TED Conversations

Johnna Franklin

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Why do civilians think we as military personnel should not speak our minds? We fight for our liberties, yet many prefer to silence us...

In response to the question regarding General McChrystal being chosen to speak at a TED conference.

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    May 11 2011: Dear Johnna,
    Hopefully, you will never be silenced because you have every right, as any citizen of the US to speak your mind, and you are doing it here on TED very eloquently...thank you for that.

    As a daughter, sister, former wife, and friend to many who have served in the military, I am grateful to all of the diverse group of people who serve to protect our country, and our rights. You are a beautiful spokesperson here on TED, who can effectively change some perceptions regarding those who generously serve our country:>)
    With love and appreciation for you and your mission...carry on:>)
    Colleen
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      May 17 2011: Thank you ma'am ~ your words are comforting and most appreciated. It is my privilege to be able to speak freely and without censorship...Was so in uniform as well ~ sometimes to my detriment ~:")

      All my best, always.
      Johnna
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      May 7 2011: It's easy to craft a passionate speech that sells one side of the story, but stories like Iraq are not just about oil and money. Those are nuclear missile programs coming out of the ground, and leverage to keep treating women like property, and other similar things. We must always choose whether we want that power in the hands of democratic regimes or militant extremists. I'm not denying there is corruption and greed tangled into the mixture, but I'm denying it's as simple as this speaker colors it to be.
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          May 9 2011: I must admit that I'm not aware of examples of ranting like this, but I would gladly point you to the voting records, campaign speeches, and in one case the actions as President of George W. Bush or John McCain - both veterans.
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      May 10 2011: Hello Mister Hrdlovic ~

      The Pete Seegar video is a scream. Loved it! Thanks.

      The previous video is from a man that did not and could not see his promise through. He speaks of things he did, ways he treated others and a lack of tolerance HE chose in the military. There are always the people that reject who they were and what they did while in service. The military does not have a perfect recipe for integrity or leadership. They train ideally, lead, guide and measure and then do their best to support when things go wrong. Are there people that step over the line? You bet. There are also ways to deal with them when this occurs. It is human nature and a natural defense mechanism to guard against ingesting too much for fear of not being able to do your job when your life depends on it. He likely put his comrades life in danger often. If a soldier has issues with his missions, his leaders and what is being asked of him, he is supposed to tell someone. Although it seems it is fighting 24/7, it is not...

      Furthermore, not everyone has the same experience. You could ask someone that served right along side him and he would tell you a different story. We are all built differently including our tolerances. War is stressful, have it be an all out fight, a police action or a SOG mission we are in the hot seat. We make good decision and bad decisions. Forgive me if this seems like an over simplification. It is not my intention.
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    May 6 2011: It is the times we live in.
    Many of these same people would have a different opinion of the military if they found themselves in some enemies grasp and their only hope was the liberating march of men and women risking all to rescue them and restore their freedom.
    Freedoms have a cost, which in most cases are paid by young men and women in somebody's army.
    Many of us take these freedoms for granted and we choose to forget the sacrifice of those brave young souls who have paid the ultimate price only to be rewarded by indifference and sometimes even hate.
    War is undesirable and peace preferred but wishing the military didn't exist does not in itself secure peace. The military hardly ever start wars, they do however fight them in an effort to uphold the principles and ideals of a society that have given them that charge.
    So even in these times there is still much support for the men and women who wear the uniform of the military and continue to risk all for grateful citizens.
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      May 10 2011: Yes Mister Gonsalves, I agree. It is the indifference that makes me uneasy and the insincere way in which fear and ignorance keep us so far apart. Much like that of prejudice and irrational judgment, there is too much assumption and not enough understanding. Thank you.
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    May 8 2011: Johanna,

    I don't think the question is about silencing the military. The military is outspoken, has defined generation after generation with both inventions and violence.

    It's more a question about who the military silences.

    Moreover, for those informed, there's a distrust of the charged political language of militarism. Technical terms like collateral damage, counterinsurgency, and so on can pacify our anger at actions done in our name that could be described otherwise.

    However, once we realize the history and context of the language, we develop a distrust of those who would speak from the perspective of the military.

    And for many, that takes the form of anger or censorship if they could get the chance, to try to push away what has already been done in their name by not having to listen to the calculated half-lies from a General's mouth.

    So, I must reject your premise that military personnel don't get enough airtime. Intellectuals have always had a disdain for the military, but that doesn't mean that the military is generally silenced or isn't respected by many.

    Indeed, often it is respected more than one's government. However, I think if there was any disdain for McChrystal at TED, it was not because he was in the military - but because of his actions in the military. Thus, it's not about the military per se, but about him.

    Sneering and jeering a lesson in leadership from McChrystal is thus not based in his militarism, but in his actions. So, it's not about silencing the military, but about censoring him for his actions and his willingness to overlook their consequences to give a glib talk on leadership.
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      May 10 2011: Thank you Mister Seth.

      If this is the case, then the same standard should hold true of politicians.

      Although some of our history as you reference the military being outspoken is true, it is not the case of General McChrystal. Please explain your point as it pertains to General McChrystal. Who was he silencing? It is not a matter of airtime, it is a matter of freedom of speech. Many are angry that the General spoke his mind and with it, truth. You may differ in opinion but, a General officer does not put his lifetime career on the line for lies...

      It is a double standard I think. It is also a contradiction in terms of intellectuals and military leaders. Most Majors and above have at minimum a Masters degree and some go on become professors after service. Generalizing the military based on limited knowledge of a few is what hurts us as humans. This is most certainly the case with General McChrystal.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MLOjIKt7wOk&feature=grec_index
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    May 8 2011: I believe we are getting a little off topic here, Johnna I hope you don't mind but I posted another conversation, I am passionate about the Military and those who serve in it.
    http://www.ted.com/conversations/2661/what_is_the_job_of_a_soldier_a.html

    Johnna's topic was 'Why do civilians think we as military personnel should not speak our minds? We fight for our liberties, yet many prefer to silence us..' Not, what is the job of a Soldier or Military personnel.
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      May 10 2011: Thank you Mister Wilkinson!

