Saturday, December 21, 2013

Home for Christmas...and a new life

For over 7+ years I have wandered through Second Life from Real Life locations in Baghdad, Singapore, and Washington DC...with trips to Egypt, Indonesia, Paris, Qatar, Lebanon, Thailand, London, and my family's home of Omaha, Nebraska

I have gone from an active duty Marine in the Middle East, to being " lent" to several Government agencies, to now being self-employed in my own successful business. I have served many masters along the way.
I have seen "my" Marine Corps move from a place that excluded gays to an organization that now welcomes us. We have all witnessed governments all around us opening up the institution of marriage to gay people and have seen attitudes change with breathless speed.
I have evolved from a closeted Marine to an openly gay married man, with many turns and obstacles along the way.

The one constant in my life has been the friends and family I have found here in our LGBT community in Second Life.
No matter where I have been, who I was working for, what I was going through in Real Life....My Second Life here, has always been an anchor. It's been the constant in my life for over seven years. The friends I have found here....the people that I have shared with, have been here for me at some of the most important crossroads in my life.

I have brought John, my husband home to spend the holidays with my family. This morning we spent hours delivering food to needy families and had a glimpse of the "other side"  It was a chance to reflect on how lucky we are and be thankful. Tomorrow we will go shopping for the meal we will all share on Christmas Eve. I'm looking forward to John being at my family table sharing, and counting our many many blessings.
When I first came into Second Life and our LGBT community, I was stationed in Iraq...living in a "fortress" called the Green Zone in downtown Baghdad. Not much to do or much to see. The work was constant and every week I saw the ugly side of humanity and lost many friends during that tour and the two I spent in Iraq before then.

Second Life was my refuge. A place of calm and escape. It was also a place where I developed as a gay man, living in a gay community, living a gay lifestyle. As the Real world changed around me, it allowed  me to transform my real life from what I had become in my Second Life. I'll always be grateful to those of you that helped me along the way.

I want you all to know that the community the you are a part of, the community that you have helped build here, has made the world a better place. Yes we have raised money for charities and causes and that has helped many people around the world....but it's often the little things that have helped cement our community together and make us a strong and lasting part of each of our lives. A hug to a forlorn friend, an offer to help build or an intimate moment in the virtual world that transcends into ones real life. Don't ever be embarrassed about the family you have here or diminish the power of just being here.

It's a cool night in Omaha.
The sky is clear, the air is crisp, and I'm sitting by a warm fire pondering my life and my blessings over the past several years.
I know I have rambled on a bit....but I want you to know of the power of community and how our community has helped me grow and transcend my fears into real life success. I want to thank you and encourage all of you to support our Second Life LGBT community in all it's facets, and depend on the friends you have here and the institutions we have created. Be willing to make new friends from another part of the world and "walk" in another's shoes. Offer your help and always be there to give someone a "virtual" hug. The bodies my not be flesh and blood, but a hug transcends our digital world and it's warmth can be felt on the "other side".
This is a time of year for reflection and a time for all of us to examine what we can do to bring a little kindness and love into the world.
From myself and my new husband I offer all of you my best Christmas wishes and hope for a Happier New Year.
Be kind to each other and recognize the exceptional in everyone you meet.....whether they are in digital or real form.

Love all of you

Doc Spad






Thursday, December 12, 2013

From my virtual world to Reality...

On Saturday afternoon at 1PM I will become a married man.
Legally married within the jurisdiction of the District of Columbia.
Seven years ago I could be described  as a closeted Marine, hiding who I really was, living in a straight mans world, always looking over my shoulder and worried about being "found out".
Then I discovered Second Life and the gay community here that welcomed me and made SL my home away from home. For all intents and purposes...I came "out" here in SL. I became the gay man that was hidden inside me and flourished in our gay community. It was the friendships and relationships I developed here that gave me the motivation to transform my Real Life into what I had already become in our virtual world.
After serving as a US Marine for over 13 years, I  left the Marine Corps.
Today, I am an openly gay man, committed to my partner, building a business and a family.
A few years ago I came out to my family, or rather was outed by a well meaning brother, and was shocked that my father, brothers, uncles and aunts, accepted me with open arms. They have accepted my soon to be husband into the family and made him feel welcome part of our extended family.
I have never been happier in my life and never been more certain about the commitment I am about to embark.

I want to thank all of you in our Second Life community for being a part of my life and making me feel welcome into our virtual family. I absolutely know that the advances I have made in my Real Life have been built upon my experiences I have had here. For all of you in Second Life that have taken the time to know me and befriend me... I thank you. There are a few special people out there, and they know who they are, that have really been the rocks that have helped me grow and blossom into the Real Life man that I have become...I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I'll be around next week after the wedding, and then go home for Christmas with my husband, followed by a ten day honeymoon..... I'll see ya'll when I return and please be good to each other and live the season.

Merry Christmas

Doc Spad

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Second Pride: Who I am voting for and Why

After two years of helping to bring Pride to a much better place from where I found it, my only hope is that we elect INDEPENDENT  and thoughtful people to the 2014 Board.  With that in mind I am sharing with you my choices.
I'm certain that everyone will not agree with my choices, but I hope you will consider these people...they deserve your support.

Chairman:
neither of the candidates excites me, both did things during the campaign that are questionable at best. But DAMIAN is not running on a ticket and I think the rest of the board will be able to control him or at least
help him assume his responsibilities.  He comes to the Board as one vote among nine.
Dex is coming to the Board with an agenda, much of which will be agreed upon before the Board ever meets. If he and his "team" are elected they will  in effect neutralize the rest of the board and narrow the future of Pride to their vision.  I'm voting for DAMIAN.

