William Whipple, Constitution Day, and “All Men are Created Equal”

This post is a bit delayed (Constitution Day was September 17), but following is an essay written for Constitution Day on the theme, “My Favorite Founding Father.” It won a USMC unit award.

There are many candidates one can choose from to select a favorite founding father: George Washington, of course, our first president, a military genius and exceptional leader of men; Benjamin Franklin, inventor, philosopher, and writer, who was instrumental in writing the Declaration of Independence, who signed both the Declaration and the Constitution, and was nicknamed “The First American;” the young Thomas Jefferson and draftsman superb, who wrote the Declaration of Independence; James Madison, known as the Father of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights; Thomas Paine, the author of “Common Sense,” which roused the colonies to rebellion against oppression; our own naval commander John Paul Jones, famous for his oft-quoted “I have not yet begun to fight,” shouted from the Bonhomme Richard as it was foundering, and who then captured the British ship Serapis.

One could argue that all these men were born to greatness; that within them the personality and character existed which confirmed them as extraordinary men when the opportunity presented itself, and that many such opportunities came their way in the early days of the birth and formation of these United States of America. But I would like to examine the life of one little-known man who was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. He was born and educated in ordinary circumstances. He began his career humbly and became successful as a merchant. By his character, he obtained the respect of his community. But without the Revolution, and one particular, singular act that he performed, he would have remained a successful, but ordinary, man until he died.

William Whipple was born January 14, 1730 at Kittery, Maine. He was educated in a “common school,” and then went off to sea, by some accounts as a cabin boy, hoping to have command of his own ship one day. He was successful in trading in the West Indies, and became a Ship’s Master by the age of 23.

Whipple left the seafaring life to establish himself as a merchant, in partnership with his brother, in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. He continued to show his acumen at business, becoming successful, while also gaining the respect of his community. He was elected to represent his town at the Provincial Congress in 1775; was elected to the New Hampshire Executive Council when the royal government was dissolved and a House of Representatives elected; became a member of the Committee of Safety, in control of the local militias and acting as the provisional government; and was eventually elected to the Continental Congress, where he put his business experience to work and served as a superintendent of the commissary’s and quartermaster’s departments.

As a signer of the Declaration of Independence, his biographer, the Rev. Charles A. Goodrich (Lives of the Signers to the Declaration of Independence, 1856) describes him:

“The memorable day which gave birth to the declaration of independence afforded, in the case of William Whipple a striking example of the uncertainty of human affairs, and the triumphs of perseverance. The cabin boy, who thirty years before had looked forward to a command of a vessel as the consummation of all his hopes and wishes, now stood amidst the congress of 1776, and looked around upon a conclave of patriots, such as the world had never witnessed. He whose ambition once centered in inscribing his name as commander upon a crew-list, now affixed his signature to a document, which has embalmed it for posterity.”

In other words, still a somewhat ordinary man.

Whipple rose to the challenge of the Revolution by raising a brigade from several militias, and was appointed a general officer without significant military experience–a true citizen-soldier. Eventually, through his dedicated success on the field, Whipple was delegated to accept the surrender of the British general Burgoyne.

Yet despite his history, who has heard of William Whipple? Who reveres his name? What extraordinary act did he accomplish? Why is he my favorite founding father?

The words “all men are created equal,” are arguably the most famous and influential in American history. But while creating a great democratic principle for the world, most of our founding fathers did not live up to that principle in one obvious respect: slavery.

William Whipple is the only known signer of the Declaration of Independence to free his only (and therefore all) slave, Prince Whipple, believing he could not fight for liberty and own a slave. Whipple, unlike other founders in this respect, proved himself an extraordinary man.

According to his biographer, this occurred while Whipple, accompanied by Prince Whipple as his slave, was proceeding to the expected surrender of General Burgoyne. “Prince,” said the general, “we may be called into action, in which case, I trust you will behave like a man of courage, and fight bravely for the country.” “Sir,” replied Prince, in a manly tone “I have no wish to fight and no inducement, but had I my liberty, I would fight in defence of the country to the last drop of my blood.” “Well,’ said the general, ‘Prince, from this moment you are free.”

And so he was; and so the two men, created equal, went on their way, prepared to fight beside each other to the death if necessary, and to live, if God willed it, as free and equal men. Together, as equals, they accepted the surrender of General Burgoyne.

And that is why William Whipple is my favorite founding father.

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Criminal ring includes 14 “Marines”

From CNN: “Seven active Marines, seven former Marines and a Navy sailor were among 50 people arrested in a sweeping Southern California raid aimed at shutting down a network that allegedly dealt in stolen cars, drugs, weapons and other military gear….

