Tag Archives: U.S. Marine Corps

Book Review: Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates

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I recently returned to my first love in reading topics: history and biography. While fiction can be extremely enjoyable, especially when done well, I have always found the true, non-fiction stories of real people and events much more interesting.

That return to true history results here in my latest book review. For the first time in nearly four years, it does not involve the topic of baseball.
Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates” was published in 2015 by Penguin Random House’s ‘Sentinel’ imprint.
This joint effort of Fox News host Brian Kilmeade and author Don Yeager tells the story of “the forgotten war that changed American history.
That war is what many students of U.S. history know as the ‘First Barbary War‘, which, as the book jacket explains, “is the little known story of how a newly independent nation was challenged by four Muslim powers and what happened when America’s third president decided to stand up to intimidation.
America’s first four Presidents played key roles in the events leading up to and during the conflict. But George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison are largely secondary figures to the real military and diplomatic heroes and villains who took part in the action.
Following the War for Independence, the newly formed United States of America was saddled with enormous debt and had largely disbanded its military. This was particularly true in the area of naval force.
America was protected from more established world powers of that time primarily by distance and trade agreements. It had little or no influence on the high seas.
In trying to further those trade efforts, American merchant ships would frequently come under attack in the Mediterranean Sea by the Muslim powers of North Africa. These ‘Barbary States’ nations practiced state-supported piracy in order to exact tribute from weaker Atlantic powers.
American ships would be raided, and their goods stolen by Muslim crews. At times, the ships and their crews would be taken and held hostage for large ransoms.
The fledgling United States had no response other than to pay those ransoms. But this only further added to the national debt. Also, the problem wasn’t being dealt with in any meaningful way. It just kept happening, with no end in sight.
The United States wasn’t the only nation facing these issues. Wealthier countries with an actual naval presence in the region simply paid tribute to the Muslim leaders in order to ensure free passage of their ships.
Adams, a Federalist, and Jefferson, a Democratic-Republican, were political adversaries. Those differences extended to their views on dealing with the Barbary powers.
The second President of the United States, Adams thought it possible to continue to buy peace, as was done by other nations. Jefferson, America’s third President, wanted to end that system permanently. He preferred a strong military response.
As Kilmeade and Yeager write:
In response to events on the Barbary Coast, Jefferson, in 1801, had dispatched a small U.S. Navy squadron to the Mediterranean. For the next four years, he responded to circumstances, expanding the fleet to a much larger naval presence. In the end, thanks to the bold leadership of men like Edward Preble, James and Stephen Decatur, and William Eaton, and Presley Neville O’Bannon, military force had helped regain national honor. Even the Federalists, who liked little that Jefferson did, came to accept that the United States needed to play a military role in overseas affairs.
The book is the story of those men: Preble, the Decatur’s, Eaton, and O’Bannon and many more as they battled on land and sea to help a new nation stand up for itself on the world stage.
The United States Marine Corps played a key role in the ultimate victory. This was the war from which came the USMC hymn line “From the Halls of Montezuma to the Shores of Tripoli, we fight our country’s battles in the air, on land and sea.
As the authors state, this war against radical Muslim powers was one which we still, in many ways, are fighting today. It is a pivotal story of the immediate post-Revolutionary War, post-U.S. Constitution period. It is a story that all Americans should know.
Kilmeade and Yeager tell that story in just over 200 easy to read pages chock full of historic drama. Their book includes maps, notes, and a complete rundown of the cast of characters involved in that drama. It will make an enjoyable and educational read for any fan of history, especially of American history.
 

2017: the year that I lost my Dad – but in the end, not really

Mike, our Dad, and myself in the late 1960’s

The calendar is about to flip not only to the end of a month, but also to the end of another year. The end of December causes most of us to take a glance back at the events of the past year. As usual, this one was filled with many good times

But the calendar year of 2017 was a year of goodbyes for me as well. The biggest goodbye of all was one of the hardest of my life. This was the year that I had to say goodbye to my Dad.

I’m sure that many of you can say something similar to this regarding your own fathers. My Dad, Matthew Joseph Veasey Jr, was my hero. He was also very much a role model and inspiration. But it wasn’t always that way.

Many of the memories that I hold from childhood and my teenage years regarding my relationship with my Dad are way too personal to share publicly. The specifics of those memories belong kept between he and I, and a few close family members.

Suffice it to say that I was the test case for challenging my Dad. I have a younger brother, Mike, and I’m fairly certain from conversations that we all had in later years that he would back me up on that fact.

I grew through my teen years and tried to spread my wings away from the control of this tough-guy U.S. Marine and Philadelphia Police boss. It didn’t always go smoothly.

But through those difficult years we learned a greater respect for one another. And the fact that I had already softened him up made things a little easier on my brother coming up right behind me. You’re welcome, Bro.

As I said, my Dad was a Philly cop, rising through the ranks to retire as a Captain after three decades of service to the community. I took the test at the age of just 18 as well, and passed through all of the preliminaries. Unfortunately for me, this was the one time in the last half-century that the PPD was going through actual layoffs and not hiring anyone new.

Despite taking that test and my father’s career choice, I never had some overwhelming urge to become a police officer myself during my 20’s. After that early test, I never even considered that line of work.

Dad (L) with Mike & I and our families, summer 1993

I began to draw closer to my Dad during the decade of the 1980’s. He got much more political in his 40’s, and recruited me to help out with those efforts. This involved volunteer work on a couple of Philly mayoral races, and his move into the presidency of the Philadelphia Emerald Society, a local Irish organization.

Conversations that we had during those years definitely can be given credit for at least planting seeds of change in me. I was a liberal Democrat to that point in life. He had become much more conservative.

While I disagreed with many of his positions in our discussions, which at times bordered on arguments, he forced me to think and to defend my own thought process.

Over time, I would challenge myself in my worldview, leading to more open-minded self-education on my part. This ultimately led to a wholesale change that was much more in line with his thinking.

I made him a grandfather twice over in those 1980’s, and at a young age. This allowed him to enjoy decades with his granddaughters, who he loved unconditionally. He wanted to be called “Grandfather” by them, because he felt it was more regal. Though we busted his chops on that choice of title over the years, the girls embraced it and him, returning his love completely.

That ‘busting chops’ aspect would become a staple of conversations involving him, my brother, and I during the 1990’s. Over the last three decades of his life, those little dining table discussions among the three of us will always remain some of my own life’s favorite moments.

Following his retirement in late 1989, our Dad moved down to Florida. He would spend the last quarter-century of his life there, but returned to the Philly area for regular visits. Even though we all eventually gained a greater ability to stay in close touch via access to the Internet and cell phones, he stated “I need hugs”, and would make his way up to Philly for a visit.

As he was retiring, I had decided to take another shot at the Philly police test myself. At age 28, I aced the test and was in the Police Academy by April 1990. My brother had already done the same a year ahead of me.

Dad, with myself and Mike at my Police Academy graduation 1990

I know for a fact that nothing ever made our Dad prouder than having both of his boys serving as police officers. He loved passing along advice in the early years of our careers, and then just listening to our own ‘war stories’ as those careers unfolded. We both advanced to supervisory positions, which only made him prouder. And of course, that shared experience in uniform only drew us closer.

His last visit north had come in the early summer of 2016. Then at Christmas a year ago, our Dad began to experience symptoms from the rare form of lung cancer that would eventually take his life. He struggled all through 2017, back and forth to various doctors, in and out of hospitals.

Mike and I finally flew down to Florida to visit him in mid-August. Dad had been in the hospital for two weeks that time, and we were both feeling serious apprehension.

We got to visit with him on a Saturday, spending much of the day together. Though it was in a hospital room with Dad obviously laboring to breathe rather than sitting around a dining room table, he was still as feisty of spirit as ever.

At that point, he was still holding out hope. He knew that he was battling a terminal condition. But there were tests results still to come. His hope was that he could be stabilized, go home, and begin some form of treatment that would give him a few months, if not a couple more years.

It wasn’t to be. He did return home with his loving wife Vicki just a couple of days later, but it was to hospice care. There was nothing more the doctors could do. He died the next weekend.

Unlike when our Mom passed away suddenly back in 1998 at just age 58, I was much more emotionally and spiritually prepared for this one. But it was still a gut punch. I let my tears out just once, with my wife Debbie.

Taking part in his funeral services down in Florida and back up here in Philly was cathartic. I was honored by Mike in allowing me to speak on our behalf at both ceremonies. Both church communities were fantastic. Here in Philly, both the USMC and the PPD presented him with honors. Dad would have been moved and proud.

Dad’s USMC flag presentation and PPD Honor Guard gun salute in Philadelphia

‘Matthew J’ was a tough guy, but he was always an emotional man. Life threw difficult challenges his way as a child, as a young father, as a veteran police boss, and as an older man. He fought his way through all of them with tenacity, a refusal to back down or surrender that would be a lesson that absolutely wore off on me.

