Remembrance and Reconciliation

There were a couple of stories I found earlier in the month, but decided to hold until the Memorial Day issue. And they get to be in the blog, since one of them has illustrations you need to see for the complete effect.

The first story is the one that needs illustrations, but be sure you see the second, below that!

His Fate, Sealed

When the U.S. Navy SEALs — the SEa, Air and Land special forces — killed Osama bin Laden, it was immediately big news around the world. In Germany, news network N24 put up a logo of SEAL Team 6, which had credit for the operation, while presenter Mick Locher described the raid. Unfortunately, the logo shown was for the “Maquis Special Operations — SEALS Team VI”, not the U.S. Navy SEALs Team 6. The Maquis is a fictional rebel group in the 24th century Star Trek universe, named for World War II French Resistance fighters; the logo was created by a Star Trek fan club, and Team 6 members are Klingons. “They don’t have the skull in their emblem for nothing,” Locher said of the logo. He didn’t seem to notice the weapon in the logo is a phaser, that the skull was extra large (because it’s a Klingon’s), or that the skull’s eye patch is attached with bolts. (RC/Sydney [Australia] Morning News) …Give him a break. Real SEALs often have oversized heads, could well have bolted-on parts, and might carry space-age weapons!

Here’s Locher in action:

Screen Capture: N24 presenter Mick Locher tries to make sense out of a science fiction logo.

I don’t have the logo as big as N24 did, so you may not be able to get enough detail (e.g., to see the “bolts”), but here you go (click to see larger):

And the closest thing to a “logo” that the real SEALs Team 6 has — their uniform patch:

Back to Fiction

For the eleven readers who don’t know what a “Klingon” is, they’re a 24th century science-fictional Star Trek alien race known as fierce warriors who evolved armor-plated foreheads:

A Star Trek Klingon, Lt. Worf.

Worf (played by Michael Dorn) is the best-known Klingon because he chose to join the “Federation” (the good guys). And, well, because he was one of the stars of the show….

The Other Story

The first story, I found amusing. The second one is a bit more “amazing”:

Untrained Seal

The Rev. Jim Moats of the Christian Bible Fellowship Church in Newville, Pa., had been letting his congregation believe that he had been a U.S. Navy SEAL. After Osama bin Laden was killed, the local newspaper interviewed local SEALs, including Moats, about the SEAL team that got the terrorist. After the story was published, readers smelled a fraud because the stories he told were actually from the Steven Seagal movie Under Siege. When confronted, Moats admitted he was never a SEAL, and had bought his gold Trident medal at a military surplus store. “It was my dream” to be a SEAL, Moats said, but “I don’t even know if I would have met the qualifications.” How could he not know? “I never knew what the qualifications were,” he admitted. “We deal with these guys all the time, especially the clergy,” said actual former SEAL Don Shipley, who helps maintain the confidential data base of all SEALs. Shipley says he doesn’t think Moats should be prosecuted, because derision by people who find out about the fraud online is a form of “street justice” that has brought Moats dishonor and shame. “I think just having his ass spanked is enough for him that he won’t do it again any longer,” he said. (RC/Harrisburg Patriot-News)…Wilco, sir!

Especially Clergy

One quote really surprised me: not that the retired SEAL saying this happens a lot, but that “especially the clergy” impersonate them!

“It’s amazing how many of the clergy are involved in those lies to build that flock up,” Shipley went on to say. “He has mental problems, plain and simple. His wife and friends and flock believe it, and he starts believing it himself. That is not an excuse. The pastor is very aware of what he did.” Shipley called Moats himself to confront him over the lie.

So how contrite was Moats? You be the judge: “I bring a shame and a reproach upon the name of Christ, I bring a shame and a reproach upon my church, and I bring a shame and a reproach upon my family,” Moats said. Uh, Rev. Moats? How about the shame and reproach you brought upon yourself?!

He admits he only made “passing reference” to what he had done the next Sunday to his parishioners, saying he had “gotten caught up in moments and been untruthful,” and preferred not to go into detail because that happened to be Mother’s Day.