“The military gear included more than 10,000 rounds of ammunition, high capacity magazines, bullet-proof vests, Kevlar helmets, night vision goggles, gas masks, and thermal sights.”

And where do we think such items were going?

They’re traitors, all of them.

“Traitor” and “Marine” can’t be used together.

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Which one would you want to have your back if you were a member of Seal Team 6?



Here's a hint (if you need one): Their names both sound like "Kris."

After 20 years of service, Chris Beck (first picture) retired from Seal Team 6 a just few months before their famous raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Chris Beck's military career included seven combat deployments, a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star.

Kristin Beck (second picture), 46, works as a military consultant in the Tampa area, and decided in March to post a new LinkedIn profile picture of herself (Chris Beck) dressed as a woman.

"I am now taking off all my disguises and letting the world know my true identity as a woman," Beck wrote on her LinkedIn page.

Beck said some SEAL buddies thought at first that it was a joke, but she assured them it wasn't. "I am still the same person with the same experience and the same spirit."

The first picture in this post is from the cover of Kristin Beck's recently-released memoir, "Warrior Princess." The second is from Kristin Beck's recent life.

The book includes some reactions from former team members, including praise for Beck's courage in the forward which was written by former boss and retired Navy SEAL and astronaut William Shepherd.

Beck attended the Virginia Military Institute, played sports in school and always wanted to serve in the military. Her co-author, Anne Speckhard, is an adjunct associate professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University Medical School who has specialized in post-traumatic stress disorder and counterterrorism.

Speckhard said she sees Beck's decision to join the Navy SEALs as fitting the character of a high achiever. "As a woman, he would have joined the SEALs as well," Speckhard said. The Navy SEALs currently do not take female candidates.

In fact, the military currently does not accept any transgender candidates, even after the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell."

“As a woman, he would have joined the SEALs as well.

Can’t help it. This story makes me laugh.

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There is nothing to like about this story.

I had been contemplating a post about the recent coverage of sexual assault and misconduct in the Army and Air Force, and asking, “What in bloody hell is so stubbornly wrong with this culture?” But I didn’t have an answer.

I was even more disturbed when I read a Facebook post about servicewomen who report sexual assaults finding themselves in the position of being “forced to salute their assaulters.” There is nothing I can think of that brings home the absolute wrongness of retaining servicemembers in their positions, or transferring them, or dismissing convictions against them, than being required to salute one’s assaulter.

Gen. Colin Powell is missing that point when he said servicemembers convicted of rape should not be dismissed from the service.

Apparently, if you’re an officer, you don’t even spend time in the brig. You get transferred to your victim’s home town.

But all of that didn’t emanate from the Marine Corps. I’ve heard, in my casual daily contact with (young) Marines, positive comments about women in the Corps, and even of them serving in combat roles. I’ve seen their behavior–basically gender-neutral. So I had hoped that, as a service problem, (most) sexual assaults, degradation, and physical threats had avoided the Marine Corps, with its emphasis on a core value of “Honor.”

Not so.

Marine generals must be heaving sighs of relief that this story, worse in my opinion than the one that received limited coverage about USMC Sgt. Gary Stein and his online threats against the President, has so far faded into the woodwork. I bring it up here because I believe that if there is a worst in ourselves, we should know it, face it, condemn it, and eradicate it–not hope it wafts away like smokeless powder.

On May 8, 2013, Congresswoman Jackie Spier of California wrote a letter to SecDef Hagel, Commandant Amos, and Lynne M. Holbrooks, Principal Deputy Inspector General, bringing to their attention a Facebook page, “F’n Wook,” “which includes numerous comments denigrating women in the Marine Corps.” According to a May 8 article in “Stripes,” the page had more than 10,000 “likes,” and many photos had several hundred comments.

Congresswoman Spier is kind in her description. The page describes and includes pictues of domestic battery, sexual assault/bondage, and captions of sexual acts that I simply don’t wish to describe. Screenshots of the page include favorable and, in my opinion, extreme comments which purport to be from former and present Marines, many under their real names. Other, similar pages exist as well.

Ok, that’s bad enough; but not bad enough for the posters. After Spiers sent her letter, and the Marine Corps apparently began investigating, physical threats were made against Spiers, on “F’n Wook” and, when that page was in short order taken down, a replacement page.
God help us, if the posters are active duty Marines who have taken an oath to “protect” us.

Other commenters have railed against the investigation, which is being conducted by the Secret Service and concentrating on the threats made.

Really? Really guys? If there are active duty Marines in this (and I am not excusing retired Marines but I am more concerned about the ones still “serving”), how, in some twisted way, have you come up through boot camp, served in the Corps, been taught its core values, and come away with a thoroughly vicious view, not only of women, but of the women you live with, and the women you serve with?