Secretary Co-Chair:
ANDREA LONG ...she is independent, thoughtful, and would be a strong independent voice on the Board and be a needed advocate for the lesbian community.

Treasurer:
SquirtN Wonder
Unopposed
SquirtN did his job last year in a competent, responsible and thoughtful manner he deserves your vote of confidence and your trust as Treasurer.

Events Director:
This is a hard one. Mz Marville is earnest and passionate  but lacks the experience in the Club and DJ community that Hotboy has.  She was also asked to run by Dex and her independence is questionable. I guess experience trumps passion. I'm going with HOTBOY.

Community Relations Director:
Garret is one of the people that Dex asked to run, and I fear that his independence  is in question.
Josuadrew and Karl both seem to me would be great members of the Board. Both are independent, and thoughtful and either one of them would be a great choice. On the basis of their answers in the forums, Karl nudges Joshie by a hair. I'm going with KARL..

Building Director
Mr Gracemount
(unopposed)
Mr G delivered the best build that Pride has ever experienced. He deserves your vote of confidence.

Security Director :
Gaius Tripsa
(unopposed)
liked his answers in the forums and deserves your vote of confidence

Marketing Director:
Tylo Mabellon
(unopposed)
Tylo did a stellar job this past year and deserves your vote of confidence.  He also brings an independent an thoughtful voice to the board.

Communications/IT Director:

jaggernaughton resident
(unopposed)
By his own admission, Jagger is not all that experienced, but his enthusiasm and passion for Pride show that he deserves your vote. He also has stated that he might need help. Let him know you are willing to help him in this most important of Second Pride Board positions.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Second Pride...another perspective on Truth

Over the past several weeks I have seen what could have been a “normal” election process crumble into a mud-slinging free-for-all rife with rumor, innuendo and  attacks from all sides.
It’s been reduced to personal attacks directed at people that just wanted to run for office of an organization this is supposed to bring the LGBT community together. Instead I see the entire process as as pulling the community apart.
I’ve been torn over the past 36 hours or so as to what to say or do. What can I do to try to stop the dissension without making it worse. Every time I look at FB or the forums I see more behaviour that has hurt Pride and created more strife.
I have been involved with Pride for over 6 years. I have seen earlier Boards deal with the same issues and over the past two years as Prides chairman have done my best to limit the drama and turmoil that have plagued Pride in the past. Personally, I think we did a fairly good job. Pride has grown substantially in members, vendors, sponsors, and attendees.. Donations have reached a point where the Board is in a position to make contributions to the good work of other LGBT nonprofits and make a substantial donation to RL groups as well.  However, the unnecessary drama and lack of truthfulness that have publicly  emerged during this election have taken all the hard work of restoring the credibility of Pride and wasted it.

My actions over the past two weeks have been to do what I can to quell this fire without adding new fuel to it. I fear that there is no way to accomplish that and after I finish writing and posting this response it might make matters worse. But I feel the membership needs to understand my motivations and and why I contacted Cortez in the first place. I disagree with some of what Cortez Brandriss said in her statement to the Board, but do understand her ire, as my notecard on “tickets” must have encouraged a great deal of communication directed to her that she did not deserve. I have the chat logs that might explain better what really happened during that discussion but in releasing them I would bring more undue attention to someone that just wanted to serve our community and never deserved being drug into this. I apologise to her for my role in this whole affair.

Last year, early in the election, I had, myself, suggested to some of the other candidates that they form a “ticket”. After some thought, I decided it was a bad idea, and nothing was ever done with regard to the formation of any alliances. A new Board was elected and a very diverse group of people took their positions on the Board. I had worked with Khar and Tootsie on the previous Board and knew them both well. None of the other people on last year's Board were friends of mine. I knew who they were, but none of us were close friends. It was a diverse Board with people having new and fresh ideas. No one or one group “controlled” the board and because of that there was a lively and effective exchange of ideas and I think the success of the Pride Festival this year showed  what a diverse and independent group of people could accomplish. I was but one vote on the Board and many times my ideas were “shot down”.The independence of each board member allowed for a dynamic effective Board that worked on the basis of “what was best for Pride”.

This year, before all of the candidates even declared, a group of people did in fact create an alliance This alliance was formed by Dex and included several other candidates  running for various positions, most of them selected by Dex and asked to run by him. There is nothing in the by-laws that prevents this. There is nothing wrong with Dex asking others to run for some of the other offices. I was concerned by the prospect of having a single group of people led by one person, in control of the Board. Were these people assembled because of the abilities they brought to Pride or because of the votes they could deliver from the various groups they were affiliated with.?   I felt that a slate might stymie and restrict new ideas and in effect place one person in control of the entire Board. These concerns grew as the election progressed and the selected slate of candidates both denied the nature of their alliance while simultaneously making statements hinting at rule changes and other actions that they had apparently agreed to, but which they were not discussed in a public forum.  We have seen this in past Pride boards and it resulted in stagnation.The board was run from a perspective of “my way or the highway” mentality. This created drama and because of a single perspective being the only way, Pride suffered.