The newspaper said he “hopes that his congregation will forgive him and stick with him when the extent of his deception becomes known,” but “knows that people inside and outside his church will be angry over what he has done because he is a minister who is supposed to tell the truth.” Um, yeah.

Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness

But I remain fascinated that this isn’t particularly unusual, that “lots” of pastors tell such lies. Astounding. Repent, gentlemen!

Memorial Day was originally meant to be for “Remembrance and Reconciliation” after the U.S. Civil War. It has since become a way to honor the men and women who died in all wars. I can think of no better way to honor those real heroes on this day than for you false “heroes” to stop lying to say you’re Just Like Them. Because you’re not. Then, go in peace.

So for all of you who really served in our military: on this Memorial Day, please accept my deepest gratitude for your service, and my condolences for your fallen comrades. May we learn from our many past mistakes, and only call upon you again when truly needed.

- - -

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27 Comments on “Remembrance and Reconciliation

  1. Thanks, good one Randy. Now for my pet Memorial Day peeve, all the jokers out there who wish people Happy Memorial Day, really, really, Happy Dead Soldiers Day…please let’s educate the public that like Zero Tolerance this is another really stupid thing. This morning I witnessed a CNN weatherman wish folks a Happy Memorial Day, a few minutes later a young female soldier in Iraq, wished her family in Virginia a Happy Memorial Day. I was taught long ago, that it was a day of rembrance and thanks to those who fought to keep our country free.

    Yeah, that’s why I saved these stories for this week — to help remind people what the day is supposed to be about. Thanks for making the point in another way. -rc

  2. How about the shame he brought on the Seals, by claiming to be one of them, when he doesnt have the “honor” to admit he’d lied from the start?

  3. It’s been said that “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” Typically, most of us who’ve served in the armed forces did not do it for the glory. In a strange way, it’s not so different than sex. Those who are getting it don’t usually feel a need to brag about it.

    The good reverend’s biggest sin was not in lying, nor in purporting to be what he was not. It was his lack of faith in his own calling, a bravery in facing the demons of his soul with only his mind. And it’s never too late to achieve it.
    For those who have served, the value of their work and sacrifice is not diminished, regardless how they served.

  4. I think it is a mistake not to prosecute Jim Moats, the not very reverent Reverend.

    There is a very good reason for laws against scofflaws who claim military honors not earned. This behavior, if not punished, devalues those who earned their honors.

  5. First story: the fictional “logo” is obviously based on the real one, which makes the error slightly less ludicrous than it might have been (though just as amusing).

    Second story: the minister’s deception is reprehensible, but I don’t think omitting his own shame shows lack of contrition — he’s listing the innocent/more important parties he’s harmed, and his own humiliation goes without saying.

    I hope you’re right, but fear you’re not. -rc

  6. It is interesting to note that the real heroes don’t go around thumping their chest and boasting of their deeds? I have only met 1 person who made it through BUDs, and he asked me not to tell anyone because they would make him out to be something he wasn’t. He said he never did a mission as he was injured in training. Normally I silently roll my eyes at statements like that, but his quiet demeanor over the many months I worked with opposite him in EMS told me he was telling the truth. There is much truth to the statement that there are stories that only are told in hushed conversations after many beers and only with intimates of your profession: be that military, EMS, fire or police, to name some.

  7. As a disabled Vet, I agree with both Jinn’s and your comments concerning the meaning of Memorial Day (Happy Memorial Day, really?). But today is not a day to thank those of us who serve or have served and are still here. Thanks those men and women every day when you see them on the streets, or exercise your rights. Memorial Day is for those whom we cannot thank, now or ever again… or enough… for their ultimate sacrifice. How do you thank someone who is no longer here? We honor their memory.