How have you come to decide that theatening a Member of Congress is a just retribution for bringing a public Facebook page into the light? How have you come to decide that retribution against anyone, much less elected representatives or your Commander-in-Chief, is…just? Is honorable? Is, of all things–courageous?

If you are not pretenders posting as “Marines,” you are not worthy to call yourself a Marine. In fact, I don’t care how much shit you went through in boot camp, Iraq or Afghanistan. The vast majority of your brothers (and sisters) are honorable people. You, who are involved in or enjoy this crap–you are purely pretenders.

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Sergeant Chesty

Dog Days

No matter that this recruit is named for the Marines’ greatest hero, USMC Gen. Lewis Burwell “Chesty” Puller–Sergeant Chesty XIII has no problem showing him who is boss. “Sergeant Chesty” is the official Marine Corps mascot.

Gen. Chesty Puller earned five Navy Crosses while serving in World War II and the Korean War. One description of him comes from “Badass of the Week” (http://www.badassoftheweek.com/puller.html):

“Lewis Puller, nicknamed “Chesty” because of his perfect posture and the fact that his torso somewhat resembled a full-size beer keg full of lead bricks, raw muscle and horse steroids, was a hard-as-shit motherfucker who is almost universally-recognized as the most badass dude to ever wear the uniform of the United States Marine Corps. Not bad, considering that being revered as the pinnacle of toughness by the USMC is kind of like being King of the Vikings or the toughest Klingon to ever set foot on the planet Kronos. In his thirty-seven years of service to the Corps, Puller would rise through the ranks from Private to General, kick more asses than Juan Valdez on an insane bender, and become the most decorated Marine in American history.”

Gen. Chesty Puller is no less famous for his quotations.

At the battle of Chosin Reservoir in Korea, he told his Marines,
“We’ve been looking for the enemy for some time now.
“We’ve finally found him. We’re surrounded.
“That simplifies our problem of getting to these people and killing them.”

When surrounded by 8 enemy divisions during WW2,
“They are in front of us, behind us, and we are flanked on both sides by an enemy that outnumbers us 29:1. They can’t get away from us now!”

At Guadalcanal,
There had been last-minute reinforcements, a battalion of U.S. Army troops which fought its way through the enemy with heavy losses. Its colonel reported to Puller for orders.
“Take your position along those hills and have your men dig in.”
“Yes sir. Now where’s my line of retreat?”
Puller’s voice became slow and hard: “I’m glad you asked me that. Now I know where you stand. Wait one minute.” He took a field telephone and called his tank commander. The Army officer listened to the Marine order:
“I’ve got a new outfit,” Puller said. He gave its position in detail. “If they start to pull back from that line, even one foot, I want you to open fire on them.” He hung up the telephone and turned to the Army officer:
“Does that answer your question?” (From The Book of Military Quotations, edited by Peter Tsouras.)

Chosin Reservoir:
“Remember, you are the 1st Marines! Not all the Communists in Hell can overrun you!” And to the North Koreans he bellowed, “Alright you bastards, try and shoot me!”

After defending at Chosin for two weeks, Puller was visiting a hospital tent when a messenger came:
“Sir, do you know they’ve cut us off? We’re entirely surrounded.”
“Those poor bastards ,” Puller said. “They’ve got us right where we want ’em. We can shoot in every direction now.”

Upon seeing a flamethrower for the first time, he asked,
“Where do you put the bayonet?”

Recruits at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, where Puller received his training, traditionally end their day with


“Good night, Chesty, wherever you are!”

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(To Dream the) Impossible Dream–Earworm Warning!

Still the best rendition ever.

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2012 Army suicides are highest on record

Suicides, 2012/2011
Army (includes Guard and Reserve) 303/283
Navy (includes Reserves) 62/59
Marines 46/32
Air Force (includes Guard and Reserves) 71/70
Coast Guard (includes Reserves) 6/7
*Data reported by each military branch as of December 2012
“Why Soldiers Keep Losing to Suicide,” at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/foreign-affairs-defense/why-soldiers-keep-losing-to-suicide/. (Remaining quotes in this post are from that article unless noted otherwise.)

[COMMENT: Reported data on military suicides are conflicting. You will see that from the article cited above, the DOD news release, and the article on suicide in Marine Corps spec ops added below. There is no statistical standard for reporting suicide data.]