On one of his visits north just a few years back, I went along with him to the cemetery outside of Philly where much of his family was buried. This included a visit to the graves of his mother and father, some aunts and uncles, and our brother Joseph, who was stillborn in December 1960.

He also did some preliminary genealogy research on his family tree back in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, the results of which he turned over to me. This spurred me on to include my Mom’s side of the family, and take much of those tree branches back some four and five generations.

Those things mattered to my Dad: family history and memories. As long as he was alive, the people who mattered to him during his life were still alive. They were alive in him, in his photos and stories and memories.

One thing that I’ve found over these last few months without him, going through “firsts” such as my first birthday and Christmas without him, was that his feelings on the importance of preserving family memories really are important.

You see, what I’ve (strangely to me) found is that I “feel” him now more than I ever did when he was alive. Maybe that was because I took for granted during his life that he was out there. That he would be back up to Philly for a visit in a few months. That I could pick up the phone and talk to him any time.

Our last picture together in June 2016

Now, he seems to be constantly with me. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about him. Very few hours pass in a day that I don’t hear his voice in my head. It’s not a bad thing, or a sad thing, or a somber thing in any way. It’s a good feeling.

So what I’ve found is that, while I absolutely miss him terribly, he is still with me. He is always going to be with me. Death didn’t take him away. I see and hear him constantly.

And one more thing. He was a man of faith, something that was always with him, but that developed more fully later in life.

That aspect of faith, a knowledge of the truth of Jesus Christ and of God’s love, is another lesson learned by watching my hero. It may be the most important lesson that he ever passed along, in fact.

And because of this one, I know for a fact that one day I will again see my Dad. When I get to wrap my arms around him for one of his hugs again, what a great day that will be.

While 2017 is always going to be remembered by me as the year that my Dad died, I won’t really ever have to think of it as the year that I “lost” him.

Matthew J. Veasey Jr is not lost. He’s not even gone. He’s right here with me now. I would venture to guess that the same goes for any of you reading this now who knew him. It will remain that way for at least as long as any of us remain alive.

Donald Trump, Elizabeth Warren, and Pocahontas

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At the White House on Monday, President Donald Trump honored three members of the Navajo Nation (pic) who had helped America as “Code Talkers” during World War II.

The Code Talkers were recruited to the United States Marine Corps during the war. They transmitted messages via radio using a code developed from their unique native language, one which the Japanese were unable to decipher. 

In remembering and honoring the group yesterday, the President chose the occasion to take a swipe at one of his favorite political foils on the Democratic side of the aisle, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts:

“You were here long before any of us were here, although we have a representative in Congress who they say was here a long time ago. They call her Pocahontas.”

The Trump-Warren feud stretches back into the Presidential campaign last summer. Trump was the presumptive Republican nominee. Warren was considered an early contender for the Vice-Presidential slot for the Democrats on the ticket with their own presumptive nominee at the time, Hillary Clinton. 

Warren would attack Trump at Clinton campaign rallies and at her own speaking engagements. Per the New York Times, for instance, Warren called Trump a man born with cash in his fist and hate in his heart.

Trump would then fire back, at one point beginning to use the Pocahontas reference. This was his way of bringing up claims made by Warren throughout her political career that she is partially of Native American ancestry. There have been numerous vitriolic barbs slung back and forth between the two ever since. 

Warren has claimed, per the Washington Post, that she is of Cherokee and Delaware Indian heritage. During her 2012 Senate campaign, this claim was disputed by her opponent, Scott Brown. The Cherokee demanded proof, and Warren was only able to fall back on old family stories. 

The bottom line according to the Post’s ‘Fact Checker’ researchers: There is no documented proof of Warren’s self-proclaimed, partial Native American heritage…

Warren’s name has also been floated as a possible candidate for the 2020 Presidential election as the Democratic Party nominee. When the President refers to Warren in joking terms as “Pocahontas”, he is taking a calculated jab at her. He is also clearly hoping to provoke some type of public response.

Warren responded, of course, stating It is deeply unfortunate that the president of the United States can’t even make it through a ceremony honoring these heroes without throwing out a racial slur.

Per the Huffington PostNavajo Nation President Russell Begaye appeared on CNN’s “New Day” program earlier today and made this comment: 

“Pocahontas is a real person, not something that’s just made up. This is a young lady, a Native American woman that played a critical role in the life of this nation, and to use that person in that way is unnecessary and is being culturally insensitive.”

