Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Musings of a Coffee Veteran.

We're a good week past the last Veterans' Day and I've finally composed my thoughts into some coherent order for public consumption here on Chez Sarge.  Don't worry, it's not all musings about that day, so grab a cup and enjoy the ride.  

On Veteran's Day, I had a great plan for my day off:

0700-0730: Visit 3 different Starbucks for free 12-oz coffee at each. Three, you ask?  Sure; It's easy since they're so close together around here.  In fact, they just opened up the first Starbucks inside another Starbucks. (h/t to Jay Leno for that joke.)
0800: Denny's (Free pancakes!)
0900: Great Clips (Free haircut!)
0930: Krispy Kreme (Free coffee and doughnut!)
1100: BJ's Restaurant (Free lunch!)
1200: Free Car Wash!
1300: Olive Garden (Free entree!)
1400: Free Car Wash (The other car!)
1500: 7 Eleven (Free slurpee!)
1700: Applebees (Free dinner!)

I told the wif, minnow and teenangster that they were welcome to join me, but I'm not buying. They can sit there and watch me.  

How much of that schedule did I adhere to?  Not a lick of it.  I can't really say I did much at all that day, other than to gratefully accept the day off and visit a local National Monument, passing by Lex's current locale. I didn't even partake in the free coffee at Starbucks which is about the easiest task on that list since there's one within walking distance from my not-so-crushing burden of debt.  

Remember that one?  Lex referred to his homestead as the "Crushing Burden of Debt" because he, like so many other San Diego-area residents pay/paid far too much for their housing.  But thanks to greed, the Securities and Exchange Commission, Clinton's Fair Housing Act, leading to the economic collapse in '08 and the plummeting interest rates at the time, our re-fi made our mortgage a bit more manageable for my family.

But I digress...

To be perfectly honest, I'm not a big fan of Starbucks.  I can make a decent cup right here at home, it's too expensive to drink it regularly (over $100 a month at my current consumption rate), and the coffee doesn't taste all that great to me anyway- too strong, too hot, too trendy.  I'll get a mocha every now and then, and during winter I love their Caramel Apple Spice drink, but the free coffee offer would only have been their regular stuff which I would have been grateful for, but declined nevertheless.

I really do appreciate all the offers of free stuff, but it just wasn't that convenient for me. I've already shared that I don't really like waiting in lines, and especially at those restaurants on Veterans' Day, whose generosity is only exceeded by the hunger of thousands of Sailors and Marines here in San Diego.  Not that I'd be taking food out of the mouths of young service-folk, but I'll happily give up the seat to a guy or gal who probably doesn't make as much as I do.  They just seem a bit more deserving than me.

More deserving...let me anchor there a bit.

Not that I don't deserve a cup o' joe, a slupee, or a nice meal.  Don't get me wrong, I love free stuff as much as the next guy, and I'm immensely proud of my service, but I admit I have a bit of an inferiority complex when it comes to that service.  Serving our country is honorable no matter what the job is, but I know my sacrifice doesn't compare to so many others. 

They say that if you do what you love, then it isn't really work.  Naval Aviation is damn fun, and I, like so many others, can hardly believe they paid me to do it, and paid me well to be quite honest.  These days, going into combat in a jet isn't very risky.  Sure, aviation in general is risky, but it's been a long time since we've lost a fast mover to enemy action.  For the fixed wing attack aircraft, they go into combat with air superiority already guaranteed, at least for our current conflicts.  Surface to air missiles are a threat, but not a likely one.  If an aircraft does go down, it's often due to an accident, and one that has pilot error somewhere among the causal factors.  I have to hand it to the Chinook drivers.  Taking a big slow beast into a hot LZ?  Those guys are crazy, with big brass ones!

It wasn't always like this.  Desert Storm wasn't a cake walk, and we lost a few guys.  In Viet Nam, the SAM threat was real and always present, and going toe to toe with a NVAF MiG was fairly common.  We had some great men who came out as heroes out of that war, and many who didn't come back.  WWII?  Even more so. 

Like many others that came after them, these two pilots in particular went up against nearly insurmountable odds, but showed the courage to flight into the face of danger, literally flying directly into the oncoming wave of aircraft attacking Hawaii on December 7th, 1941.  


It documents the actions of Second Lieutenants George Welch and Ken Taylor, two young Army Air Corps P-40 pilots that risked their lives for the sake of others.

The video directly above will be summarily panned by several folks here at the Chant as it contains footage from the movie "Pearl Harbor," dramatizing Welch and Taylor's efforts. I happen to like that movie, but I know it's no cinematic gem to the purists.  

