May 2011

I was in Boston yesterday having lunch with my wife in the Seaport district and afterwards, as we frequently do, we went to the end of the commercial pier to watch the planes take off and land at Logan Airport located just across the narrow channel. On the way to the airport viewing location, we have to pass the Boston Ship Repair Depot on Drydock Avenue. In for (what appears to be) de-rusting and re-painting in the drydock was an enormous cargo ship named the USNS Watkins (T-AKR-315). As it turns out, the Watkins is a large, medium speed, roll-on, roll-off (RORO) prepositioning ship for the Military Sealift Command: It is an impressive vessel due to its sheer size.

Now, knowing from past experience that most of these ships are named after Congressional Medal of Honor (CMH) winners, I immediately wanted to do some research on the eponymous Watkins. It turns out that the “Watkins” on the ship was Master Sergeant Travis E. Watkins, and he was indeed a CMH winner from the Korean War. He was KIA near Yongsan, South Korea in 1950 at the age of 30.

Travis Watkins was born in Waldo, Arkansas, on September 5, 1920 and he was raised in Troup, east Texas, and enlisted in the Army in 1939. He served in the Pacific during World War II and earned a Bronze Star during the Guadalcanal Campaign.

Upon returning to the United States at the end of the war, Watkins married Madie Sue Barnett on April 15, 1948 and they had two daughters. He settled with his family in the east Texas town of Gladewater. [In an odd connection to Boston, in the 1930's, Gladewater was the home of the Gladewater Bears, a minor league team franchised to the Boston Red Sox.]

Sgt. Watkins remained in the Army during the peacetime between WWII and the Korean War, and in 1950 he was deployed to Korea as a Master Sergeant with Company H, Ninth Infantry Regiment, Second Infantry Division.

On August 31, 1950, Watkins and 30 men from his unit were separated from the American forces by an enemy advance, and they were subsequently surrounded near Yongsan, Korea. Watkins took command and set up perimeter defenses to repel the frequent enemy onslaughts. He dodged heavy enemy fire to visit each foxhole and troop emplacement, giving instructions and encouragement to the soldiers. When the group’s ammunition ran low, Watkins shot two enemy soldiers outside the perimeter and went to retrieve their ammunition alone. Three other enemy soldiers attacked and wounded MSgt. Watkins once he had left the defensive perimeter. Watkins killed those three, recovered arms and ammunition from the five enemy soldiers, and returned to his command.

Eventually, Watkins’ position was attacked by six enemy soldiers with grenades. Watkins left the safety of his fox hole to engage the attackers with rifle fire and was shot, but he continued firing until the attackers were killed. Paralyzed from the waist down as a result of his wounds, he collapsed. He refused all food in order to provide more for his men. By September 3, Watkins the intensity of the enemy attacks convinced Watkins that waiting out the siege was hopeless. He then ordered the remaining men to escape to the safety of the American front line. He refused to be evacuated himself as he knew his condition would greatly slow the other troop’s treat. Watkins was cheerful and encouraging as he bid his men good luck in their escape. He died of his wounds shortly after they departed.

Watkins’ cool leadership and demonstrated valor throughout the ordeal helped to keep his men alive while roughly 500 enemy soldiers were killed. In January 9, 1951, MSgt. Travis E. Watkins was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor — presented to his wife by President Harry Truman in Washington D.C.

His Medal of Honor citation reads as follows:

The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pride in presenting the Medal of Honor (Posthumously) to Master Sergeant Travis Earl Watkins (ASN: RA-6295287), United States Army, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty while serving with Company H, 9th Infantry Regiment, 2d Infantry Division, in action against enemy aggressor forces at Yongsan, Korea, from 31 August to 3 September 1950. When an overwhelming enemy force broke through and isolated 30 men of his unit, Master Sergeant Watkins took command, established a perimeter defense and directed action which repelled continuous, fanatical enemy assaults. With his group completely surrounded and cut off, he moved from foxhole to foxhole exposing himself to enemy fire, giving instructions and offering encouragement to his men. Later when the need for ammunition and grenades became critical he shot two enemy soldiers 50 yards outside the perimeter and went out alone for their ammunition and weapons. As he picked up their weapons he was attacked by three others and wounded. Returning their fire he killed all three and gathering up the weapons of the five enemy dead returned to his amazed comrades. During a later assault, six enemy soldiers gained a defiladed spot and began to throw grenades into the perimeter making it untenable. Realizing the desperate situation and disregarding his wound he rose from his foxhole to engage them with rifle fire. Although immediately hit by a burst from an enemy machine gun he continued to fire until he had killed the grenade throwers. With this threat eliminated he collapsed and despite being paralyzed from the waist down, encouraged his men to hold on. He refused all food, saving it for his comrades, and when it became apparent that help would not arrive in time to hold the position ordered his men to escape to friendly lines. Refusing evacuation as his hopeless condition would burden his comrades, he remained in his position and cheerfully wished them luck. Through his aggressive leadership and intrepid actions, this small force destroyed nearly 500 of the enemy before abandoning their position. Master Sergeant Watkins’ sustained personal bravery and noble self-sacrifice reflect the highest glory upon himself and is in keeping with the esteemed traditions of the U.S. Army.