    To “piggy back” on Jinn’s pet peeve for Memorial Day, my biggest pet peeve, not just for Memorial Day but also at the Fourth of July and Veteran’s Day, are the part-time patriots. When my father passed away last year (30+ years Army veteran, special operations helo pilot, all around awesome guy) I replaced the worn flag on his flag pole and flew it at half-mast through his “going away party” (he said he wanted his life celebrated, not mourned). When I came home, I brought that flag with me and I fly it 24/7 (yes, all weather flag and lighted at night). Dad now rests at Arlington, and seeing those hallowed grounds only strengthened my patriotism. It bothers me to see flags come out for the aforementioned holidays, then disappear afterwards. I hope more people would appreciate the meaning of Memorial Day, and become full-time patriots.

  8. On the Maquis logo, also notice that the skull is framed by bat’leths, pretty nasty Klingon weapons.

    Thanks! I did notice the bat’leths, but figured I needed to draw the line somewhere! -rc

  9. I admit that I was a little surprised at the comment about prosecution. Far as I was aware, there is no violation to prosecute. Simply representing oneself as a former anything is not a criminal act.

    Sure, there is federal law prohibiting (and punishing) the wearing of a military uniform if one is not an active member of the armed services — 10 USC Chap 45. The law goes on to describe exceptions to the prohibition. But there is no law against claiming to be formerly a member of the armed services.

    There is also Article 134 in the UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice) which prohibits the active impersonation of a superior rank, but again, it does not cover claims of previous entitlement. Plus, the UCMJ holds no jurisdiction over civilians. As matter of fact, the UCMJ, in cases of conflict with civilian law, will usually defer to the civilian law. (Notable exceptions would be cases of FOREIGN civilian law where a serviceman’s rights as a U.S. citizen would not be honored under such foreign law.)

    Finally, since it’s been many years since I’ve had inclination to address this issue, I checked to see if any changes had occurred. I was surprised to see that there is the Stolen Valor Act of 2005. However, it only applies to the purchase and wearing of military honors (ribbons, medals), not to false claims of service. Furthermore, the Act was ruled unconstitutional in 2010.

    Bottom line, there is nothing to charge this guy with.

    And, no; courage, bravery, and sacrifice is not shamed or diminished by the lies of others claiming to aspire to those lofty ideals. As an American citizen, the Reverend has a Right under the 1st Amendment to be a complete jackass, and I defend that Right to the death; lest I be convicted for making a jackass of myself at some time in the past.

    I agree with Randy’s sentiments on the issue, but not to the point where others would attempt to legislate it. Shame and humiliation toward the liar is sufficient.

    I didn’t research the Stolen Valor Act to see if it might apply to such a case, but my assumption would be no. I hadn’t heard it was struck down until recently, but I’d guess that battle isn’t over yet. -rc

  10. Jinn and Mike, why can’t you remember those who have given all in a happy manner? I know when I think of those who have preceded me into the great unknown, it is generally the good times I remember. I was at a reunion last fall of my old military group (tri-service bunch) and had to put up with one guy that was alternating between being a jerk and a good guy. But I enjoyed seeing him again. Fortunate, that, as he died two weeks later. Maybe your losses are rawer than mine, I don’t know.

    As for the young soldier wishing her parents a happy Memorial Day, it was one for them; she was still alive, so this Day, at least, was one of joy for them.

    I understand their points, but I like your more positive point of view better — especially your last sentence. Hear hear! -rc

  11. I should not be at all surprised by dishonest clergy. After all — why should I possibly believe that the Bible is the word of some make-believe wizard in the sky? Clergy have been perpetuating their profound myths for millennia.