Pocahontas is a genuine historic figure, not just a character in a Disney movie. She was the daughter of Wahunsenacawh, the paramount chief of the Powhatan people, whose land the original Jamestown colony had settled upon. Her actual life story, though brief, was pivotal in early relations between peoples of the Old and New Worlds.

The White House came back at Warren on Monday afternoon through press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who stated per The Hill: I think what most people find offensive is Senator Warren lying about her heritage to advance her career.

My own feelings on the issue can fairly be summarized by a statement made on CNN this morning by the former communications director for the White House, Anthony Scaramucci. 

At the end of the day — we’re getting a little bit too micro-managing with each other’s languages and the whole political correctness movement, Scaramucci said per The HillI think most people, in general, are tired of it … I’m totally tired of it.”


The Democrats and their sycophants in the media will continue to highlight in negative headlines and commentary anything that it believes can hurt the President. They will continue to label him a racist, a bigot, and worse.

President Trump meanwhile continues to read the political landscape perfectly. He understands that America is as divided as it has been at any point since the Civil War, and that he will never win over those opponents and detractors. 

The President simply continues to play to the supporters who got him elected last November. To this point, it has proven to be a winning strategy.

In calling Warren the “Pocahontas” nickname, he is in no way making a slur against the real historic figure, her tribe, or Native Americans in general. President Trump is simply digging at Warren and her dubious ancestral claims. That’s all. 

MLB players have a long history of U.S. military service

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‘The Splendid Splinter’ served in both World War II and Korea.

 

There is a long history of service in the United States military by Major League Baseball players. Today is Veteran’s Day, and it is appropriate to remember, honor, and thank them and all those who have served honorably.

Perhaps the earliest well-known individual with ties to baseball who served in the American military was Abner Doubleday.

The mythical founder of the game, pictured in the featured image accompanying this piece, Doubleday was a West Point graduate. He served in the Mexican and Seminole Indian Wars, and was at Fort Sumter when it was attacked at the start of the Civil War.

John Grimes was much more veteran than ballplayer. He served for 30 years in the U.S. Army, retiring at the rank of Captain. His military service spanned from the Sioux Indian Campaign through the Spanish-American War and into World War I.

Grimes appeared in the big leagues for one 1897 season with the St. Louis Browns when he went 0-2 while pitching in three games.

Doug Allison, a Philadelphia native, played for a decade in the big leagues from 1871-79 and then in 1883. It was noted that he became at least partially deaf during his service in the Civil War.

Hall of Famer Grover Cleveland Pete Alexander is quoted that John Titushad one of the best batting eyes I ever saw.” Titus played 11 seasons, including a decade from 1903-12 with the Philadelphia Phillies. He served in the U.S. Army during the Spanish-American War.

Dave Altizer is the only known big leaguer to have fought in the Boxer Rebellion. He served in the U.S. Army in both the Philippines and China during that conflict. Altizer played six seasons, stealing 37 and 38 bases during his first two with the Washington Senators in 1906 and 1907.

Many big leaguers fought with the American military during each World War, including the aforementioned Alexander during WWI.

Also among those serving during WWI were Hall of Famers Ty CobbTris SpeakerEddie CollinsSam ThompsonRabbit MaranvilleEppa RixeyHerb PennockBurleigh GrimesWaite HoytGeorge SislerJoe Sewell, and hundreds more.

Hall of Fame pitcher Christy Mathewson served in WWI after his baseball career had ended. Serving as a Captain in the “Chemical Service”, Mathewson would become involved in an accident that would ultimately lead to his death in 1925 at just age 45.

During World War II, those serving included Ted Williams, who also would serve in Korea. Other stars to serve during WWII included Jackie RobinsonBob FellerJoe DiMaggioStan MusialHank Greenberg, and Warren Spahn, who was awarded a Purple Heart and Bronze Star.

Joining Williams as serving during the Korean War were Willie MaysWhitey FordErnie BanksBilly Martin, and even George Steinbrenner.
The Phillies great defensive center fielder Garry Maddox served in Vietnam along with his 1983 World Series rival and the MVP of that Fall Classic, catcher Rick Dempsey of the Baltimore Orioles.
Also serving in Vietnam were the famed baseball statistical writer Bill James and longtime umpire Jerry Crawford.