It is fitting indeed that I saw this ship this weekend. Life is funny in the things that it brings a person’s way. And the coincidence of seeing the very large ship, and fitting tribute to MSgt. Watkins, Watkins in that Boston drydock was a humbling experience for me after my research. Reading about MSgt. Watkins left me with the question: Where do we get men and women like this?

Learning about the valor, bravery and ultimate sacrifice of Travis Watkins personalized the concept of Memorial Day for me once again. We are a free country, with citizens able to speak and act as they please, because of the sacrifice of men and women like Travis E. Watkins. So tomorrow, on Memorial Day 2011, bow your head in reverence and respect for MSgt. Travis Watkins, and for all those who made the ultimate sacrifice for the safety and security of our nation.

God bless Travis Watkins. God bless America.

Morons, psychopaths and mental defectives…If you guessed I was talking about Obama supporters, then ding, ding, ding…you’re correct! I cannot imagine a group of more brain dead sheeple than those who presently give our rambling, bumbling POTUS high marks for performance. Rasmussen has him at 50% favorability in today’s poll. With ever-increasing unemployment numbers, inflation on the move upward, increasing oil/gasoline prices and the price of food at 10 year highs I would imagine that any other president would suffer some unfavorability. But his trusty minions in the lamestream media have kept Mr. Obama afloat in the churning seas of his own making. I’m hoping that Israel supporters of all religions will start to drag his favorability down to where it belongs (probably in the high 30′s) after they’ve had a chance to cogitate on his truly breathtaking treachery involving Mideast “peace” and his “return to 1967 borders” comment.

“Never can say goodbye.” Folks are clutching on to the notion of “free” healthcare in spite of the facts presented to them that Medicare will collapse in 2030 (according to the actuary of the CBO.  We know this because a majority of Americans polled are not in favor of Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) plan to overhaul this bank-breaking behemoth federal program. But regardless of their reluctance to embrace Ryan’s proposed changes, or their wholesale buying of the negative hyperbole and outright lies being put forth by the Democrats against both Mr. Ryan and his proposal, something will need to be done to rein in the astronomical costs of this failing program. What will those who now clutch at this program do when it eventually fails? Leave it to their children or grandchildren to clean up the mess? Or worse, allow the country to default on its “promises” to Medicare recipients? It’s tough medicine to swallow, but something must be done. The Dems are demagoging this issue and making political hay with Ryan’s proposal and the support of it by many in the GOP. Granny gets rolled off the cliff…the GOP are uncaring and hard-hearted. Phooey!! But such are the conundrums that we face when we stray from the Constitution and roll out social programs that were never intended by the Framers. There are really only two choices…admit to ourselves that changes must be made, and grin and bear those changes, or…enable craven politicians to use Medicare as a political third-rail issue and see it eventually fail and produce dire financial consequences for our nation.

Barack Obama, The Tin (Ear) Man. There has probably never been another American president that has a tinnier ear for pomp, circumstance and protocol when it comes to interacting with other world leaders and notables than our current executive. He has an embarrassing track record of bowing to despots and dictators, speaking at inappropriate times, giving inappropriate or insulting gifts and “speechifying” in a manner that infuriates Americans, friends and allies alike. This latest gaffe, speaking over God Save The Queen, wasn’t covered much by the lamestream, but it was a world-class gaffe for a supposed first-string world leader. It was just another embarrassing and infuriating example of this president’s bull-in-the-china-shop approach to diplomacy and international relations. At this point in his term, I’m convinced that our friends and allies see the Obama’s as ebony hillbillies who are  not trainable in the diplomatic arts, and individuals who perhaps mean well, but just have a knack for getting things wrong.