      Any mention of the military brings all kinds of emotion and topics out from the dark. It is healthy, I think and can shed light on those who might never ask someone in uniform. It is, and can be very powerful.
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    May 8 2011: Where does the individual become the many?

    This is a question that needs to be asked in every sector of society if we are to move forward into the bright future a lot of people are hoping for.

    Somehow, in our discussions, we are trying to tackle issues at two very different levels and as a result are achieving very little.

    A single soldier is not the army. But the army is made up of single soldiers.

    Your question has fallen victim to the very issue I'm trying to get at here.
    You have lumped me into "civilians" and I am one but, unlike your presumption, I do believe that soldiers should speak their mind.

    When you speak of any group, you are speaking of individuals and like it or not, you cannot neatly sum them all up is one sentence. To continue to do so reinforces a mentality that belongs to a less enlightened time..
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      May 8 2011: Scott, do you believe that even after the indoctrination that soldiers receive in the armed forces that they are as individual as they were before they went in?
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        May 8 2011: No. I get that the army is a machine designed to produce soldiers and it does it's job well.

        I think every individual is influenced by their context - education is a prime example - but not all to the same extent and I'm sure that there is an inverse effect - that some people don't "buy in" to the rhetoric/traditions/culture precisely because of the way it operates. I imagine also, that a lot of soldiers have experienced a profound shaking of their viewpoint after being in battle.

        In some ways, it's possible that the only opinions that count in this particular example, are those people who have been involved in battle. Only those people who have experienced war first-hand have relevant opinions.

        The issue I'm interested in is not really to do with the subject of the question but the on-going habit a lot of people seem to have of discussing 'issues' at the level of society or a 'group' for want of a better term.

        It seems to me that the only thing of value is the opinions of individuals. Once we start talking in greater generalities, the effectiveness of any discussion drops drastically.
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          May 8 2011: I have noticed Scott your focus on the individual in many postings. Your commitment to understand people one at a time must enrich your life and the people in your life must feel very valued.
          I find that is important. There are times, however, when we need a 'basket' to carry mulitple individuals' opinions around in our head and that is when we tend to generalize.
          I want the freedom to take both approaches because I feel one informs the other. You are right that we are most precise at the individual level but we have many commonalities that empower us.

          For me - it is the 'hive miind' of armies that scare me- the sense that one focused mind has the power to direct the actions of thousands who have been trained to turn their humanity off.
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        May 9 2011: It has helped with my teaching because building a strong relationship of respect with the individual kids is the key. Not seeing them through the assessment system. Everything else flows naturally after this. Kids leave adults for dead when it comes to learning. No system we can devise comes close to matching their natural ability to ABSORB.

        The reason I keep banging on about this individual-becomes-group thing is because I see it as the weak point in our (New Zealand) education system.

        While all other elements in education are getting closer to being personalised to individual learners' needs and strengths and passions, most methods of assessment still apply a one-size-fits-all approach.

        There are parallel examples in the political system - in fact, anywhere Bureaucracy rears its mindless head.
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      May 10 2011: Hello Mister Armstrong ~

      Thank you for the post and the clarity in which you speak. You hit my sweet spot in regards to the individual and avoiding generalities. It was not my intention. Although general, it did get some action. This was my intention. Apologies if it offended your sensitivities.

      All too often, we are referred to as machines, drones, mindless mercenaries. It gets boring. The idea that you begin with an individual and expect to change that person into something they are not is very short-sighted, supremely Hollywood and sadly mistaken. The military changes behavior, creates habits in terms of conduct within the ranks, teaches soldiers to ask clarifying questions and encourages problem solving.

      When I entered the service in 81 the VN era soldiers were still entrenched and the individual was not thriving. The military shifted and it was for the good. [You touch on a point that resonated for me personally and that is respect and dignity.] We left the process of one-way information and went to encouraging participative leadership and encouragement of individual strengths to build teams. The military began training and maintaining units exactly with this in mind. It worked and so they continued to develop towards that model. Then...someone else took over and created more change. The general philosophy is still in tact but, the soldier is much more responsible for his career and experience in the service than ever before.

      Thank you for the intelligent response and contribution.
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    May 7 2011: Armies are only create and designed to do two things, Occupy and kill. We are not as soldiers adapted to be police forces. Any time we are asked to do anything other than those two things we should be questioning why. We should of course question those two things also. Just because we pledge allegiance and say that we will kill or die does not mean we need to without reason, this is what in theory separates us from our foe. The biggest problem as I see it today is that most of the people in the world do not want to be at war, so why are we? Is it because our politicians truly believe that they are representing us in the way they believe we would want them too, or is it because they have something more to gain from constantly being at odds with other nations. The problem also is that any time we follow our Politicians into conflicts like the Middle East, thinking that we will be home by Christmas, we are simply kidding ourselves. There is a litany of conflicts over the last hundred years, where we have said that, and time after time we have failed. It is a hard truth that people do not want to hear, but soldiers are trained to kill and as Johanna says we should think long and hard and be allowed to question the validity of our actions (Sorry Johanna I paraphrased)