    Many think I’m a pessimist. I’m not: I’m a frustrated optimist. I just think people should (and therefore mostly do!) walk their talk. Yeah, I’m aware of pedophile priests and all, but I had hoped that clergy, in general, were more honest than this! It’s disheartening to learn that they’re one of the notorious culprits of this sort of thing. That’s all. I’m used to my optimism being frustrated, but I still cling to it. -rc

  12. To Jim in Decatur: Your post managed to get me to rethink my ideas, and you do have a valid point. To say my loss is more raw, might be accurate at this moment, but I’ve been… emotionally patriotic for as long as I can remember, even as a child. Perhaps it has to do with generations of my family serving, in almost all the branches. I’ve always felt Memorial Day should be a somber occassion to recall the sacrifices of the men and women who built, defended, and even held this country together. I suppose there really is nothing wrong with wishing a fellow service member or serving family member a Happy Memorial Day, in fact since you brought up I recalld my dad frequently called or emailed to wish my brother and I a Happy Memorial Day (dad was Army, I went Air Force, and my younger brother was Army). In that context maybe “happpy” is an appropriate term.

    I’m not saying there is nothing good to remember about those who have been lost, and the memories of good times with them is a great way to honor their sacrifice. For the vast majority of people (at least those I hear say it), a Happy Memorial Day is about celebrating and time off from work, and I don’t see it that way. I guess I never understood a reason to celebrate, in the party sense of the term, such a somber occassion as it is to celebrate the fallen heros of our nation’s past. For me, it has seemed more appropriate to view or participate in a Memorial Day service at the Veteran’s Cemetary to honor those who gave their all for us than to have a party and wish everyone a “happy” Memorial Day.

    …but thank you for giving me an opportunity to rethink my ideas.

    As an aside, I frequent several technology blogs to keep up to date with what is going on in the computer world, and it is so very refreshing to read intellectual ideas being discussed rationally as opposed to “Apple fanboys” and “Windows fanboys” belittling each other. Thanks Randy for providing the platform! Mind if I borrow your “frustrated optimist” term? It really fits me. 🙂

    I’m pleased to offer it to you! And yes, you’re welcome about the platform. I delete comments that don’t add to the discussion (the rule: “Is this worth the time to read by those interested in this topic?” If not, delete!), but I’m happy to say I don’t need to do that much. -rc

  13. Thanks Tom, Decatur, IL for a nice upbeat way to look at the Memorial Day matter. I am a female veteran and over the past few years, more and more females are being added to our war dead. I guess that I just hate to see a really great holiday for the remembrance of our war dead turned into another BBQ, Super Sale Day.

    I am happy for every service member who returns home to their loved ones alive and well, and my remembrance of fallen friends is generally happy, but I would not wish their families Happy Memorial Day. I guess I resent people who don’t know others’ situations giving chirpy, “Happy Memorial Day” wishes to vast audiences.

    Thanks for another take, and making me want to lighten up a bit on the uninformed, and un-uniformed.

  14. The Stolen Valor Act court ruling is under appeal, I think. As I understand it, what was ruled unconstitutional was that you cannot prosecute someone for claiming military honors, due to freedom of speech issues. HOWEVER, the offender COULD be prosecuted for fraud, if they used such claims to get favors/rewards/compensation. That said, I don’t think the preacher would fit that category, so he might be off the hook in that area. (I also think someone should send him a GOOHF card — he could probably use it right about now).

    As for Memorial Day itself, it was originally intended as a day of remembrance. And while it had, as Jinn noticed, turned into primarily a BBQ weekend since the Congress made it a 3-day weekend back in the 70s, there’s been a noticeable shift back towards a day of remembrance, especially since 9/11/01.

    The GA town next to mine started having a service on Memorial Day back in 1997 or thereabouts, according to remarks by the Mayor at this year’s service. He said that since 2001 attendance at the service has mushroomed.

    This year was especially poignant, as we added a name to the granite marker in the city park that lists their war dead. Specialist Gary Lee Nelson III died in Iraq this past April, of non-combat injuries. NOTHING brings home the meaning of Memorial Day like seeing the grieving family of a service member, knowing their 20yr old son will never grow older.

    (soapbox)
    I don’t care if you have your BBQ, I just ask that you also take time to remember the meaning of the day, and the sacrifices of your military. Remember the fallen — it was your battles they were fighting, whether the battle was in 1776, 1967, or 2011.
    (/soapbox)

    All that said, I like the idea of celebrating their lives, but it needs to be a thoughtful, deliberate celebration, not just a glib excuse for a party. Spend a moment in silence, remembering their ultimate sacrifice for us, then share the good stories.