When I looked at the candidates for Event Director I was encouraged by the entry of Cortez. Here was a person that could bring great things to Pride. She had experience running events that resulted in huge involvement from many communities and I was excited seeing her in the running. As far as I was concerned she was head and shoulders above the other two candidates and would bring great things to Pride. Then I learned about the “ticket” created by Dex. Another candidate for the Events chair, MzMarville was part of his “team” as were others. I was alarmed in hearing about a threat to Cortez, and  I contacted her. I asked her if she might consider joining forces with Hotboy in an attempt to garner greater support and counter the effect of the “ticket” against her. They both brought different talents to the job.  She suggested that she could concentrate on the fundraising and social events and he had great experience in working in clubs and DJ’s. She even suggested that the next Board divide the job up into two board positions. Not a bad idea. But her dismay at knowing that MzMarville was allied with “someone running for Board chairman” disturbed her and in her own words...”this process, people changing rules and adding people to their ticket in the middle of an election just seems to completely insult all of the work that has gone into making this election process happen”. The end result was that Cortez pulled out of the election.
I assume responsibility for bringing news of the "ticket" and the idea of how she might counter that strategy. In my enthusiasm to see a worthy candidate elected, it violated her sense of fairness. In retrospect, it was an error of judgement for a board chair to take this role. I wish I had approached it in a different way. I’m saddened and dismayed that Cortez left the election. She was one of the most qualified and talented people that has run for a Pride office in a long time.  My only intention was to present to her a means of countering what I considered a formidable challenge to her candidacy.Unfortunately, my motives and  my intention backfired in a way that was wholly unintended.

After some thought I decided to send the note card out concerning “tickets”.  A notecard to the entire membership that specifically stated that there was nothing “illegal” about forming such tickets, but that people might consider voting for people because they are the best person for the job and not because they are part of an alliance. I was hoping to encourage candidates and voters to consider that there was more at stake in this election than getting elected, that Pride’s independent Board was at stake.
Apparently, this note card, where I mentioned that “a candidate” had dropped out because of the “ticket”, brought considerable and undeserved attention to Cortez and she wrote the Board a private note explaining her reasons for withdrawing and condemning me. I can understand her wrath at me after she had received numerous IM’s from people and her feeling that I used her as an example in my note  card. That was never my intention. I believed she was an outstanding candidate - one that would win in a normal election in which the best candidates were chosen based on their qualifications and not their affiliations with other candidates. All I attempted  to do was try to suggest a way to counter an organized alliance that was detrimental to her candidacy.

As one might surmise, Dex was thrilled in receiving her note. Ms Bradiriss' justifiable anger made it look like. I was behind some grand conspiracy. The Board discussed this in a Skype conversation. I wanted to issue an apology to her in public assuming responsibility for my part in this.( I did send her an apology personally).  Dex wanted her private note to the Board released to the public. Cortez was contacted and she expressly asked that her note remain private and that she did not want to be bothered about this any longer and that she would continue her PLATINUM sponsorship next year at Pride.
Evidently, Dex thought he knew better and decided to release her note against her wishes. In doing so Dex deliberately violated Cortez’s trust and unilaterally went against what the Board had decided.  This unfortunately resulted in a subsequent communication form Cortez where she pulled entirely out of Pride and will not be participating in future Pride festivals. . Dex's unilateral decision to publish this information - knowing that one of our largest sponsors was already angry and had expressly asked us not to, did not just rob me of an opportunity to apologize for my role, but more importantly  illustrates a calculation that the damage it would do - to me - to Cortez - and to the credibility of Second Pride was less important than his own short term gain.

I have always attempted to lead Pride from the perspective of “what is best for Pride”. I’ve always encouraged others on the board and all members to look at Pride from that perspective. Yes, I may have made some mistakes in this whole affair, but my intentions were doing what I thought “was best for Pride”. I have swept many, MANY situations under the rug concerning Dex but I choose to keep quiet about them rather than bring any discredit to Pride. In a recent blog posting, Dex purports to express his outrage and declares that "when I am chair I will not stand for the lack of transparency".. I agree. In view of the information Dex has chosen to release thus far, , membership deserves to know more about our actions in recent Days. Specifically, Dex has made several attempts within the board both to eliminate his only opposing candidate, and to purge questions he does not feel it is fair for him to answer from the public forums. At the eleventh hour he tried to convince the Board that the cut off needed to be rolled back 12 hours, thus disqualifying his only opposing candidate. In effect allowing him to run unopposed. .. After the Board sent out notices to the membership defining the cut off times and dates which were published for over a week and a half.  Dex demanded that we change these cut offs retroactively and eliminate his opposition This after the Board agreed to and sent out notifications to the membership stating the cut off dates and times over tens days before. Of course it is easier to win an election if you are able to remove a candidate through a backdoor maneuver.

I pose this question... were Dexs’ actions in releasing Cortez’s note against her wishes...”the best for Pride” ?  Does it help people make a better choice on who to vote for?  Remember, I am not running for office. No.. he released it to discredit me. Dex and I have had issues all year... and I have done my best to keep them quiet for the sake of Pride. His only motivation in releasing this private notecard was to hurt me. I’m a big boy and yes maybe I should get a trip to the “woodshed” but his releasing of her note does nothing to further voter’s knowledge in choosing candidates...it was an attack on me. And I’m sorry that Dex’s and my issues have distracted voters from the real issues.

There is plenty of blame to go around this year for these elections being reduced to a mockery from BOTH sides. Dex’s “scorched earth” mentality justified by his sense of “principle” has harmed Pride. Damian’s use of an alt asking Dex questions was obvious.

An independent Board is the only way for Pride to effectively manage the attainment of Prides’ Mission. Would it have been easier this past year for me to manage the Board if I had a bunch of hand picked “yes” men ? Absolutely!! Would it have been the best for Pride. Absolutely not!!

Independent board members allow for the expression of many more ideas and a more dynamic governing body. Yes, it’s messy. People argue and make their case, but in the end each board member independently makes a decision and in most cases reaches a decision that works best. Each member represents one vote. If one Board member is out in “left field”  the collective Board tempers the crazy ideas and comes up with a decent solution. I as the Chairman have many times had to bow to the collective will of the Board and then stand up in the end and speak the Boards wishes. That is leadership. That is doing what is BEST FOR PRIDE.

All I ask is that each of our members vote based on what is best for Pride. And vote to create an independent board. My time here is over. Term limits and a desire to “get my Second Life back” have brought me back to being just a member, just like the rest of you. Yes I would like to see Pride continue to grow and build upon what myself and many others have done, but that will have to be left to whoever we elect this year. I trust that the collective will of the membership will bring Pride a thoughtful and dynamic and independent board that will move us in a positive direction. I also pray and trust that all of the division and strife over these elections can be but in the past and WE ALL WILL DO WHAT IS BEST FOR PRIDE.

Doc Spad
Outgoing Chairperson
Second Pride

Friday, February 22, 2013

A few thoughts on Gay Marriage

Throughout history, marriage as an institution, has existed in cultures throughout the world and has been supported through religious doctrine and legal decree. It has been so important to maintaining social order and advancement that it has been a cornerstone of most social systems worldwide and through time.
Marriage, in one form or another, has existed from a time before we organized religions, before we codified laws and before we came together in social settings. Originally, it was a means of a man “staking his claim” of a mate and securing his offspring as his own labor force. As religious doctrine developed, marriage became an important part of all religious belief systems and later  the body of laws and regulations made by or adopted by ecclesiastical authority. As civil secular institutions grew and developed and civil law was codified, once again, marriage was established and defined as a cornerstone to civil society. Keep in mind that in most cultures, which were paternalistic in nature, men were established as the head of the family and women were put in a subordinate position. Both religious and civil law have supported and encouraged this arrangement, giving the man the advantage in religious marriage doctrine and civil law. Certainly, there have been exceptions to this in maternal societies, but they are the exception and not the rule.
How we define marriage, however, has changed considerably through the ages. Marriages were generally arranged by families. The groom and the bride had very little say in who they married. This later changed to men choosing a bride, regardless of whether she wanted to marry or not. Through many cultures it was a woman's duty to find a husband “to take care of her” and men were supposed to make sure their blood line was maintained.  
As women's rights have developed, primarily through Western culture, women now have a voice in who they marry and generally have an equal stake in the marriage bond. The concept that one would love their mate is a relatively new idea. Romantic attraction now has become the basis of marriage. Even though religious scripture is full of examples of arranged marriages, many orthodox Jewish, Christian, Islamic, and other religions still cling to these beliefs, most religions today view marriage as a “partnership” based on mutual love. Loving one's partner has now become the generally accepted basis of marriage. Children, establishing social order, the establishment of the basic family unit, have all taken a backseat to love.
Today marriage runs on two separate tracks, religious marriage and civil legal marriage. As secular institutions have grown and the rule of law developed, a definition of marriage was required for societal order to be maintained.  It was needed to define “who got what” upon the death of a spouse or parent. Lineage, and laws to manage inheritance, were needed to insure social order.
In the past the “church” used baptismal and marriage records to establish lineage, Civil law adopted the legal instrument of a certificate as well. Today one can be married civilly but not be recognized by a religious authority. A marriage conducted  by a justice of the peace is NOT recognized by the Catholic church and the bride and groom are considered committing adultery if they are not married in the Church. One can also be married by a religious institution and not petition for civil recognition. Although religious institutions have changed how they define the basis of marriage, love, they still cling to ideas based on religious scripture where love had very little to do with the institution. Today’s debate, though, has little to do with religious interpretation or belief. I would not expect religious institutions to change their beliefs or canon law to accommodate changes in social mores and social evolution. The great controversy today concerns civil law, not religious law. Civil unions are one thing. Religious marriage is another.
Civil law gives married people certain advantages. Civil marriage provides for advantages of tax policy, spousal rights, inheritance and many other legal advantage shared by married people. If the basis of marriage is generally accepted as two people being in love, than we no longer can define marriage on the basis of religious doctrine. Civil law does not even require two people to be in love. All they need is mutual consent to enter the “contract” of marriage. For civil law to cling to a religious definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman, it ignores the rights of individuals that define a “bonding” relationship otherwise. In the US, the equal protection clause of the constitution, should protect these “other” belief systems. Religious law should have no bearing on secular civil law. If we had used religious law as a basis of our civil law, we would still be stoning people in the streets, cutting off arms and tongues or “banishing people to the wilderness”. Civil law has grown beyond the confines of religious interpretation and it’s about time our definition of marriage grew beyond the archaic and ancient ideas of the past as well.
In the United States several states have enacted laws allowing for gay marriage. There are several cases coming before the Supreme Court on the question of gay marriage. My guess is that this court, based on 14th amendment reasoning and precedents established like Loving v. Virginia  and other precedent based on the 1964 civil rights amendment, will force all the states and the federal government to accept gay marriages and extend all advantage to gay couples afforded by are enjoyed by ALL married people. The solution will not come from legislative bodies, but from The Court.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Some thoughts on being gay......




Being gay is more than all the stereotypical notions that have been applied to us.... Being gay means to be on the forefront of a struggle for equality that has gone on for centuries. 
We follow the plight of the common man, women, workers, blacks and latino minorities, and the disabled.  
Now it’s our turn to be at the vanguard, It's our turn to demand the basic human rights that so many of our brothers and sisters have fought for. 
It’s our job to stand proudly on the front lines of a battlefield where we can make a difference in our own liberties and for the freedoms of millions to follow. 
It’s OUR turn, 
it’s OUR job, 
it’s OUR responsibility to change a world where we can all be proud.


Be strong, be involved, be Proud.



Thursday, June 14, 2012

I just want you to find the happiness in your life that I have been blessed with by knowing you and calling you my son

Today I got up, usual time. Brewed the coffee while I showered and shaved. I sat at my computer with my coffee and a towel wrapped around me and opened my emails. The first one was from my Dad...we email each other regularly, so I didn’t think much of it until I opened it and within the first two lines were the words....”son, I know that you are gay”.
The hair on my neck stood up, I think I missed about three breaths, and terror struck me. Not much in life has really shaken me. Getting through the crucible in basic training, serving three tours in Iraq certainly put me in harms way many times...but nothing scarred me more than reading those words.
I was the super son.... played rugby, was accepted to college at 16, finished college in 3 years, cum laude, joined the Marine Corps and after my initial stint was accepted into the expeditionary forces and later the first group accepted into Marine Corps Special Operations. I Found myself in harms way more times than I care to remember and have been recognized  several times with bits of metal that I wear proudly.
I’m not saying these things to brag, but rather to paint the picture.
I’m a tough Marine. I’m the poster boy for all that is straight in this world. My look, my actions, the way I walk, talk, and carry myself. The woman I have dated through the years would have no idea of who I really am. Pretending to be straight came pretty easy.
My family knew of the demands placed on me by the Corps. They knew that it pretty much prevented any serious committed relationships in my life. So not having a girlfriend was explained away easily.
I never had any relations with other men until I was 22 years old.  Living in the super macho world of the Marine Corps I came to discover myself slowly.  I was good at “living” the image and considering I worked in a “Don’t Ask, Don’t tell world”, I needed to keep things secret if I wanted to stay in the Corps. I Never needed to concern myself with any relationships, I was never in one place long enough to develop one. I hid behind the Marine Corps in many ways.
After getting more involved in Second Life and specifically Second Pride, I have used our virtual world as my debut to “coming out”. I was free in SL to be who I wanted, do what I needed,and develop real friends here, both straight and gay and became a part of a gay community for the first time in my life. In Other Words, SL has been my testing ground. It was also where I hid.
Upon reentering the States ( I was out of the US for three straight years) and living in a normal city, with a normal nightlife I did explore the gay scene...around the edges. Now, with the repeal of DADT, I feel freer to express myself and don’t have the fear hanging over me that I’d be “found out”. I told one of my brothers that I was gay, he was surprised, but smiled and said it sorta made sense when he thought about it. Little things sort of came together. He gave me a hug and pretty much said...”no big deal”.
I knew that someday I would have to share it all with my father. I wanted to be able to tell him and not dance around the edges and feel like I was hiding. To my Dad, I am the hero Marine son. He’s so damn proud of me and my accomplishments, I guess I was afraid to “burst his bubble”. I think my fear was more from disappointing him than in any thing else. I knew he loved me, but hell, mothers love their sons that are on death row, I didn’t want to hurt him. Or maybe somewhere deep inside me was a little boy wanting to “do good” and not dissapoint Dad.
I’ll share will you parts of the letter that he sent me. And you too might come to know the greatest man I have ever met....my Dad.


Son,

Your brother and I had a conversation earlier tonight. I have to share with you what we talked about and reaffirm to you , in the strongest way I can, that I have loved you in past, I love you now, and I will love you till they throw me in the ground. I know that you are gay. Your brother, and you better know how much he looks up to you, shared with me the concerns you had about telling me about your being gay. About me being disappointed or that it would hurt me. Truthfully, I am a little hurt. I’m not hurt  because of who you are, but more so, because you doubted me and my ability to rise above this. Truth of the matter is, I have several times thought that you might be gay, but never really cared one way or the other, except for concern about your health, career and that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell crap.
Son, you have made me proud in so many ways. Your schooling and the PhD you earned,  the  several times I was privileged to be with you when you were decorated, are proud moments in my life. The way you and your brothers helped me  put our lives back together after your mother died.  (That’s one thing we both can be dissapointed about, she would have loved to see you in Washington that day, get that medal and be promoted). You have done more than most parents deserve to bring honor and respect to our family. Your brothers and I all respect and admire you more than you will ever know.  Your cousins, nieces and nephews idolize you. And we all love and support you in ANY life you choose.  You do need to know that I would love you in whatever path you choose in life, you are my son.
I could have waited to talk about this until we met in person, but I wasn’t going to sit on this thing until then. Your sex life is your business. I just want you to find the happiness in your life that I have been blessed with by knowing you and calling you my son. I love you .

Dad


After reading his email several times, wiping the tears from my face, I finally relaxed a bit and thought it all through. I felt like a great heavy weight had been lifted from my chest.
I realized that i was the lucky one. I was the blessed son of a father that has character, integrity, and unconditional love.  I am looking at him, once again, through the eyes of a young boy who is awed by his father.   
I’ve got the bestest Dad in the world!!!