    I have been in one of these conflicts and while I know that the work I did in Northern Ireland was of value I still have to look at the time it took for a resolve to come about (30 Years) to be exact. And now we have left the place in ruins, only now is it beginning to pick up again.
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      May 7 2011: Yes, people can say they don't want to be at war from sun up til sun down, Lee, but they aren't willing to give up stuff to prevent it. Just try telling people if they would downscale to hybrid cars from the gigantic 4WD Hummers they use to drive back and forth to their bank job and the coffee shops, that we could reduce the political importance of extremist groups in the Middle East, and see whether they are willing to put their money where their mouth is. This is just one example, and there are hundreds of similar examples we could point to.
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        May 7 2011: I'm sorry Erik, that argument just does not cut it. Americans cannot justify dead kids to keep their Hummers.
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          May 8 2011: I agree that they shouldn't, but it is effectively happening nonetheless. My claim is that there is a gap between what they say and what they do. They say they don't want war, but they continue to guzzle resources and create powerful leverage in the hands of whoever controls those resources. Just look at the headlines in the U.S. about how gas prices will impact the 2012 presidential campaign for crying out loud. If people really don't want war in the middle east, they shouldn't make voting decisions based on gas prices and they should act to reduce demand, creating an adjustment in the market clearing intersection of the supply and demand curves.
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        May 9 2011: I perceive you to be a solid patriot Erik and despite your offer to let us hear the rehetoric of McCain and Bush you seem to associate the war with oil prices.
        What country in the world should be allowed to work out their internal issues in other countries at the price of the lives of the citizens of those countries?
        I am not an enemy of the USA- rather just a woman and a mother and a friend of average Americans but I do not see American kids as any different in value to Iraqi kids- oil or no oil.
        The utter madness has to stop sometime. Why not now?
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    May 7 2011: I think America should have learned by now that we want and need our soldiers to have differing views and to express them appropriately. Group think is a dangerous and destructive force, so I, for one, am comforted to hear when soldiers have thought out their position on issues, and when they have differing opinions - though naturally this is more comforting the further up the food chain it is happening.

    I also think it is important for people to see and understand the many ways that soliders carry out their duty even in situations where they might not agree. There is a deeper understanding of what duty means, and that is lost if we are allowed to preserve the illusion that all of the soldiers agree with each other and their commanders (or that they are mindless drones without thoughts and opinions of their own!).
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      May 10 2011: Mister Richardson,

      Soldiers have a standard to meet, and a conduct that is expected of them. They all make a promise to do certain things at certain times. If time permits and lives are not at stake, questions and opinions fly. It is our moral imperative. Theirs is a difficult job and assuming you understand based on one persons opinion or performance is shallow. Experience is the best teacher ~ no hearsay, hearing and understanding for yourself is what is needed.

      It is that tag..."Mindless Drone" that makes me spin. Most of the men and women I serve with are not drones. Our educational system creates drones. Our military system creates thinking people who are taught to gather information and act, sometimes without all the information and out of need to save lives. Are mistakes made? Yes. Do they learn from it? Yes. We are real, thinking and feeling people who love our freedom and our country. Enough to die for it. Regardless of whether anyone else thinks it is worth it, we do...Our most opinionated moment. We stand on it.
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        May 10 2011: Erik is fine :-D I hope you didn't misunderstand me: I don't think our soldiers are mindless drones.
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          May 10 2011: No Erik ~

          Blogging leaves much to be desired and misses my most apparent gift of humor and sarcasm. Thank you for clarifying the point...it is most appreciated. The label however, comes up a lot and if you want to bunch a soldiers panties, call them a mindless drone and colors will fly.
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    May 7 2011: i like brain beachamps idea. lets have transparency in military conduct. TED should invite different level of military personal to share their experiences. i am curious to know how the opinions would vary. i don't want to think of it as putting them in a hot spot but what number of the military know about the Haliburton scams and that the war is illegal. i owe a unspeakable amount of gratitude to these people even though all branches the military, expect the national guard, are being misled. they are are really just protecting oil companies (which have bought most of the green energy businesses so now BP is and 'energy' company). how many military personal would agree with my view? i hope they could disprove my point, for all of our sake.
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      May 7 2011: This is a tired line of thinking and shows little appreciation for the complexity of foreign affairs.

      1.) Corporations get power from the voting people do with their pocket books. If Americans would stop climbing into their SUV's to drive 2 blocks to the store, stop wetting themselves every time the cost of gas goes up, and stop voting for politicians based on this kind of issue, it would stop being a driver in domestic politics.

      2.) The reason oil drives decisions in foreign affairs is not because of oil companies, but because it is an important economic resource, and leverage/control of important resources are (and always have been) important variables in international affairs. That's not 'really' oil coming out of the ground; it's bombers, tanks, political movement financing, and it is bargaining power in international policy which sometimes conflicts with the ideals America stands for and tries to others achieve (like equal rights for women, or freedom of speech).
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        May 10 2011: Mister Richardson,

        My purpose for making the question so general was to see what people would come up with...as evidenced here, we all have an agenda. This response, although important to the larger picture is connected to politics and what drives our economy, our positioning internationally. Without coming off as being naive, it is off the topic in terms of freedom of speech for American service members. Do you think the average soldier fighting in Afghanistan is thinking about some CEOs SUV? You think he is fighting for it?
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          May 10 2011: I'll admit, I do allow myself to be pulled off topic. I get a little passionate when I see the work our soldiers do reduced to the equivalent of corporate mercenaries. I'm curious to hear if YOU think the military is doing nothing more than protecting the interests of oil companies. ?
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          May 11 2011: "Do you think the average soldier fighting in Afghanistan is thinking about some CEO's SUV? You think he is fighting for it"?

          I would say probably not. My neighbor, a lovely young man with a beautiful young wife and 2 year old daughter, came home from Aghanistan recently. Although his job was officially maintanence of vehicles, he talked mostly about his connection with the people in the village and particularly the children. Whenever possible, the guys played soccar with the kids, and/or engaged them in some kind of interaction. That was the most important part of my neighbor's mission, in his perception. I personally do not percieve "our soldiers...reduced to the equivalent of corporate mercenaries". Let's give them credit for being caring, loving people who are on a mission, and carrying out the mission to the best of their ability at any given time.
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        May 10 2011: It is difficult to address such a hot topic especially when so much is tied to it. Sometimes it is hard to think in a linear fashion when the issue touches so many valid points. Great face-to-face material but, diluted when there is much to be said...

        No Sir, I do not think we are protecting oil companies. In a different capacity, I am well versed on private security companies and the oil companies can afford them. Although there are vested interests in those companies, we are not solely going to poke the bear with a stick for the sake of it. Often I wish our government were that creative, they are not. If they had half the creative genius our citizens think they do, we wouldn't be in this financial crisis.

        Be sure who you put in office ~ our very lives depend on it in 2012.

