Sunday, September 26, 2010

Navy Volunteer!... But Why?

by Bill Doughty

Thousands of Sailors volunteer to read to students at schools throughout the United States. Service members, Navy civilians and families volunteer to work at community service projects to help the environment, prevent drug abuse and assist people in need.


Thomas Jefferson saw charitable giving of time and resources as part of responsible citizenship and good morality. In his 1786 letter to Maria Cosway, “Dialog Between My Head & My Heart,” Jefferson wrote:

And what more sublime delight than to mingle tears with one whom the hand of heaven hath smitten! To watch over the bed of sickness, & to beguile its tedious & its painful moments! To share our bread with one to whom misfortune has left none! This world abounds indeed with misery: to lighten its burthen we must divide it with one another.

Evolutionary biologists, anthropologists and sociologists may explain the benefits of volunteering in scientific terms -- altruism has its roots in survival of the species through natural selection. Those who cooperate and collaborate increase their chances for survival by being able to more effectively feed and defend their families.

In practical terms, Sailors today who volunteer in their communities are more likely to achieve success in their careers. The Sailor benefits and so does the Navy and society, in general.

(Aug. 17, 2010) Sailors assigned to the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) pick up trash at the Virginia Zoological Park during the ship's "1,000 Points of Light" community service event. Nearly 2,000 George H.W. Bush Sailors volunteered at approximately 100 different locations around the Hampton Roads area. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eric S. Garst/Released)

Last week the Navy Community Service Program council met in Washington, D.C. to evaluate the effects of Navy Volunteer efforts in communities nationwide.

The council looked at ways to streamline the annual volunteer awards program and clarify instructions and processes.

As part of the annual meeting, the council attended a welcoming ceremony hosted by CNO Adm. Gary Roughead for the CNO’s Indian Navy counterpart, Adm. Nirmal Kumar Verma. The CNO spoke of the importance of the strategic partnership with the Indian Navy and the importance of working together toward increased interoperability.

The U.S. and Indian navies worked together in the exercise Malabar 2010, training together as friends and maritime allies.

The strategic importance of volunteering and working together -- whether globally or locally -- is a key theme in the Navy’s mission, outlined in the Maritime Strategy and Commanders’ goals, where preventing war is better than fighting war.

Another highlight for the council was visiting the headquarters of the Navy's Ceremonial Guard. Check out this performance of the guard being shared on line:

In my next blog post I’ll review The Art of the Long View -- Planning for the Future in an Uncertain World by Peter Schwartz, who discusses scenarios for predicting and adapting to change. Schwartz supports the idea of collaborating in an ever-more diverse and integrated society.

Schwartz writes:

The world needs a framework of new international institutions -- a new global commons -- to coordinate people worldwide and help resolve conflicts over resources like oil and territory, or the impact of pollution on a country’s neighbors. The rich and the free need to assure the poor and repressed that they, too, can have a realistic sense of hope for the future -- that the gulf between the top and bottom does not widen so much that we who are well off find ourselves living at the expense of a desperate and angry mass.

More on his perspective next week...


(Aug. 21, 2010) Lt. j.g. Michael Anderson, command chaplain at U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka, plays with a child from Fujisawa City's Misono Orphanage during a community relations event sponsored by the hospital and the guided-missile cruiser USS Cowpens (CG 63). More than 70 children were transported onboard Commander Fleet Activities Yokosuka for a day of bowling, playing in the park and an American style barbecue with more than 100 command volunteers. (U.S. Navy photo by Ben Avey/Released)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

‘Beyond Survival’ - Thinking of POWs on 9/11

Review by Bill Doughty

Today we remember the lives lost and damage done in the attacks of nine years ago -- 9/11/2001. Next week, Sept. 17, is national POW/MIA Day. Several weeks ago we ended combat operations in Iraq. It’s timely for a good read by a Vietnam-era POW, for patriots who want to preserve the lessons of history -- Gerald Coffee’s Beyond Survival.

No subject -- sex, religion, torture, fear, feces -- is off limit in Coffee’s reflections on life as a Prisoner of War in Hanoi, North Vietnam from 1966 to 1973.

As a Navy pilot, he flew missions from the deck of USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63). Coffee was shot down and captured in a harrowing encounter. His losses and ultimate triumphs are inspiring.

Coffee introduces us to characters like “Pig Eye,” “Rabbit” and “Louie the Rat.”

Read Beyond Survival and you’ll smell the smells, feel the pain and gain some insights into human nature: the humanity even in a makeshift firing squad; the “kinship of all life” in nurturing a pet bird named Charlie; the collateral, unintended damaging consequences of semantics -- “war” vs. “conflict”; and the brutality of hate.

Coffee reveals the resilient spirit of American warriors and shows the strength of the Code of Conduct as a personal and professional ethos.

He also shows the ingenious codes used by POWs to communicate inside and outside their Hanoi prison, including tapping code, with taps corresponding to letters of the alphabet. POWs may have come up with an early version of texting: TD, TN, TM and YD = Today, Tonight, Tomorrow and Yesterday; GBA = God Bless America. Brushing fingernails against a wall indicated laughing at another prisoner’s coded jokes.

Indomitable spirit... Sense of humor... Inspirational.

Poetry helped him cope. He was inspired by the poem If by Rudyard Kipling:

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with wornout tools;
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on";
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run -
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man my son!

After 9/11, it is easy for Americans to hate. As a POW who missed years with his precious family, it would be easy for people like Capt. Jerry Coffee to hate. Instead, he shows that love and true strength of character are the ultimate triumphs over evil.

To learn more about his triumphs, visit Capt. Coffee's website: