Shootin' the Breeze

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Archive for the tag “russia”

Help Me Understand Syria (and President Obama)

A year ago, when the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya was attacked and our ambassador killed, our military was not brought in to protect Americans at the embassy.  That failure to protect Americans is still being investigated.

America did not punish Libya for not protecting American diplomatic guests in that country.

The apparent use of chemical weapons in Syria by the Syrian government against its own citizens is horrible, yet, unlike the Benghazi situation, does not, as far as I know, involve American citizens.

England, our ally, is not backing President Obama’s desire to intervene in Syria.

Russia is very opposed to U.S. involvement.

Is this not something for the United Nations?

Until I am persuaded otherwise, I do not see why the United States of America should attack Syria.  I see that as lighting a powder keg.

If one of President Obama’s daughters was being threatened and he did nothing, and then, sadly, she was killed, and he still did nothing, then if a child was being abused by his own father in another country, should our President then be committed to saving the foreign child from that child’s family or just do a better job protecting his own family?

May God grant wisdom to our leaders.

Memorial Day, formerly known as Decoration Day

flags1Today we remember the people who died serving our country.  We also remember those who served our country and died.  We also remember loved ones who have died, whether or not they served in the military.

My father was an Army veteran, who served in World War II.  When he was merely eighteen, a troop ship transported him across the Atlantic Ocean to England.  He later crossed the English Channel to France.  One of his cousins died on a beach in Normandy on D-Day, as described in The Longest Day and Saving Private Ryan.  Those were brave young men who arrived in France to push back the Nazis.  Dad was in France and Belgium until the surrender of Germany and then was in California, preparing to be sent to the Pacific, when Japan surrendered.  He liked to say that they heard he was coming and gave up.

My father did not die in the war or I would not be here to tell you about him.  When he died in 2003, the military gave him a 21 gun salute, which choked me up.  My mother has the flag that was given to her as part of the ceremony.

On Friday, I attended the funeral of my Russian friend, Slava.  At his funeral, one of the speakers told of how Slava was five years old when he was injured by bombing of Russia in 1942, before America was in the war.  Slava came to the United States with his wife and child after he was a respected physicist in Russia.  He came here for freedom.

Both men loved America.  I miss them both.  I remember them both as honorable men such as countless others whom we honor on this day.

“It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.” A.Lincoln

Accidental Coach

Olympian 020

When I first started training to swim in the Senior Olympics, and was going to the pool a lot, a man in the lane next to me one day was waiting for me to complete a lap.  When I stopped to rest, he gave me a tip about how to improve my butterfly stroke, which was his specialty.

His advice to me, though unsolicited, was not unwanted.  I truly wanted to get better.  I wanted to qualify for the national championship.  So I thanked the man, who introduced himself as Slava.  He is from Russia.  He used to be a swimming coach there.

As we saw each other at the pool on other days, Slava continued to critique my swimming.  He complimented my breaststroke, which had been strongest event as a competitive swimmer in my younger years.  He helped me tweek my freestyle.  He gave me training tips on conditioning.  Mostly he taught me how to swim butterfly better.  I appreciated it all and told him so.

One of the things that he told me was that I better lose weight.  He said, “You are a powerful man, but you are too big here.”  He pointed to my stomach.   He is very direct, more direct than is considered polite in our culture, but he was right.  He told me to do other exercises besides swimming.  He asked me to guess how many pushups he can do.  The answer is 115.  He is 73 years old.  He does not have an ounce of fat on him.  He swims every day.

When I slack off, he sends me emails.  “I do not see you at the pool.”

With Slava’s help, I have qualified for the national championships three times, in several events, including butterfly and individual medley, which starts with butterfly.  My butterfly is still not as good as Slava’s, but was good enough for a silver medal at the Huntsman World Games. It is a good thing that Slava was not competing, at least not in my age group.  There I met some Russian cosmonauts who were competing.  Slava told me that a friend of his was coming from Russia to swim in those games, but had gotten sick.  I wish that Slava had come with me, but he did not.

Slava and his wife, Ludmylla, have become friends with me and my wife, Sugar.  We have been to each others’ homes, including spending Russian Orthodox Easter together this year.

I thank the Lord that He had me swim in that lane that day when Slava criticized my butterfly technique.

P.S.  In the photo above, I was close to 250 lbs.  I got down to 215 lbs.  Slava was right, it helped me improve my swimming times, but I became concerned that the N.F.L. scouts thought I was then too light to play linebacker.  That is probably why I am still an undrafted, unsigned free agent.  What a dilemma!  So, as a compromise, I have elevated my weight to 225 lbs.  Now I am more “well-rounded” as an elite multi-sport athlete.  However, if someone tells me that I would be more competitive as a marathon runner if I got down to 160 lbs, I will not listen.  That is where I draw the line. You can’t please all the people all of the time.

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