        Passion is good.
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          May 11 2011: "Often I wish our government were that creative, they are not. If they had half the creative genius our citizens think they do, we wouldn't be in this financial crisis."

          Brilliant, just brilliant! :-D
  • May 6 2011: I always thought that Robert a Heinlein may have had things right and that warfighters and generals have a unique moral perspective which makes them better qualified to make civic judgments then many others. A General has more effective and practical management experience then many TED speakers as well. From this civilians perspective I think the general is an excellent choice for a TED speaker. Perhaps he can shed some light on DARPAS one hundred year starship project with NASA and the reasoning behind it.
    “I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do. I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do.”
    Robert A. Heinlein
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      May 10 2011: Lovely. Thank you. Most do not think or consider that officers have quite a different promise and for this, a very different perspective. All too often many assume they are just out executing orders and not thinking. If there were an opportunity to see behind the tent door, there is quite a different picture of what really occurs behind every single decision. Is always the best? ~ No. It is however, a decision. If we left things in the hands of dithering politicians, we would be morally empty, completely self-serving or not the United States of America. In my humble opinion.
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    May 6 2011: from my perspective i may not agree with what he ultimatly does as a career, he is VERY intellegent and imo warrents a TED talk.
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    May 6 2011: Dear Johnna, You are a fresh new voice and I welcome you.
    I do not promise to always agree with you but I would very much value your perspective.

    An honest reponse might be that many are afraid that the indoctrination that military personel go through would shape your views to be those of the forces rather than an individual perspective (which might no longer really exist).

    Edit: A bit more honest response is that I might be afraid of you. I am not joking either. I might be afraid of what your might can make happen.
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      May 10 2011: Thank you Debra ~ I sincerely hope it is okay to address you by your first name.

      Often people to use forums looking for agreement, consensus and although it is comforting to hear similar opinions, it is not my goal to do so...It is my goal to seek understanding.

      You hit on many points that are deeply ingrained in most who do not serve. It is a lack of understanding and in fact intolerance, I think, that creates this distance, this indifference. One does not always make many. Our military forces are reflective of our society, and we have all kinds of shapes, sizes and opinions. The one prevailing commonality is that we want to do something about injustices, together. Does that mean all of us are of the same cloth? Not likely. It is for this reason, some find the military a lifetime commitment, a home and others, just a part of what they do in their lives. A stepping stone.

      Fear is real and we should always listen and do our best to understand it. The reality is that few "indoctrination" processes can shift a persons moral compass to the point they no longer listen to their inner voice. Certainly, it does not exist in the US military. We train people to follow orders (so they do not get killed) not to be robots. We also train them to question appropriately and with that, there are differences in leadership, it is all about maintaining your own voice. We learn to do things respectfully. Every order must be a legal one. Each a part of the larger picture.

      In closing. Our soldiers are like everyone else and that, I guess is my point. Why do we expect them to lay down their lives and not be able to speak their minds. Some of the most intelligent, highly creative people I know are in the service and they are often not seen because people have set opinions of what a soldier is and what they think.

      Engage someone in uniform, hear their story. It might change your mind about some things.
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        May 10 2011: Dear Johnna,

        I am pleased that you took the time to respond. Do I correctly perceive that you are back 'on duty' and back at your desk as you respond to me? Is this then, part of your job? Can you tell me exactly what your assignment or role in the military is? Are you a psychologist?

        I never mind being called by my first name but may I ask why you chose to call the only woman by her first name and all the men by either sir or their surname?

        If you are sincerely interested in engaging in dialogue as I am, I would very much like to start by hearing the answers to my inquiries.

        I look forward to your next posts.
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          May 10 2011: Good question Debra. Keen eye.

          It is a point of choice to not call someone by their first names unless they request me to do so, or in the event I chose not to be friendly. Your words and how you present yourself is open, welcoming and intelligent. Asking is always my preference rather than assuming. Since you addressed me as Johnna, I thought it appropriate to exchange the same courtesy.

          All too often these forums become diluted and people use them to voice their narrow opinions. It is tiresome and pointless. It is my intention to hold a civilized discussion where we all can share our minds and passions. Although I protect my beliefs and my loyalty to fellow service members jealously, my mind is open to listening and learning. Hopefully, sharing insight to assist others in learning as well. Thank you for the questions.

          No. I am no longer active or in the reserves. As a commissioned officer however, my duty and obligation is until the age of 70 unless physically unable. Forgive my direct nature. My occupation in the military is irrelevant.
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        May 10 2011: Hi Johnna,
        I was happy to see your response and I am glad to have you call me by my first name because it is my intension to be friendly to you and to engage you in a spirited debate of perspectives. In fact I find your lovely face breaks my stereotype and confronts me with some of my preconceived notions already.

        Somehow my current assumption that you are acting of your own accord and that you are not actively serving feels as though it levels the playing field to me. (I do not want to debate against you and your army- to paraphrase a childhood saying). I want to know what another woman sees and feels.

        I am genuinely considering your assertion that I might be intolerant toward military personel. That is a new term to apply to myself so I am doing inner battle with it as I write. I know that I do believe that any person who is not currenty in the heirarchy and thus currently serving is a person who should be listened to just as any other citizen should be.

        I am not indifferent to you, though. I considered your initial question deeply and decided to give you the most transparent and honest answer I could. I am fearful of soldiers, their indoctrination, the results of societial expectations of them and of our horrendous cowardice as society to stand behind what war does to some soldiers and commit to them to restore their lives.

        As a person with some education in psychology, I do worry about the extent of the indoctrination whose purpose is to get you to obey without question in the most momentus times of your life.

        As a mother who looked into the faces of my newborn babies and was overwhelmed by the epiphany of the preciousness of their lives, I cannot imagine sending you or anyone elses' babies out in my name to kill other mother's babies. I have no wish to be maudlin in this statement- only to communicate that the deepest part of the recesses of my heart says killing is not getting us anywhere. I might give my life for you but on my own terms.
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          May 10 2011: Debate is sorely missed in my life. As a general rule, most think that point, counter-point discussion is a thing of the past but, it affords others space, time and therefore a more civilized discussion of sorts. Seems most feel the need to battle where I do not and will not for the sake of my opinions desire to crush another but, to fully explore and share. We are all complex and if allowed, generous of heart, I think. Thank you for responding, it is most appreciated.