“In spite of the increased loss of life to suicide, with calendar year 2012 being our highest on record, the Army is confident that through our continued emphasis in the services, programs, policies, and training that support our Army family, we will overcome this threat to our Force,” said Lt. Gen. Howard Bromberg, deputy chief of Army Staff, Manpower and Personnel. (DOD news release, February 1, 2013, http://www.defense.gov/releases/release.aspx?releaseid=15797.) Suicides have increased across all the services (except for the Coast Guard, which is down by one), but the greatest increase in numbers is seen in the Army; however, the greatest increase by percentage is in the Marine Corps (Army, percentage increase, 07; Marine Corps, 36).

Indeed, what else can Gen. Bromberg say? “We give up?”

No one can yet pinpoint a cause, or causes, of the increasing rate of suicides in the armed forces. In one notorious case, the cause was torturous bullying by other comarades-in-arms. In some, active duty personnel who kill themselves have been on several deployments; some have been on one; most have never been deployed. (See blog post “The Tragedy of ‘Captains Courageous,” July 12, 2012.) According to an excellent article on the subject, published 12 December 2012:

“About 53 percent of those who died by suicide in the military in 2011, the most recent year for which data is available, had no history of deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan, according to the Defense Department. And nearly 85 percent of military members who took their lives had no direct combat history, meaning they may have been deployed but not seen action.” Last June Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said that we have to look to “societal issues” to explain the increase in military suicides. http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=116867.

But others say differently:

Even though direct exposure to combat is not a principal factor, a three-year study about to be published found that “(t)he military’s suicide problem seems to be rooted partly in the strain of war. The U.S. has been fighting in Afghanistan for 11 years, most of them while also battling a protracted insurgency in Iraq. Deployments for many service members were extended, sometimes up to 15 months.

“That stress has increased the burden on all service members, regardless of whether they’ve been deployed, said Craig Bryan, a psychology professor and associate director of the National Center of Veterans’ Studies at the University of Utah, where he studies the link between military stress and suicide….One thing he noticed: stress levels across the military began rising in 2004, even among those who hadn’t deployed, along with the suicide rate.

“’Even if I’m not deployed, if everyone else at my base is, there are less people around to do the same jobs,” Bryan said. “I have more work that I have to accomplish. If I’m not deploying … everyone else is going and I’m left behind, I’m not pulling my weight.’”

“I’m not pulling my weight….” Those words have far more meaning to active military personnel than to the rest of society subject to “societal issues.”

“…(I)n in May, a blunt blog post by Maj. Gen. Dana Pittard, the commander of Fort Bliss, Texas, summed up the sentiment that some victims’ advocates say remains pervasive in the military.

“’I have now come to the conclusion that suicide is an absolutely selfish act,” Pittard wrote, in comments that have since been scrubbed from the website. “I am personally fed up with soldiers who are choosing to take their own lives so that others can clean up their mess. Be an adult, act like an adult, and deal with your real-life problems like the rest of us.’”

Kim Ruocco, director for suicide outreach for survivors at the nonprofit Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, or TAPS, responds: “When you say someone’s a malingerer, dropping their pack, it’s a weak thing to do — it completely sets everybody back.” Ruocco’s husband, a Marine major, committed suicide after flying 70 missions in Iraq–“worried that if his commanders knew he was struggling, they would think he wasn’t strong enough to go back to war.”

Plus, the accelerated pace of deployments results in a lack of connection among troops and their leaders. “These sergeants will tell me, ‘We’re moving so fast, I don’t have time, I don’t know my men and women,’” said Dr. Elspeth Ritchie, previously the Army’s top psychiatrist and now the chief clinical officer for the District of Columbia’s mental health department. Ritchie studied the past 10 years of suicides in the Army.

“The sergeants who in the past took care of the new kids are so busy preparing for the next (deployment), there just isn’t the same sense of cohesion that we used to have,” said Ritchie.

Marines, because of their ingrained history and culture, may find it particularly hard to ask for help. If that is the case, let us hope that the planned drawdown in Afghanistan will result in a slowing of the pace of deployments and of the concomitant burden that rapid deployments place on the non-deployed, thus also resulting in a drop in the rate of suicides. Otherwise, if the suicide rates continue their increase, God help the armed forces–and particularly the Marine Corps.

ADDED: Responding to a self-described Army veteran Georgetown student, who asked what “the Department of Defense and our lawmakers” will do to combat suicide among veterans, Secretary Panetta responded:

“It is one of the most tragic issues that we deal with right now in the military,” the secretary responded. The rate of suicide among troops and former troops mirrors that of greater society, he noted, but added, “There is no question in my mind that part of this is related to the stress of war over the last 10 years, [and] the fact that we have deployed people time and time again.” American Forces Press Service press release, 6 Feb 2013, at http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=119217.

ADDED: (Marine Corps) Spec ops troops’ stress ‘worse than we thought’

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