Doc Spad

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

An Educated Military

Over the past few days I have had the opportunity to read over many blogs and news media articles concerning the military. The occasion of Memorial Day seems to bring out the best and the worst of peoples perceptions concerning my fellow members in the Armed Forces.
I read, in many sources, concerning the fact that we now have an all volunteer military and somehow that is supposed to make a difference in recognizing the sacrifice that our armed forces have made. The idea expressed is that they have volunteered for this job, so why give them any special recognition? As much as I would like to jump all over this issue ... the real issue I want to discuss are the motives people have in  joining the armed forces in the first place. Many commentators dismiss our armed forces members as, "having to join the military to get a good job", or that they are in the military "because they couldn't get a job anywhere else", or that it was the "last resort".
And I endured reading many references to that "idea" that military people are just not as bright as the rest of society and that's why they are in the Armed Forces.

Allow me to enlighten these misguided people that seem to stereotype the military and it's members.

I  graduated from high school in 2 1/2 years and therefore started my college career early. I managed to get through college in just  four years and immediately  joined the Marines upon graduation. I had no grand devotion to country.....I had no great cause, I joined the Corps before 9-11. After joining I went to work on my Masters and managed to earn two masters degrees and just last year earned my PhD in Arab Studies. I managed to earn that degree from one of the most prestigious private institutions in the country. It was hard work and required a great deal of tolerance and understanding from my advisers as I managed to serve three tours in Iraq and "enjoyed" numerous "side trips" throughout the Middle East.
 I know that I am the exception and NOT the rule. But I think most people would be surprised at how many people in the military have achieved post graduate levels in their education and how many of us bring that expertise to the military rather than migrate over to the private sector.
Overall, the educational requirements for officers in the military are greater than that required for comparable work in the private sector. Enlisted requirements are at par or greater than equivalent jobs in the private sector. Because of the increasingly technical nature of the jobs in the military, scores on basic math, English and critical thinking tests require HIGHER scores than we see in the private sector. Drug use, alcohol abuse, spousal abuse are all reasons for exclusion for joining the armed forces and because of that, the military enjoys an entry level workforce superior to that of the private sector. The days of kids being offered a stint in the military to avoid jail are long gone. No longer is the military required to "scape the bottom of the barrel" to enlist the people that it needs.

In general, many liberal people have a stereotype of military members based on some outdated idea that may have been true a few decades ago, but is totally different today.

We join the armed forces for many reasons. Family history, a feeling of patriotism, or a desire to belong to something lasting and that has tradition. Yes, there are those of us that join too for the college benefits, which are not as generous as they were under the GI Bill post Vietnam.

I stay in the Marine Corps because I'm part of something bigger than just myself and my own personal gain.
I've been actively recruited by numerous organizations offering pay exceeding multiple six figures, but belonging to a company or an academic "think tank" does not begin to measure up to what it's like to be a member of the US Marine Corps.

The one quality the military has over all those companies, universities, or private institutions is the HONOR.

So the next time you hear some elitist dilettante belittle your armed forces members as less than intelligent, or degrade their motives for being in the armed forces as the result of not being "enlightened",
remember that we are here by choice ....an intelligent, well thought out choice...to be part of something honorable, lasting and noble.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Obama: does he have no shame?

As a veteran and someone that has had the honor of being part of our Special Forces, I have to add my thoughts to the recent actions of our misguided President
His recent actions confirm to me his continued disdain and disrespect for our armed forces and for the people that place themselves on the front lines.
Using the sacrifice of our Special Forces for political gain is disgusting.
Using the actions of our Seals to score political points reflects his continued disrespect for those that DO the real work in this "War in Afghanistan".
I large group of people spent years doing the work that led to Osama Bin Laden's demise. Thousands spent countless hours tracking down leads, getting resources lined up, and putting together and practicing the plan that ultimately resulted in his Bin Laden's assassination. ALL THE PRESIDENT DID WAS TO SAY "YES". That is the extent of his involvement. He said "yes".
If you listen to the political ads his campaign has launched, one would think he led a team of dedicated Seals into that compound and orchestrated operation Neptune Spear. All he did was said "YES".
And now he uses the work and sacrifice of others for political gain in suggesting that his political foe would not have done what he had done. What a crock...what audacity, what bull. Not that it required much effort , Mr President, but I think most Americans would agree that ANYONE in the Oval office would have said "yes".
This is more than YOUR politics, this is more than your myopic perspective allows(getting reelected).
The President needs to apologize for his shameful claim and apologize to the people that did the real work in bringing  Bin Laden to justice.
We currently have a President that is in full campaign mode and is NOT doing the job we elected him to do...like leading the country. Every consideration is political, every action is weighed against votes, and every speech is partisan. There is no honor in this President...it's a concept foreign to him. His recent claims are proof of that.




Saturday, April 7, 2012

My Easter journey

I have to share this. I just have to.
Today I boarded the train for NYC from Washington DC....decided I needed to get out of town, spend some time with by brother and relax. I had intended to open up my laptop and "get some work" done during the three hour ride, but that didn't happen.
First let me set the scene. I'm a Marine, and yes I look like one too. I sorta have that Marine "recruitment poster" look. I'm also not particularly religious, although when you have spent time in Iraq (three tours) and have seen the things I have....you sorta develop a special relationship with God. I'm also bisexual and enjoy having straight and a gay relationships.
Let me get back to today ......
I end up sitting next to a middle aged lady who was on her way home from a Christian retreat. She looked decent enough. She was dressed in jeans and a nice halter top that revealed that she had the attributes than any straight man might desire. She had no reservations talking to me about her experience there...how wonderful it was and how it "re-invigorated" her faith. Then she started going on and on about gays.... and how they were trying to "take over" and wanted special treatment. She went on about gay marriage and how they were trying to destroy American values.
I was, at first, surprised that she would be so open with a complete stranger, then I realized that my appearance said nothing about being gay and everything about being a "read blooded' straight man. She felt "safe" assuming that I was "on her side". She immediately  assumed that I shared her attitudes and values... That scarred me. But that's another story.
I sat there listening to her and the hate that came from the lips of this "Christian" woman was growing more and more intolerable. Her once gentle pretty smile was replaced with a hard jaw and clenched teeth as she went on about how "they" were ruining America. She complained that Disney had gay days, the Home Depot had a float in a gay parade, both businesses she would no longer support. I listened intently for at least 20-30 minutes. I didn't show her any signs of agreement or disagreement.... I just listened.
Then she said the words that gave me an in and allowed me to respond. She said, "I'm sure that you don't have to deal with "that kind" in the Marine Corps she lowered her voice and said, "no fags there".
Here's how I responded:
I said, "Ma'am, the Marine Corps, and the entire armed forces, just abolished the policy of Don't Ask....Don't Tell, it's now perfectly legal for any member of the armed forces to be openly gay. The truth is ma'am, there have always been gays in the military and YES, we do have a few of them in the Marine Corps. One of them happened to be a Gunnery Sergeant that saved my life on two separate occasions. Frankly, I could care less who he goes to bed with....I'm here today because of his bravery and selflessness. He was decorated by the President of the United States for those efforts...TWICE... and although I don't think the President knew about him being gay, I really don't think he would have cared. I didn't realize that my voice had carried as far as it did, but evidently a few of the people sitting nearby had heard the conversation... and a couple responded with claps, and a few HoooRaws. Not shying from an audience, I decided to go for broke. I said "Ma'am, the thing that I can't understand about "Christians" like you...that have so much hate for gay people is how can you call yourself a Christian? Christ asked you to love your fellow man....and all I hear from you is hate and disdain. God made gay people, just like he made you straight. He never told you to hate them...he told you to love them. So before you sit here and profess your grand Christian values to me...you might examine your heart and ask yourself whether your beliefs are really Christlike. Maybe, just maybe, God put all these disgusting gay people here to test people like YOU...do you think you could REALLY love a gay person?  Ma'am, I've got better things to do than sit here and lecture a bigot about their misguided faith...so if you'll excuse me, I'll sit elsewhere". At that , half the dam car erupted in applause and I got up and moved to another seat, exchanging a few "high fives" along the way.
I sat in a new seat and just thought for a few minutes. I had to stuff the anger that had risen in me and just had to try to understand why people like this were so hateful and bigoted. She had no idea that I had a "gay" side and that one of the people she was talking about was sitting right next to her. Then I heard her whimpers....she was crying. After about 15 minutes she got out of her seat, came up to mine and apologized. She said that I was right, that she was acting nothing like the "Christian" women she thought she was.  Then she started sobbing, and dropped to her knees...."Holy Shit....what had I done? This women was going though some kind of crisis of faith before my eyes, and the eyes of half the train car. I went to her and helped her up and gave her a big hug...after a minute I looked in her eyes and said, " It's OK, I forgive you.... she sat down next to me and we talked for a while longer...she was genuinely contrite....she honestly realized that she was acting the complete opposite to what she professed. Then I dropped my bomb....I said, "Ma'am, I'm gay and have had to hide that fact for the last 12 years of my Marine Corps service.... we are just as hard working as you are, we love this country just as much as you do...all we want is to live our lives and not be discriminated against because of what we do in private. It's not right for people to be fired or evicted because of who they are or what they do in the privacy of their own homes. THAT is un-American, THAT is discrimination and bigotry, and THAT is not Christian. She looked up at me and smiled and said that I was right and that she had a lot of soul searching to do. The train pulled into the station.... we smiled at each other and I wished her a Happy Easter, she thanked me for my service and we left the train.
Walking through Penn Station to catch a cab, I couldn't help but wonder if she really had changed....I want to think YES....but will probably never know. In any event, I gave her a lot to think about the next time she goes to Church.
Happy Easter folks,...going to St Patrick's tomorrow for Easter Mass...and I think I'll have a little more to think about as well.

Semper Fi

Doc Spad

Monday, March 12, 2012

Afghanistan...time to leave....

First let me preface my comments by giving you little background....just so you don't get the idea that I'm another disaffected "know-nothing" offering up my opinion of our country's involvement in Afghanistan.
I hold a PhD in Arab/Middle Eastern Studies and have been a US Marine for 12 years. Been to Afghanistan twice over the last three years and did three tours in Iraq. I would like to think my "opinion" holds a little more water than most.