          Before replying fully, it is important to note that much of my personal time is spent serving both veterans and their families in a voluntary capacity. Mainly because of the things you so clearly articulate. Service members of all countries serve us, we need to give back in a way that shows them we are here, not just using words. It is our hearts' duty. They are sons, daughters of others...of us. They belong to us and we should care for them in their time of need. A huge part of what we failed to do in Viet Nam, Korea and most definitely Iraq and Afghanistan. Thank goodness for the psychology profession, we are now calling it what it is...PTSD and TBI and although it now has a label we are still ignoring it. Drug them and forget them is the VA approach.

          As for my acting on my own accord. Yes ma'am. It has always been this way for me. Acting on my own and that is what this is about...this post. General McChrystal acted on his own, as a General officer with a conscious and who is and was concerned with his people serving under him. The last thing he wanted was for BHO to throw them under the bus when things got hot for him. As they are now. Could he have done things differently? Absolutely. This slip in judgment does not however, remove the fact that he has every right to speak his mind. There are those who are politically driven to that say he should have been a good soldier and kept his mouth shut. If he protected even one precious life, by agreeing to the interview, he is the better man. Even IF it cost him his career and Barry some grief and embarrassment.

          Debra, intolerance occurs when we least expect it. It may come through decisive thought and prejudice or it may come slower and through a mindset that is less obvious and with good intent like caring for others. Good and bad, perception and myth. We often see sides and not reality. We chose one over the other and generally stay on that side, digging in and electing to hold on to our beliefs. This is especially true when it comes to the atrocities of war. Most soldiers do not want war. They aren't thinking of their SUVs or what stinking politician does what but, that they are missing their baby's third birthday, their fifth anniversary, their best friend that was killed last week by an IED. Additionally, they are consumed with giving others a decent life by making their time there, count. The real brutality occurs from countrymen who are oppressing their human rights. Our service members want to be a part of making something better, not destroying it. In the process, we too learn to love other people, cultures and it becomes part of us. Good and bad. We never forget. It is on us, in our minds and seared to us for eternity.

          In my opinion, we decide what makes us fearful. We also decide what is embedded on our brains and in our souls. Understanding it is the process that takes time. Military indoctrination is not what you perceive it to be and it is certainly not as heinous and threatening as what is portrayed in film or in the books. It might help you to understand it, research it and see if in fact this is what you envision. Conditioning someone to pay attention, act with bearing and respect, courtesy and professionalism is one thing that serves us on and off the field. Every single service member that raises their right hand takes an oath that they will do what is expected of them in the event of war. We know the risk going in...One of my assignments as a young officer was in a training battalion where we trained new soldiers (indoctrination). This process is not to stop the thinking, it is in fact to encourage it. It is the reason a person must be 18 years of age to serve. They must be able to decide for themselves.

          We share the privilege of motherhood and every single soul is precious to me. You are correct, killing is not the answer. Standing for what we believe in and how we chose life is on our own terms. Our oath is a promise to uphold all that we honor as precious and if we die believing it, it is our choice.

          If I might suggest, there is a huge need for psych professionals. If you are able, maybe volunteer to work with military families in need or assist in organizing a group of vets to help other vets so they can transition to civilian life. You will be surprised at what you find and your warmth welcomed.

          I hope this helps.
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        May 10 2011: Johnna, You have given me a veritable feast of things to consider and I want to absorb and respond to your generous posting. I have other commitments for most of the evening but your words will be on my mind until I can continue our dialogue. Yes, it helps immeasurably to speak with a person and not a stereotype.Thank you
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        May 11 2011: Good morning! I have some questions that I'd like to ask to challenge my stereotype of the army and of military personel, Johnna, but given that your topic is 'why do some people want to silence.." I'd like clarification of whether my questions are OK or whether you might consider this off topic? I want to properly cooperate with your aims for this question.
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          May 11 2011: Good beautiful morning Debra ~

          At this point, I think it is all pertinent. Frankly, the acknowledgment there is a lack of understanding of the military is enough for me. It is only then that intelligent people can resolve in their own minds that they do not get it and are more likely to misjudge or box people up. You were very kind with your words in that you mentioned I did not "fit" into your preconceived ideas of a military woman. This has been the case since I entered as a teenager. It would further create more space to know that the Army made me one of the first combat arms officers, something women did not accomplish easily in the 80s.

          For me, it has been a good life with some of the best people who loved and cared for me like no others. The connection we feel for one another is unmatched in other areas of life. We are just like everyone else, strong definitive opinions and the desire to make the world a better place, not one of killing and wreckage.

          In the light of this forum, other than moving it towards politics, it is all open if it serves us well.

          Thanks for the consideration and for coming back to the questions. If we find some common ground or understanding amongst us, then it is all worth our time and effort. Don't you think?

          Have a lovely day.
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        May 11 2011: Hey there Johnna!
        OK. I have been listening to the battle within me generated by your suggestion that I was intolerant of service people and I am trying to find ways to challenge my own stereotypes in a truly honest effort. That leads me to ask myself what my generalizations or stereotypes are? Among the many components (some political which I will stay away from until such time as you wish to included them) is one pertaining to the anger I feel over one thing we have already found common ground on- the maltreatment or discarding of veterans.

        As a person in a democracy who is not very positive about sending people to war, I still feel it is my duty to recognize that even if it was not my choice it is my duty to as a citizen to take responsibility for the actions we choose as a state and their ramifications. I feel we sent the soldiers in our names-in our places. I feel great anger (shame) at the fact that when they come back alive we do not repay them adequately by supporting them to undo or resolve the damage done- the price they individually paid in doing a job for me.