 

Players serving in Vietnam included Thurman MunsonStan BahnsenBobby MurcerAl Bumbry and Wayne Garrett, the latter of whom was the only player to appear with both the New York Mets’ 1969 and 1973 World Series teams.

Most recently, three minor leaguers have served in the Iraq War. Schuyler Williamson was a West Point grad who played Low-A ball in the Detroit Tigers organization in 2005. Jonathan Johnston graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and appeared in the Oakland A’s organization in both 2008 and 2011, reaching High-A. Jeff Stockton played in the Anaheim Angels organization in both 2000 and 2001.

Real American Hero: Ty Carter

There are 80 of them as of today, the living recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest award that a member of the American military can receive. 11 earned their medals in World War II, and 11 more in the Korean War, while 53, by far the highest number, earned their honors in Vietnam.

Carter is one of the 5 younger generation of recipients who have earned their honors in the War in Afghanistan. And he is the most recent as well, having received his CMO three weeks ago for actions that he took almost four years ago now in the United States Army.

Ty Carter was born in the beautiful and peaceful Pacific Northwest region of our country, in Spokane, Washington on January 25th, 1980. His family moved to the Bay area of California a year later, but then went back to Spokane in 1991. Ty graduated from high school there in 1998, and in October of that year he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps.

In his Marine service, Ty Carter trained at the Marine Corps Combat Engineer School, served a stint in Okinawa, Japan as an intel clerk, and then in 1999 was sent to Primary Marksmanship Instructor School after showing promise in previous weapons’ marksmanship training. The skill would turn out to be invaluable during his later heroic action.

After serving training deployments in California and then in Egypt, he was finally honorably discharged from the Marines in 2002. He then began a modern day struggle in his personal life. He met a girl while attending Community College classes. They married and had a daughter, but the marriage would not last.

In 2008, Carter decided to get back into the military, enlisting in the U.S. Army as a cavalry scout. From May 2009 through May 2010, he was deployed to serve in the War in Afghanistan with Bravo Troop, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division.

During this first deployment in Afghanistan, Carter settled in at Combat Outpost Keating in the Kamdesh District of Nuristan Province in the northeast region of the country not far from the border with Pakistan.

On the early morning hours of October 3rd, 2009, COP Keating came under serious, direct attack from some 300 enemy fighters who had surrounded the camp on the high ground at all four sides. The attackers awakened Carter’s camp with a variety of weapons fire ranging from small handguns to RPG’s, machine guns to mortars.

Carter jumped right into action, carrying ammo from his barracks to another battle position under intense enemy fire, then back again across the same open 100 meters of ground where he retrieved machine gun oil and more ammo. He then made the run under fire a third time to get even more ammo.

Injured within those first moments of the battle, Carter continued to fight on, using his marksmanship skills to drive back enemy that had by that point infiltrated the camp perimeter. He crawled to retrieve more ammo, again under continuing intense enemy fire, and reinforced the camp’s main battle position for a 4th time.

Carter then ran across 30 meters of open ground to a wounded comrade, providing life-extending first aid, and then carried the soldier back across that same ground, all while continually being exposed to enemy fire. He then made a run for the camp’s Tactical Operations Center in order to obtain medical care for that wounded soldier, and also to coordinate recon. During that run he saw the body of a fallen Sergeant, and was able to retrieve that soldier’s radio, enabling the camp to coordinate their evacuation with fellow soldiers.

The battle raged all day and into the night, when reinforcements were able to safely land by helicopter. Almost 2/3 of the coalition soldiers at the camp were casualties, with 8 killed and more than 25 wounded, including Carter. The later examination and investigation of the incident revealed that Carter had exhibited heroic actions and exceptional skill that were critical to the defense of their camp, prevented the enemy from capturing their position, and saved the lives of his fellow soldiers.

Carter, now a Staff Sergeant, received his Congressional Medal of Honor on August 26th, 2013. He has also received the Purple Heart. And in addition, we hope that he has found peace in his personal life as well. He met a woman named Shannon who also had a child from a previous relationship. The two got married, had a child together, and settled down in the town of Antioch, California to raise their mini Brady Bunch.

Specialist Ty M. Carter is not only the most recent recipient of the CMO, but he is also the latest honoree here at the website in the ‘Real American Hero’ series. Begun a few years back, it has been on sabbatical for the last couple of years, but is being revived with this article and will continue in the future.

To see the previous honorees and read their inspiring stories, simply click on the below ‘label’, and remember that clicking on these labels in any story will lead you to other article back through the history of the website which deal with that particular topic.