Not My Cuppa Tea! The NY-26 congressional race was an interesting political battle. In a race distinguished by the lackluster field of candidates of all parties… Democrat Kathy Hochul, the eventual winner, Republican Jane Corwin and “Tea party” candidate Jack Davis. Davis was actually a Democrat using the the Tea party moniker to compete in the general election. Democrat pundits are using this sole, obscure victory to indicate the public’s displeasure with Paul Ryan’s Medicare proposal. But this race should give GOP candidates nationwide pause and chasten them to Democrat political treachery and chicanery. See, the Dems engaged in combination “divide and conquer” and “addition by subtraction” scheme to win this election. The addition of the ersatz Tea Party candidate Davis certainly siphoned prospective votes from Corwin. And since Hochul didn’t win by a plurality of the vote, or by a margin that was greater than the vote tally of Davis, then she really didn’t have a mandate…nor was there a clear mandate associated with her election. mark my words, candidates in the mold of Davis are going to crop-up nationwide in the 2012 election. GOP candidates are going to have to make a bigger deal of the duplicitous, phoney Tea party candidates as they appear…and educate their electorate as best as possible. Because the Democrats don’t care how they win — corpses, convicts or livestock voting, or by tricking serious conservative voters that a liberal Democrat candidate running is a serious Tea Party candidate. Let the games begin.

Didn’t You Know bin Laden is DEAD??? I think we’re seeing the framework of Barack Obama’s re-election plans come together, and it is a simple plan indeed. He is going to be the slayer of Osama. The defender of the Republic. I can just see the questions at the presidential debates:

  • Moderator: Mr. President, how do you explain the 9% unemployment and trillion dollar deficits to the average American voter?
  • Obama: Well, let me say this, I GOT OSAMA BIN LADEN!!! Ya know.
  • Moderator: Yes, Mr. President…grated. But what about the stifling regulations that are coming from the Obama administration?”
  • Obama: Well, I did KILL OSAMA BIN LADEN!!! That is a change we can believe in!
  • and so on…

The snuffing of Osama is going to wear thin real fast, I’m sure. But that won’t stop Obama from taking his share of victory laps, trying to extract maximum political advantage from his “courageous” decision. Now, indeed the president did eradicate this mad dog terrorist leader. But, contrary to the ecstasy being enjoyed by the unfortunate Joe Biden, snubbing Osama was the president’s job. He was supposed to get bin Laden if he could, dead or alive. And Biden’s eddic hyperbole aside, a courageous decision by a president is exemplified by Harry Truman’s truly mind-numbing decision to nuke two Japanese cities to aid in ending WWII. Truman’s decision is a model of courage and leadership. In comparison, what Obama did in regards to eliminating Osama was like taking out the White House trash.

Where’s The Outrage?? Well, the hypocrisy of the Democrats has been revealed in full glory with the renewal of the Patriot Act (PA.) Nary a sniff or grunt has been heard from the list of the usual congressional suspects who had no compunction in excoriating George W. Bush for his embrace of the PA after 9/11. But since Obama is the beneficiary of the renewal, then all is right in America…even though the renewed provisions, including overseas wiretaps, were seen as unconstitutional and intrusive when President Bush was POTUS. My question is: Where’s the outrage?? Cue the crickets.

Stating the Obvious. A big news tidbit over the past few days has been the fact that the Hispanic population in the US is now over 50 million. Well, duh! With an open southern border to Mexico, I’m surprised that this number isn’t bigger! The soft-skulls in the lamestream seem somehow enthralled with this population growth in the Hispanic community…seeing it as somehow a win for diversity. It would be if we had a secure border with orderly immigration. But embracing this unchecked population growth, knowing full well that a vast majority of it is due to illegal immigration is self-destructive to our nation and an odd display of encouragement by the supporters of this growth.

God Bless Joplin, MO. The people of Joplin had to endure an unspeakable tragedy. One minute they were experiencing a warm, mid-spring evening and the next, almost in the wink of an eye, their community was almost completely obliterated. It is heartening and encouraging to see neighbor-helping-neighbor in Joplin. These folks, who experienced utter devastation of their material possessions, didn’t wait for FEMA trucks or the federal government to come to their rescue. There were no “Rescue Me” signs and people just doing nothing. Although they lost EVERYTHING, most of the folks spent countless hours searching for family and neighbors, and helping to collect and pass out supplies to the other dazzled survivors. Post-Katrina New Orleans and post-tornado Joplin provide a perfect contrast between the two societies that we live among in the United States. New Orleans had too many folks dependent upon the largess of the federal government, unwilling to take charge and save themselves. Joplin, however, had folks who couldn’t care less if FEMA trucks and government assistance never came — because they have each-other. Gob bless those who were taken in this random act of nature’s fury…and God grant the survivors the grace and strength to endure and survive this disaster.

[BTW -- I'm baaaaaaack! And I will strive to have more regular postings from here on in!! enjoy!]