        So- my question is: I perceive the American military to one of the most seriously funded human organizations in history. They also have an iron will. Why then, is it that this potent organization releases its broken people back into a society that cares insufficiently for them? Why not keep them as active military members until they are restored- where they can get help always. The people were broken under the watch of the commander that sent them into harms way.

        Why are they discharged rather than being part of the family and cared for? We broke you and its someone else's repsonsibility to fix you?. Corporations usually take responsibility for people injured doing their jobs. Why in all these years and wars has the military never -and said to the VA -in the 'leave no man behind spirit'- give us back our fallen and we will restore them- they are us- when they know they are grossly failing?
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          May 17 2011: Thanks for your patience Debra ~

          Finding myself stretched these days and my hair on fire, please forgive the delay.

          As for anger over the mistreatment and the clear disregard of our service members that is impossible to ignore, please consider this: Most of our vets expect nothing in return. What they need is to come home, get help if they need it, get a job that pays them a reasonable pay and to carry-on with their lives. They would like our society will show some decency to their time, effort and sacrifice to not offend their senses by refusing to respect the flag they believe in and the values they fought for in respects to our country's Constitution. They expect their liberties will not be violated by their choosing to stand for something that few do not stand for let alone fight.

          The VA is a politically run and dysfunctional organization that pays more for PR than psych help for service members. It is not the military's desire to harm and abandon their own.

          Please tell me what you think of these links:
          http://dryhootch.org/
          http://jimmymillerfoundation.org/
          More soon. Apologies.

          It comes back to my initial point about freedom of speech. Many expect us to keep silent, do not voice our opinions, do not express what is in our hearts through God, country, politics or mission preservation. We don't know what we don't know about BHO and McChrystal. They are the only two that know the truth. My request is that people use their brains and think, "Why would a career soldier put it all on the line if there was not something seriously wrong?" ~ He would not jeopardize his men or the mission. He is not the narcissist that BHO is and was far more committed to making it work in Afghanistan mostly because BHO had already jettisoned Petreaus out of the theater because he didn't like his style. Our collective memory is a long as my single use dental floss in the morning. BHO burned Petreaus and appointed McChrystal instead...
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        May 17 2011: Hello! Welcome Back! I checked for your posting everyday!

        Please don't worry at all about the delay- I'm just glad that I didn't scare you off (like you could face combat and not dialogue- OK -my worry was silly!) It makes me happy to find you again!

        We do have to establish the ground rules though. You asked for no political commentary and it seems to be your main focus, Johnna- not that I do not understand that you perceive it to be an important part- I do too but we have to have the same understanding of 'the rules of engagement'. You set them but we both follow them. OK? (I'm willing to go anywhere with you to understand each other's perspective better but we go together.)

        I love the sites that you posted. I will spend more time looking at them. They are heartening (but I still do not understand why the military itself doesn't care for its own. Can they not lobby for and demand the dismantling of the VA and reassume responsibilty for the soldiers. Why did they lose o download the responsiblity in the first place?

        As to soldiers speaking, I have already agreed that nonactive soldiers who are not under command any more should have - and i think do have -every right to speak their minds, vote, advocate and protest. They do not appear to use it - at least not very effectively. I think it is more your group's conviction that the armed forces are a branch of society that speaks with one mind and that they should follow the chain of command but I agree that individual soldiers represent an organization that has a strong heirarchy and that they have strong reasons to tow the 'party line'.

        As to people what people are expecting- why listen?

        The rest of your post was cut short. TED is enforcing the 2000 character limit and wants us all to cooperate with it so that communication is clear and concise. Can you reiterate your post from "Frankly, the ingenuine "Thank you's"...

        Hope to hear more from you soon! Be well (and wear flame retardant for your hair!)

        Debra
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          May 18 2011: No...seldom have issues with facing dialogue. If anything it is the opposite ~ tend to want more than there is time for especially this month. My desire overwhelms my resources when working with vets and BSA.

          Yes, you are correct regarding politics. It is far too easy to get dragged into the pit and while most of us have good intentions, it becomes a rumble rather than a debate. Being very human and very passionate about the same things you address here, it quickly gets my Irish on and then we aren't constructive.

          In order as you address them:
          Soldiers using their voice: We are discouraged to do so based on the impression it leaves with people who do fear us. Without regard that what we do means so much to so many, that lives are actually at stake with every single decision, our hearts are more invested than anyone who has not served can imagine. As demonstrated here in a less personal environment, it is safe and civilized. Face to face, people see pupils dilate, teeth clenching and flesh beaming with emotion. There are some that purposefully, push buttons in order to prove their points. We have come to believe the opinion that most will not "get us" anyhow, why waste the time and risk being misunderstood or worse, misquoted, misread and then represent the rest of the military with a less than appropriate response. Any example might be you and a new, young soldier who believes with all their heart that what they are doing is worth their life. Without the life experience you have and without actually seeing action, they are less likely to consider your opinion, more likely to get angry and less likely to represent US well with adequate information. It is not likely that someone looking for a fight or to make the military look bad or someone looking to prove their point will pick a worthy opponent to discuss the manner. See it all the time and often come to the aid of my younger soldier.

          In light of the limit, I will close by saying we are working on it...
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          May 18 2011: Veterans all over America are banning together and connecting with private industry to come to the aid of our comrades. We are tired of half measures and certainly tired of seeing one another suffer. It is like a road map with the same sad destination of destitute without support or resources. So, without going into detail, it is happening but, it takes a lot of money, time and effort for the shift. Much like the GI Bill, it takes all of us being willing to help. Willing to see and reach, listening and understanding our vets.

          Debra, I understand the fear, especially from your psych perspective with the PTSD. It is however, that same fear that keeps them at arms length and makes them distrust...You know as a therapist that until they trust, it is going no where. So...how do we bridge that gap and make change? By using our cognitive skills to make the connection and to provide the guidance. Skills they may not have because of their affliction, skills that encourages to reach and trust when others have disappointed them require those they can count on, other vets.

