putin hated being slighted by the West. His previous empire had crumbled. He was a former KGB agent, Russia’s CIA, and he wanted nothing less that returning mother Russia to the glory of the past.
Russia no longer had the military and financial influence it once had but it did have diplomatic influence and Putin maneuvered Russia to be diplomatic power while rebuilding its’ military. He would quietly slip in the back door and take over control of some diplomatic situation that America and the West had ignored. Russia filled some leadership vacuums and thus became a major force in the Middle East. Russia’s influence was growing.
Last month America announced it was moving out of Syria and a new vacuum materialized. America’s strongest ally, the Kurds, were caught in an invasion from Turkey and had to look for help. Enter the Assad regime, a previous enemy, and Assad’s ally Russia. Syria and Russia are now helping America’s close friend, the Kurds. Game point for………Russia and Putin; their strength has now been expanded without firing a shot.
America performed a knee jerk and said it will now send military assets to the Syrian oil fields and protect them from ISIS. This is a way of saying we will be protecting the Kurds that live in that area. Russia is outraged and refers to the action as being illegal and points that there is no reason for America to build up troops in Syria. Will there an armed conflict between Russia and the United; no there won’t be but the political fallout is accenting the new Russia.
As the world watched the actions in Syria, Russia performed another diplomatic coupe. Putin and Russia hosted a military arms display and summit for African countries at the Russian town of Sochi. Fifty-four African countries attended and were impressed with the outcome. Russia was a country that wielded great power in the past as it attempted to destabilize Africa and turn it into a Communist continent. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union the African continent was abandoned. With the newly forming alliance that has been started by Putin, the dark continent may soon be doing a robust business with Russia. Again, a diplomatic maneuver that left the West scratching its’ head over Russia’s success.
Putin announced that it wants to build within five years a trade turnover of 40 billion dollars a year. This rekindling of alliances between Russia and Africa is a further display of Putin’s attempt to regain Russia’s place as a major power broker.

MEDALS FOR EVERYONE

Posted: October 21, 2019 in Uncategorized

When I arrived in Saudi Arabia, the company I worked for had a very good program for the youth in our community. It also had a budget that allowed every child to be awarded for playing soccer, the main sport in the athletic program. There would be no first-place trophies and the awards would be given to everyone. While this was intended to alleviate the stress of losing and placates a child’s hurt feelings, it deprived the opportunity to feel accomplishment when winning. There were no losers so there were no winners and thus the child would be a part of an entitlement society that only had to show up to be rewarded.
Some in our governments are in agreement to this approach; not in the realm of children playing sports but in the approach of how our country should be run. Everyone should receive the same rewards regardless of what they attempt, regardless of how hard they work and regardless of the success a person achieves. In many instances a person doesn’t need to attempt anything at all, just show up and achieve. This deprives a person from feeling a sense of accomplishment for reaching a goal. In essence the thrill of winning is removed and a feeling of entitlement is infused into our society.
The majority of America wants to work, does not want handouts, wants to accomplish goals that are placed in front of them by society or self-set goals that the individual places on one-self. This is the American fiber, the same fiber that brought freedom seeking immigrants to the American soil for an opportunity to achieve. Not the person that came to America to reap the benefits of a bountiful nation but the person that came to America for the opportunity to achieve; not a guarantee to achieve but just the opportunity.
When a person fails or falls short or expectations, there are two roads to travel. The individual can give up and lose sight of their goals. On the other side of the spectrum the individual can get up, dust himself off and try again. In losing, the individual has become stronger and smarter and on occasion this individual will accomplish the goals placed in front of them. This is the spirit that built America.
Today we are witnessing this in an individual that our state can be very proud of. By falling short of earlier expectations in life he was undaunted, did not give up, tried harder and is now achieving at a level that no one ever expected.
Joe Burrow was a standout athlete in Ohio. His grandmother had broken the Mississippi high school basketball single game scoring record with 82 points. His father and two brothers played at Nebraska and his father coached for 40 years. It was expected that he would excel in sports and he did. He was an all-state basketball player and was named to the Ohio Mr Football Award and the Gatorade Player of the Year Award in Ohio. He had won and was expected to continue to win. Burrow went to Ohio State University and planned to lead the Ohio State offense.
Expectations have a way of changing and after three years at Ohio State Burrow was not going to be a starter; he was not going to lead Ohio State. Joe Burrow graduated in three years and looked south for an opportunity to accomplish his dreams.
Louisiana State University gave him this opportunity. When he first showed up I thought to myself that he had a chip on his shoulder. He was focused and inwardly seemed mad; an attitude that he was no-nonsense and he was at LSU of achieve. His first year was not bad but is was not great and even though he was the starting quarterback for a university with a great legacy, he was not content with mediocrity.
Last summer I read a rating of all the quarterbacks in the Southeast Conference. I was curious where Burrow was placed. He was ranked 6th in the SEC and I thought to myself that if he had a chip on his shoulder because of being snubbed by Ohio, he was going to have a bigger one for being snubbed in this quarterback rating.
Instead of giving up or feeling that he was entitled to a successful starting job by just showing up, Joe Burrow got up, put on his big boy pants and went out and is succeeding. Today he is the highest rated quarter back in the SEC and is among the leaders for the Heisman Trophy, the award for the best football player in America.