When we first entered  the War in Afghanistan we went there to dislodge al-Qaeda and defeat their Taliban sponsors. A job that was, essentially, completed years ago. Now we are engaged in the process of "nation building", whatever that is supposed to mean. 
I think it's ironic that the current White House occupant called Afghanistan the "good war" and maligned the past president and his party for pursuing action in Iraq. President Bush set out to topple Saddam Hussein and restore order in a ruthless dictatorship that had destroyed any political infrastructure, other than the Baathist, and suppressed any political opposition.  Today there is a wide representation of political viewpoint in Iraq, a reasonably capable system of governance, and  although some, with Iranian backing, are trying to disrupt the
this  fragile political dynamic, it's working. Bush also negotiated a withdraw date of US forces that took place exactly as promised, even though the current President takes credit for it.
I say ironic, because Iraq has pretty much been a success story, while Afghanistan is shaping up to be a miserable failure. Afghanistan has been and will be be for the foreseeable future, stuck in a 14th century model of governance, with warlords and corrupt thugs running a country, influenced greatly by old religious zealots  that are stuck in a world model reminiscent of  the medieval Dark Ages. This is why al-Qaeda sank roots in Afghanistan. With payoffs to the right warlords, Bin Laden bought his little place in paradise and planned 9-11. 
The geopolitical conditions of this part of the world have allowed Afghanistan to stay isolated and pursue their "road to the past" for centuries, while the rest of the world has grown, evolved, and transformed itself into a much more enlightened place, Afghanistan has been stuck in the Middle Ages.  Their treatment of woman, their archaic ideas of justice and a "warlord" system of governance, has maintained this model for way too long....and I have little faith that any degree of "nation building" will change anything is this wasted , isolated, peace of  real estate. The problem with Afghanistan is that since the time of Genghis Khan is has been a place people went through on their way to somewhere else. There was no reason to stay...it offers no great economic basis. Afghanistan has always been just a "rest stop" on the way to greener pastures. The only product this hell-hole has offered the world is a steady supply of opium that has fed the worlds heroin addicts.
We cannot bomb Afghanistan back into the Stone Age...they are already there....and worse, they seem to like it that way. Trying to create a cohesive society out of a bunch of war-lords, guarding their personal  fiefdoms, and constantly fighting one-another for the upper-hand is a waste of time.  
It's time to pack up and leave this place to it's own miserable fate.  As long as these people continue to cling to their "goat herder" prophet's every word and renounce anything good from the western world they deserve to be left alone and create their perfect 13th century Islam.  However, the next time a group of radical jihadists try to set up shop in this god-forsaken place...we should nip it in the bud early, and just nuke the damn place....it might improve the terrain, which already looks like the far side of hell. 



Sunday, January 1, 2012

2012....Make it a Good one

Bringing in the New Year.....
As the new year begins, we all have hopes for something better. Thank God 2011 is over. If we each work to make our individual lives a little better this next year, collectively, we can make the world a little better. 
Forget the past and may 2012 bring good things to you and yours. Be the force and the voice of your own life. My favorite quote for this time of year......
"For last year’s words belong to last year’s language – and next year’s words await another voice." T.S. Eliot


Be the voice in your own life...
Be the force that sets the stage for prosperity and growth this year....
Make it happen...


Semper Fi
Doc Spad



Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas 2011 and an uncertain New Year

This has been a great Christmas season for me...spent allot of time with family (all of them in one place), and renewed friendships that I have neglected for too long. This is actually the second Christmas in a row that I have been home after several years of missed family celebrations due to the Marine Corps having deployed me overseas.
This year gave me a new perspective of the importance of family and what they all mean to me. I was also able to view some other less fortunate families, through a family we sponsored for Christmas, and through Operation Others, where a couple of High Schools in Omaha get together to provide Holiday Dinners to several thousand needy families in the Omaha area.  A single mother with five kids, who struggles to keep food on her families table and pay her bills became the recipient of my families attention this year. We provided her with the wherewithal to make a few of her kids dreams come true. I saw a family come together to make the season better for another family that needed help..but it all went a few steps further. One of the sons will have his first several years of college taken care of and two others will have scholarships to two local high schools next year. I was proud of my family for making the sacrifice and proud of her family for knowing they will make the best of it.
I'm not trying to boast about what my family did.... I just want to illustrate how a loving family, that has been blessed with good fortune, can impact another family in a big way. We didn't purchase any gifts for each other, except for the kids, and devoted ourselves to this family that we had never known.
I'm pretty sure that we will be doing this in future years am looking forward to it.

After spending most of the last ten years away at Christmas and experiencing the holiday in Iraq or other interesting places...being home provided a sharp contrast. Most of the places I have been are areas of the world where poverty is a way of life, places where finding a daily meal can be a challenge. So when I say that I am proud of my family for helping a less fortunate family I mean it.
Last year was hard to take at Christmas....everyone was sharing gifts, and was shifting the bounty around people that had a great deal already.  A sister in law was thrilled to get an expensive necklace from her necklace while I was remembering the people I met in Iraq, that could barely find clothes for their kids. It all seemed a bit much to me and a bit overwhelming. Several members of my family noticed my "uncomfortablness" which led to a discussion of gifting at Christmas in general and the overall purpose of giving during the holidays. We decided last year to find a needy family and our church was more than forthcoming.
So we have a new tradition in my family, one that I am proud to be a part of.
I come form a family that has been blessed with allot and it's certainly easier for us to do this than most....but I would encourage all of you to look beyond your immediate families next year and do something for a family that could use the help...
This next year will impact all of us in many ways that may not be pleasant. It's been a hard year for many of us and for many will unfortunately get worse. Major economic challenges face us all, and political uncertainty looms from each continent and effects us all. Lets keep up the dialogue.... and maybe we can each create a better understanding of each other in OUR little corner of the world.
Semper Fi
Doc