          This brings me to my next point that was cut off. The ingenuine "Thank You's" are not what service members want, they want to connected and understood, valued and they want to feel a part of something again. Often they feel lost when they realize that the most important thing they have ever done is now over. It gets worse when people then proceed to devalue that same contribution and tell them it was wrong that they are machines, unfeeling baby killers who are shameful...Who says that to another human being without knowing them? Who honestly has the right to judge another person based on the uniform they wear? There are soldiers who kill and love that aspect of their job...they are far a few between. Most often they are riddled with guilt and the memory and suffer for life. Silently.

          In closing today, I will come back and often, this is a long post that will take time.

          Thank you for the time.
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        May 18 2011: Hi Johnna,

        I will make some observations from your writings and from my own impressions. I invite (actually much stronger- implore) you to correct my inaccurate ideas and tell me if we are seeing some things the same way. I think you and I are ‘going somewhere’ because we do have an earnest desire to trust and to understand each other.

        1) It is my impression that the greatest feats of bravery in the military arise not from abstract intellectual positions but from loyalty to your friends and colleagues in life and death situations.
        2) That is not to say that you are not all on a very similar page as to symbols like the flag, the nation as a concept and the willingness to give your life for the cause.
        3) It is this loyalty that gives me the most respect for soldiers. (It’s also the source of my shock and dismay over the treatment of veterans- it is so incongruent with all the lived commitment and the popularized slogans.)
        4) Civilians have been told over and over that we cannot possibly understand what you have experienced in combat- and I believe it- but from my perspective, in this era, not in the past (Vietnam), my sense is that people would like to understand and their poor expressions of thanks are the attempts to bridge a gap that seems impossibly wide.
        5) I have the impression that some soldiers feel that people who do not choose to express their patriotism in the same way feel that civilians are less patriotic, less worthy and less deserving of the rights that soldiers fight for.
        6) Could it be that you have bonded so completely that we are the ‘enemy’ ‘the other’ the ‘not me’ and you no longer see us clearly?
        7) I think that some of these reactions could be the result of the trauma many have endured and that some are a natural result of strong bonding.
        8) How do civilians open a place for returning soldiers and how do soldiers learn to trust us even though we are ignorant?

        I am sorry to be uninformed but can you tell me what ‘BSA’ is?
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    May 30 2011: YooHOOO! I miss our conversations!
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    May 18 2011: This is an article written by a dear friend of mine. He is certainly everything most civilians do not expect him to be as a Special Forces SGM who served in Vietnam. Please read and tread lightly, he is someone who has my complete love, respect and protection. Thank you in advance for your understanding.

    http://ricks.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2010/09/03/the_enduring_solitude_of_combat_vets?sms_ss=facebook

    Johnna
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      May 18 2011: Johnna,

      Thank you for sharing something so close to your heart.
      I think I understand why you feel that Retired Army Special Forces Sgt. Maj. Alan Farrell is a very special man. The quotes that moved me the most deeply were:

      "Soldiers don't start wars. Civilians do. And civilians say when they're over. I'm just satisfied right now that these kids, for better or worse, did their duty as God gave them the light to see it. But I want them back. And I worry not about the fight, but about the after: after the war, after the victory, after... God forbid... the defeat, if it come to that. It's after that things get tricky. After that a soldier needs the real grit and wit. And after that a soldier needs to believe. Anybody can believe before. During? A soldier has company in the fight, in Kandahar or Kabul, Basra or Baghdad. It's enough to believe in the others during. But after... and I can tell you this having come home from a war: After ...a soldier is alone. A batch of them, maybe... but still alone."


      "Because solitude is what waits for the one who shall have borne the battle. Out There in it together... back here alone. Alone to make way in a scrappy, greedy, civilian world "filching lucre and gulping warm beer," as Conrad had it. Alone to learn the skills a self-absorbed, hustling, modern society values."


      Even as a civilian, I feel these things deeply too but they manifest differently. Johnna, I feel as though that is my cry too " I want them back' but more than that I want them never to have to go in the first place. I think all that nobilty and all that passion for goodness should be more treasured by the society and not sent out to 'be forever alone' because they did their duty.

      With gratitude for letting me read and share this,
      Debra
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        May 19 2011: You are welcomed Debra and thank you for honoring him with your words. Alan is by far one of the best men I know. He is not only a model for other military people, he is a model of love, compassion, humanity and above all, decent and honorable conduct. He is a professor at VMI and they are fortunate to have him there.

        There are many examples of those serving or who have served that speak opening and who have the same love for country and comrades but, struggle with the execution of the mission. Although wanting to expound at length, today is a prep day for BSA travel (Boy Scouts of America) and my day is full.

        Please check out another Special Forces friend, Shawn: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qSlaUOEFut0&feature=channel_video_title.

        He is brilliant and spent his entire time in Afghanistan working with locals to help build and educate. Shawn is a film maker in Milwaukee Wisconsin and works with young college kids to do the same. He has an entire site dedicated to his Afghan Diaries and in some presents the anger and frustration felt with the military and some of its leaders. He is bright and although very committed to is promise, he voices his opinions through sarcasm and his creativity. Some of his videos may not make sense due to the military jargon but, believe me, they are hilarious. Great guy, full of love and compassion. Not the machine some refer to and certainly not a hostile, robot who thinks only of killing.

        In summation, Shawn would pick up arms tomorrow if he was needed. No hesitation.

        Enjoy ~

        Will reply at length Monday. Have a lovely weekend.
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          May 19 2011: I'll look forward to hearing from you on Monday and I'll watch the video!

          Be well!
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    May 17 2011: As sited here, this person has no clear idea what he is talking about. He demonstrates no logic, only emotion and leaves no room for input. He heard nothing human in General McChrystal talk, only his own internal dialogue. Predisposed ideas of what killing machines we are as opposed to humans with rights and opinions. It is selfish and short-sighted and he would rather rob us our Constitutional Rights than allow us the opportunity to teach him something.

    Without writing a dissertation, General McChrystal was in the Special Forces and the mission of the Green Berets in NOT to kill but, to work with and for the people of the respect region so they can not be suppressed by al-Qaeda or as we have learned as of recent, the Pakistanis. Most of the killing of innocents are from IEDs that are planted by terrorists, not uniformed service members.