Fortunately, due to our overwhelming advantage in the air today, at least against the current enemy, combat aviation isn't as dangerous and risky as it has been in the past. That's a good thing, and I take nothing away from the brave men and women who strap on an airplane and strike down upon the enemy with great vengeance and furious anger.

However, it's the ground troops that risk their lives every single day.  Air can only do so much- it's the infantry that really wins and holds territory.  I compare what I did in Iraq (ISR and passing gas), against what my Army brother did there (trying to win hearts and minds while regularly taking hostile fire) - apples and oranges as far as the risk factor goes.

If we were just killing bad guys- bombing ISIS targets, picking off the Republican Guard as they flee Kuwait, or blowing up terrorist training camps, air power is damn effective.  The Ground Pounders are good at it too- the M-1 Abrams and our SOF guys have no equal, but nation-building and winning those hearts and minds, while simultaneously trying to do counter-insurgency work, is a tough job that costs so much. You can't walk ten feet at the Naval Medical Center here in San Diego or Bethesda, or at the San Antonio Military Medical Center without seeing a dozen guys in wheelchairs, on crutches, or with prosthetic limbs, to know that the costs and risks are much greater for our Army and Marine Corps brethren.  

For that reason alone, I tip my hat to those servicemen, whose job is much more complex and challenging than mine was, with conditions far worse and compensation that doesn't really compensate.  


In this video, Kenneth Branagh recreates Col. Tim Collins' speech to 1 Batt., Royal Irish Regiment, on 19 March 2003, immediately prior to the invasion of Iraq. From the BBC production 10 Days to War.

I heard this gent got in trouble later on in the campaign, but great and thoughtful speech regardless...

This video is great for touching upon just how different it is for the ground forces.  We often just pickle off a bomb on a pre-assigned and pre-set drop point or DMPI, while they have to worry about distinguishing good guys from bad, which direction the shots came from, what building, how much fire they're taking, restrictive ROE that endangers their lives, avoiding collateral damage, and the fear of facing that enemy head on.

On the first day of OEF, I strolled into the Wardroom on CARL VINSON and made myself an espresso.  When NIMITZ arrived in theater for OIF, I lived in a lived in a two-man air-conditioned stateroom and flew in an air-conditioned cockpit at 30 thousand feet.  The ground-forces? They were pondering whether they'd live through the day.

Yeah, I might deserve a free coffee, but they deserve it more.


  1. Brilliant post Tuna.

    I feel the same way.

    And FWIW, I like the movie Pearl Harbor.

  2. (Starbucks) it's too expensive to drink it regularly (over $100 a month at my current consumption rate)

    There was a Starbucks on the ground floor of my office building in SFO's financial district and I would drop ten bucks a day in that place, which was also known as "the alternate conference room." I knew all the baristas and they knew me; I got the odd freebie every once in a while. I have to drive well over a hundred miles to get to a Starbucks these days and that's prolly a good thing.

    In re: your thoughts about vets. Agree completely.

  3. Completely agree--and I don't do Starbucks either, their coffee isn't strong enough (Regular Navy!).

  4. Good points all. Humility is, in my mind, the right approach. The universal sentiment among MOH and VC awardees seems to be humility as well, and I've yet to hear one fail to say that others did more, sacrificed more.

    I learned the art of naval coffee production on Nimitz. Later on Coral Sea I learned to embrace a thick, black brew liberally spiced with DFM. Starbucks? Please.

  5. This is from my blog. It describes an encounter between myself and an F-4 driver, in Japan, many years ago. (Again, Thank you, Sir.)

  6. Nice job, Tuna, well said. From Day 1 of WORWFT we were taught that our sole reason to exist was for "the private in the foxhole." regards, Alemaster

  7. I agree, the ground troops are special and the danger they face is clear and in your face. Anyone who serves in any capacity is making a big sacrifice and you damn well deserve free coffee.

    Any time you're in NJ, give me a heads up and i'll serve some hot coffee and any breakfast of your choice!

  8. Coffee? Starbucks does have a new good one called Bright Sky Blend. I buy it ground and make it at home. :-) :-)

  9. That they do, that the do Tuna... And I actually do NOT like Starbucks... Overpriced burnt coffee served by snippy little attitude mavens is NOT the way I want to start my day.

  10. Thanks everyone. And from it I got free breakfast in Jersey, another blog to read, a coffee suggestion, and a hilarious take on baristas! Snippy little attitude mavens, classic!

    1. Not to mention which "snippy little attitude mavens" makes a fine acronym.



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