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01-13-06, 12:22 PM
More Things I Do Not Know or Understand
By Matthew Dodd

Am I getting more crotchety because I am getting older, or is it because I am seeing things differently than when I was younger?

I find myself asking that question more frequently, especially in the last few years. I have noticed that some things that catch my eye and ear today did not even register as a faint blip on my radar screen just a few short years ago. The optimist in me knows that as I get older, I get wiser. However, the realist in me believes in the wisdom of this 2,500-year old adage from the ancient Greek philosopher, Heraclitus: "You can't step into the same river twice."

That adage tells me that it is impossible to delve into any topic a second time as the same person you were when you first encountered the topic. Your opinions about the topic may remain the same, but your accumulated life experiences make you a different person the second time around. It is important to realize that you are only guaranteed to be different; not worse, better, or wiser. What you do with all those life experiences will determine if you are worse, better, or wiser than before.

With the new year now in full swing, I thought it would be the perfect time to reflect on and add to my previous lists of things I do not know or understand [Include links to the following archived articles: 19 Dec 01, 6 Feb 02, 23 Oct 03]. With the help of my astute and knowledgeable readers, I would like to make a belated New Year's resolution to seek answers to the questions on those lists and then publish what we collectively know or understand about them.

*Abraham Lincoln, one of our greatest war-time Presidents, once opined:

"...Congressmen who willfully take actions during wartime that damage morale and undermine the military are saboteurs and should be arrested, exiled or hanged."

Whatever happened to the spirit and meaning of Lincoln's powerful message?

*Alex Rodriguez, the current American League Most Valuable Player and arguably one of the very best baseball players in the world (and one of the highest-paid athletes in any sport), during a time of global war when we have deployed troops fighting and dying, said the following about his decision not to play in the inaugural World Baseball Classic later this year:

"When faced with the decision to choose between my country, the United States of America, and my Dominican heritage [to participate in the inaugural World Baseball Classic this year], I decided I will not dishonor either...I am proud to be an American citizen [where he was born and raised] and to have a Dominican legacy [both his parents were born in the Dominican Republic]...My commitment to baseball is secondary to honoring my patriotic duties to my country and my ancestors."

Does Rodriguez think turning down the honor of representing his country in a tournament against teams from fifteen other countries is somehow "honoring his patriotic duties" to his country?

*How can Marine Corps performance evaluations, which have changed a lot during my 20+ year career, possibly paint accurate word-pictures of a Marine when: 1) they do not allow any negative, or even implied-negative, comments about the Marine without making the entire report "adverse" (which requires special handling and normally results in the report becoming a "career-ender" for the Marine); and 2) they do not even remotely contain any performance feedback from the Marine's peers and subordinates?

*Why is it that all the Services stress the importance of "taking care of their own," yet so many retired and former Service-members have told me that they felt like they were treated like "second-class citizens" when they decided to transition to civilian life?

I have heard way too many stories from Service members being discouraged or prevented from taking terminal leave by their seniors (i.e. so that they have been in uniform on a Friday and reporting to civilian jobs on the following Monday) to dismiss their stories as mere "sour grapes" or "isolated incidents."

*What can be done to stop or effectively curtail the news media's obvious bias against reporting anything positive about our deployed warriors' collective successes in liberating and helping to democratize millions of people in Iraq and Afghanistan?

*What can be done to give more public recognition to our heroic warriors who are sacrificing so much on far-away battlefields and being awarded our Nation's highest medals for their valor?

It has been over four years since I wrote my first list of things I do not know or understand. Stepping back into my own river of ignorance for the fourth time, I know I am a much different person now, and I know that the river is not the same as it was four years ago. I only have my questions and my opinions. In keeping with the spirit of Heraclitus when he said, "Lovers of wisdom must open their minds to very many things," I look forward to hearing back from my readers so we can become collectively wiser, for better or worse.

Matthew Dodd is a Senior Editor of DefenseWatch. He can be reached at mattdodd1775@hotmail.com. Please send Feedback responses to dwfeedback@yahoo.com.

Editor's Note: LTC Matt Dodd retired January 1 from the United States Marine Corps after more than 20 years faithful service. DefenseWatch wants to take the opportunity of his retirement to thank LTC Dodd for his service to us, his efforts of behalf of his nation, his fellow Marines, and all service members whose interests he has represented. We wish him the best in his new career. –NH