  15. I agree with what Mary in Georgia wrote.

    When i was a child, about 59 years ago, we lived in Seattle, and every Memorial Day, rain or not, usually rain, we went downtown to watch the Memorial day Parade. Rows and rows (Platoons, perhaps) of Army, Navy and Marines marched by us, and there may have been an occasional band playing patriotic music, i can’t remember. At the front of every platoon, there was a flag court. US flag in the middle, flag of the particular armed force, and their platoon flag.

    It was wonderful, and we went every year until they didn’t do it any more.

    As a preacher he should have known better, Perhaps he never went to seminary school.

    A good question about the preacher. I guess I’m not surprised to find their website has been taken offline, so I’m not able to access his bio. -rc

  16. Perhaps that lying ‘minister’ might be rewarded by empty collection plates! Now THAT would be justice…and a measure of his worth.

  17. I’m “enjoying” some of the righteous comments here about a minister lying and should be punished severely for it. More severely than normal people. Last I knew, ministers were people, too, not gods. And most don’t even pretend to be gods, even if they do pretend to be former SEALs. But people do lie everyday and while ministers should lie less so, I don’t presume that they never tell a lie.

    If the minister did his job properly, since the Christian religion preaches forgiveness and the relegation of judgment to God, then I expect that his congregation will probably get over it. Depends, of course, on the sincerity of his Confession.

    Just strange, though, that it seems SO many clergy claim such military experience. Is it some kind of perceived weakness on their own part if they didn’t fight the baddest bad guys on earth, rather than just the demons of Hell? If so, that tends to say something about Faith, or lack thereof.

    I think the thing is, some preachers (especially “mega” and TV types) do come off as “godly” themselves, and are either satisfied that they fall on their faces (“A-HAH!”), or deeply disappointed because they “believed in them”. For me, it’s an eye-rolling moment of hypocrisy revealed — “You talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk.” But yes, they’re human; very human indeed. Just like the rest of us. -rc

  18. I will agree with clergy being human. However, they are humans who have sought out a position of trust, both personal and in general to the community. As such, they have committed themselves to a higher standard. Lying, dishonesty in general even without overt lies, committing crimes not out of conscience but out of greed, pedophilia, all of these things are more heinous when committed by those we trust, rather than our fellow man (or woman).

    Because while it’s true that humans do lie, cheat, steal and harm one another, it’s also true that you can only betray someone who trusts you. That betrayal makes any offense worse. That he betrayed the entire community he ministered to is worse in my mind, than someone who betrays just one person.

  19. The statement, “He has mental problems, plain and simple…” is obviously true for any adult who believes in fairy tales.

  20. FWIW, Worf is only half-Klingon. His mother is human.

    Of course, the idea that humans and Klingons could be genetically compatible is absurd. But it is fiction (but don’t say that too loud – some people don’t know).

    It was Spock who was half human. Of course, genetic compatibility could just be ascribed to Hodgkin’s Law, but that would be pretty convenient, especially considering that most of the life on this planet didn’t exactly evolve in parallel! -rc

  21. Actually, Dale, the tendency to see cause behind everything is human nature; indeed, it’s an adaptive survival trait. Thus, it is anyone who finds atheism obvious (rather than holding it as a considered view whilst acknowledging its counter-intuitiveness) who has mental problems.

  22. Here’s Pastor Moats’ web page, as it looked a couple of years ago (courtesy of the Internet Archive Wayback Machine).
    http://web.archive.org/web/20091021101418/http://geocities.com/cbfchurch/Pastor.html

    D’oh! Why didn’t I think of that?! Sheesh. Quite a large photo of the Rev., and here are the highlights of his resume: “in the ministry” (as of August 2009) for “over 30 years”. Attended Bob Jones University. Has planted (founded) churches, ministered in three states, and done foreign missions. Married his “high school sweetheart” and has three kids. He “unashamedly preaches and [sic] ‘old fashioned’ message for a ‘new fashioned’ people.” Well there’s his problem: he needs to learn some shame! -rc

  23. To David from Portland: Worf, son of Mogh, is FULL Klingon. He was raised by humans following the death of his parents during the Romulan attack on Khitomer.