    Apr 5 2011: I am deeply saddened to see a talk by a military general on this site. The military is opposed to everything that TED is working for. It is not about culture, invention, or learning; it is a factory of death. A general is a man trained in organizing mass murder. The only thing we need to know about the military establishment is how to reduce its mind-boggling appropriations so that those funds can go toward humanitarian causes. Shame on TED for legitimizing military culture.
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      May 17 2011: Just wanted to point out that the following two postings which followed the one you mention and disputed the first had 15 and 33 thumbs up (compared to 9 for the original comment)

      http://www.ted.com/talks/stanley_mcchrystal.html

      Personally I'm all for no censorship and open discussion. I think most TEDsters agree.
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        May 18 2011: Hello again ~

        This is my first experience on TED with posts and obviously, that was overlooked, I see your point. Thank you. It is however, that blatant lack of vision and understanding that makes most military personnel reject any dialogue. It is too complex an issue and one that generally escalates to verbal abuse from both parties. Sadly, it is how people conduct themselves these days.

        If any of you are teachers, PLEASE encourage critical thinking and debate in your classes or at a minimum encourage kids to start their own clubs in those areas...Our society seldom recognizes or validates such practices anymore. Failing to educate our kids in these areas is highly detrimental to our future.

        Thanks Mister Colgan ~
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    May 10 2011: Johnna:

    I'd love to hear more military personnel speaking their mind.

    Where can I hear them?
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      May 10 2011: Mister Colgan.

      Depending where you live, there are veterans groups all over the country. If you are willing and able to offer services to vets, I suggest volunteering and listening. You can start by contacting the local VFW or American Legion and attending fund raisers Soldier's Angels. Becoming a pen pal with a soldier is one way to understand their opinions as well.
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        May 10 2011: Ms. Franklin.

        Actually, I was hoping you would know of on-line discussion groups. I would like to be able to ask questions like "what is our mission in Afghanistan?", "are we achieving it?", and "is it possible to achieve it?"
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          May 10 2011: Apologies. Yes Sir, there are a number of them. If you would allow me until later this evening, I will post them.

          BHO continuously changes the mission in Afghanistan and for this reason, the American people are at a loss for clear information. It is difficult as you can imagine that most will refrain from discussing what is published by the White House but, there are some very good ones.

          There are missions that cannot be discussed in the far North and South that would make things clearer and also put lives in danger. So if it seems fragmented, it is for good reason.
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        May 11 2011: No problem Ma'am.

        You know I'm still intrigued by your use of the three-letter-acronym BHO. Do military people use it because it sounds so much like BO?

        Which gets to a broader question. Are military personnel in general disenchanted with Obama? And if so, why? It seems like he has done a great deal which would be supported by the military such as bringing soldiers home, and supporting veterans. Or perhaps the military is in favor of nation building.

        What is your opinion?
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          May 17 2011: Dear Mister Colgan,

          I have posted the links twice, then they disappear...It just happened again. Did you see them? I will try again later. Thank you.
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          May 17 2011: Regarding BHO...it is the most polite means of speaking about him. It is my personal opinion that he is not loyal or concerned with our service members and a plethora of other things that we often get serviced by but, never any satisfaction.

          BHO is my attempt at being civilized and not purposely offending anyone's sensitivities to vulgar language. He has done little to support the military and more to threaten them than to help them. If I speak much further, this will become about politics and not the issue at hand. It is all interconnected, I realize.

          Facta, Non Verba ~
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        May 19 2011: Ms. Franklin: I had that problem with posting links as well. I'm not sure exactly what the trick is, but I eventually got it to work. If you would email the links to me (just click on my name and then "Send Tim Colgan an email" on the upper right of the page that comes up), I'd really appreciate it.
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    May 10 2011: Oh my...thank you all for your careful contemplation and intelligent responses. Just getting back to my work desk and will reply to each as they all deserve attention. Thank you, I am most grateful and certainly do not seek agreement but, real answers that give me insight from many perspectives. My friends and colleagues tend to agree with me it is however, important to see other viewpoints. Most grateful.
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    May 7 2011: Before I watched McChrystal's talk, I watched this one:

    http://www.ted.com/talks/eli_pariser_beware_online_filter_bubbles.html

    with the tag line warning about not getting exposed to information that can challenge or broaden your worldview.

    With this in mind, I was impressed with the choice to have McChrystal speak at TED. Having a forum for the exchange and discussion of ideas has no value without contrasting voices.
  • May 7 2011: I think it is difficult for many to appreciate a leader if they have not been one. A leader worth his salt is passionate about every aspect of his command. In the military often teenagers are your followers, not an easy task. Why on Ted talk? LOL I would think that any man with a message of love and compassion is worth hearing at any forum. Honorable men are hard to find.
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      May 10 2011: Yes Sir, honor and wisdom are scarce. General McChrystal is most definitely a man of love and compassion. He stood for what he believed in and would not accept being set up by politicians. He spoke for himself and his men. He is in fact an honorable man.
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    May 6 2011: what do mean by speak your mind? I would love to have honest, contact with the men and women that actually know what we are doing in the middle east. we cant really trust news coverage so personal accounts would be exqiusite.
    i may want to silence a soldier who i feel is being preachy, as rare as that is.
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      May 10 2011: Hello and thank you for your comment.

      In response to General McChrystal's speaking his mind about BHO and his interactions with him. Historically, many commanders have taken the hit when politicians prepare them for a fall. This situation was not different except the General was not going to allow him to finish the job.

      The news is never trustworthy Alex and if you really want to know what is happening in the ME, it will require speaking to those actually doing the job. People serving the indigenous and trying to improve their lives. The problem we have now is continuity and now, a lack of vision on BHO's part.

      As indicated earlier, there are all kinds. It is not our position to be "preachy" ~ it is our right to speak our minds respectfully however.
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        May 10 2011: Has Obama become a TLA in the military?