Two thousand years ago there was a saying that all roads lead to Rome; meaning that Rome was the canter of the civilized universe. Today LSU football has been viewed as the darling of college football and the sports coverage is nothing short of being totally complimentary to the athletic program. In essence, when college football is being discussed on the air-waves all roads lead to LSU. Of course the unique voice of a head coach that is reminiscent of the linebacker from the movie Water Boy coupled with a Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback that Ohio State considered to be unworthy of a start at that university and add a stadium selected as the 6th best in the country and then throw in what is considered to be the 2nd best tailgating atmosphere in America and the country can’t help but to fall in love with LSU.
People all over America are sporting their LSU shirts, caps and flags. There ae no more fanatical fans than LSU fans. Sit down in Tiger Stadium on any given football night and hear the crescendo increase to seismic levels. As fervent as the LSU fan is, there is one, and just one that stands head and shoulders above all others. Even though he has been dead for eighty-five years he still resonates through the halls of Louisiana’s flagship university.
In 1928 LSU was a small backwater university that was considered by the Association of State Universities to be a “third rate” University. Little interest was shown in the state for the college that had an enrollment of 1,800 students with 165 faculty and an operating budget of only $800,000. Enter our Number One Fan that was dedicated to change LSU and change it in a big way.
In 1930 a massive building program was implemented. By 1936 LSU had grown in size from being the 88th school in the nation to being the 20th. It became the 11th largest public school in America with a faculty of almost 400. Reduced tuition costs and needs-based scholarships brought students from all corners of the state of Baton Rouge. The operating budget increased to 2.8 million dollars.
Our number one fan was so enthralled in LSU that he went beyond the material expansions that would make the average college envious; he built a new environment. One attempt to build excitement around the campus was to quadruple the size of the LSU Tiger marching band. He wasn’t satisfied with only expanding the bands size; he collaborated with Casro Carazo and wrote songs for the University Band. Two of these are still played before LSU home games. Our fan would occasionally lead the band into Tiger Stadium.
Our fan wanted LSU stadium expanded and wanted the federal government to pay for it with depression era stimulus money. The feds refused so he had his architects design a new dormitory for the college. That money was approved and the new dorm was erected. The dorm was built inside the confines of a new expansion to Tiger stadium. Student housing was provided and LSU got a large increase to its’ stadium. Students continued to live inside Tiger Stadium until the late 1950s.
When the circus came to town and threatened to open on an LSU home game night, there were concerns that football attendance would drop. The circus refused to change their opening night so the head of the Louisiana agriculture department was dispatched to inform the circus that Louisiana had a dip law and all the lions, tigers, elephants and large animals had to be dipped for ticks. Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Baily Circus decided to delay their opening by one day and the Louisiana Department of Agriculture issued a waiver for the circus’s large animals.
When LSU played at Vanderbilt, a train was arranged to send the students to the game in Nashville. The fervor for LSU football is not a new phenomena.
Our number one fan died young. It is said that as he laid on his death bed he asked who will take care of the boys and girls at LSU.
Being LSUs number one fan was not his only job. He had been on the Louisiana Public Service Commission, the Louisiana Governor, a Louisiana Federal Senator and a presidential rival to Franklin Roosevelt. At the age of 42 an assassin’s bullet took the life of LSU’s number on fan, Huey P. Long.

THIS WILL APPEAR IN THE BERNICE BANNER THE WEEK OF 10/14/2019
America is a very unique country. It was founded on individual desires as well as fundamentally decent principals. Unlike the majority of the rest of the world that were slowly formed from individuals and geographic boundaries for thousands of years, America came into being following a couple of hundred years of exploration and development and then suddenly with the stroke of a few dozen pens a new country was formed. The brilliance of the authors of our Declaration of Independence followed by the Constitution of the United States is nothing short of miraculous. The one thing that differentiates this group from other political or governmental bodies is that they put this nation above self-interest. They saw what the future could be, not what needs to be done to maintain the status quo. They saw what is required to grow a great nation while at the same time provide individuals freedom and liberties that encourage the individual to excel in his or her own desires. Since the founding of America, it is also the undocumented yet understood responsibility of America to help the oppressed around the world so that they can also experience the freedoms accorded Americans.
Groups such as the Kurds in Syria and the Chinese protesters in Hong Kong desire nothing more than to live their lives in the same way as Americans yet remain within their own borders and grow their own countries. It has been reported that Hong Kong protesters can be seen carrying American flags and quoting from the American Bill of Rights.
Recently Daryl Morey, owner of the Houston Rockets, tweeted support for the protesters in Hong Kong. The reaction was quick as a firestorm erupted in the Chinese government as it aimed its’ disapproval against the National Basketball Association. Immediately the NBA apologized for the tweet, even though the tweet was not an official NBA quote nor was Mr. Morey acting in an NBA capacity; Morey was making a quote as a free citizen of the United States. This is a freedom guaranteed to Morey under the Constitution of the United States. Unfortunately, Mr. Morey pulled down his tweet and apologized. The damage had been done though in both China and America. Soon after the NBA apology it came back with another statement that Mr. Morey has a right to make his statement in accordance with American values. These knee jerk reactions do not speak well for an American multi-billion-dollar enterprise.
China began hitting the NBA with financial sanctions. China does have more NBA viewers than American has legal citizens. The United States also responded as talk shows, government leaders and American citizens criticized the NBA for its’ gutless approach to “money is more important than American values”.
A professional football player can disrespect the flag of our great nation and Nike gives him a contract to be one of their icons. Later Nike pulls the Betsy Ross Flag from its’ new shoe because someone said it is racist. This is the same flag taken into battle to show unity of the thirteen colonies in its’ battle to throw off the yoke of oppression during the Revolutionary War. So where is Nike today when it comes to the protest in Hong Kong. Its’ silence is deafening and screams of manufacturing facilities in mainland China and a booming sneaker industry in that country. American principals and values take a back seat to the desire to make a profit instead of the principles of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
John Hancock was a sly businessman and one of the most successful smugglers of tea in Boston in the late 1700s. He was rich and lived the life of luxury. All he had to do for a prosperous future was to stay clear of the American revolution. Instead he helped to bank roll the early days is dissent, headed the Continental congress and signed the Declaration of Independence so large that “everyone could recognize his signature”. He had risked everything, including his own life, for the principals that formed our great nation.
Perhaps a dose of John Hancock could be re-introduced into the fiber of our great country.