  24. Re Dale, Illinois:

    As a Christian, I feel I’m often misrepresented by other self-proclaimed “Christians” in comments such as these, and also that I’m lumped into a group of “absurd fairy tale believers.” It is not my intention with this post to convert anyone, nor to imply that anyone else is incompetent for believing other than I do. My goal is only to inform of the seemingly little known reasoning behind a few basic Christian beliefs:

    First, to be a Christian does not mean to be perfect. It means to acknowledge ones own imperfection and the idea that right and wrong are not defined by oneself but are defined by God. It also means having accepted Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross as a compensating mechanism for our imperfect nature and then being a good representative of His teachings. The bible has higher standards for clergy. Jesus makes it very clear what the consequences are for clergy who misrepresent him and are only in it for their own power and glory.

    As far as fairy tales go, Christians believe that God is the limitless creator who can do as He sees fit with His reality. I’m a programmer so this is a simple concept for me. After all, its my prerogative as to how I design my program and can add or remove features as I please. God created a world where such interesting and unusual things exist including cyanea and architeuthis, Bose–Einstein condensate, anti-matter, nitinol, the uncertainty principle, etc etc. The point being that since Christians believe God can do anything He wants, we have no issue with the unusual happenings recorded in the bible including the virgin birth of Jesus which is a crux of our belief. That’s not to say that some parables in the bible aren’t metaphorical, even Jesus used parables to get his point across and seemed frustrated every time his disciples thought He was being literal and completely missed the lesson of the story.

    Lastly, considering that it costs absolutely nothing to try Christianity and it is advertised as giving internal peace and a relationship with the almighty Deity, I don’t understand why people don’t at least give it a try before downing it. Since the bible says if you seek God you will find Him and if you want to understand the bible all you have to do is ask (Matthew 7:7 and Revalations 3:20), a non-believer’s doubt would sound much more founded if they could say “Yah, I read the Gospel and sincerely asked God to guide my life – if – He could honestly make it better and He never did.” Even then if you died and found God is real you could tell Him you tried and He never showed up. Anywho I hope that illuminates some points about Christianity to people who think all Christians are hypocrites and believe in fairy tales.

  25. Regarding compatibility of Klingon and Human genetics: there was actually a set of ST:TNG episodes that addressed this. Apparently all the major humanoid races were “seeded” by one parent race, who set up a complex puzzle with clues spread out over the galaxy so that the solution would not be discovered until galactic peace had been achieved. Unfortunately, the Federation, Klingons, Romulans, and Cardassians (if I remember the major players correctly) basically lied, cheated, and stole information, then raced to the key coordinates, each thinking they were headed for a massive superweapon, only to find a visual recording of their shared forefather, congratulating them on their cooperation. All involved parties basically decided to hush up the discovery, as it would not have gone over well with any of their respective constituencies (except maybe the Federation). :-J

  26. What I found odd about this story was that he didn’t make a full confession because it was Mother’s Day. Speaking as a mother, I’m trying to teach my kids to fess up when they mess up and take responsibility for their actions. I appreciate when a pastor is honest enough to take take responsibility for what he did – including taking the consequences. It would have been highly appropriate for Mother’s Day!

    And Sharyn, thank you!

  27. And while we are talking about Memorial Day, please let us remember those who served and then went home, and lived life until they passed, despite the shadow of what they had seen and done during their service. Although they did not die while active, they bore the scars for the rest of their lives. And they did their best to be good spouses, parents, and all-around decent people, in spite of it all. And although they did not die IN the service, they died with their service still in them.

    Which to me means the fakers disrespect the living as well as the dead. -rc

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