Tear Jerky Military Fables

 November 11 has passed once again, and some people may be calm enough to accept a critical analysis of some of the tear jerky military fables we are fed that time of the year.  I will post the two lengthy messages that I consider tied for this year's Lacrimal Gland Award (my fictitious honorific).  My analysis will follow the messages.

 Letter from an airline pilot:

 He writes: My lead flight attendant came to me and said, "We have an H.R. On this flight." (H.R. Stands for human remains.) "Are they military?" I asked.  'Yes', she said.  'Is there an escort?' I asked.  'Yes, I've already assigned him a seat'.  'Would you please tell him to come to the flight deck. You can board him early," I said..

A short while later, a young army sergeant entered the flight deck. He was the image of the perfectly dressed soldier. He introduced himself and I asked him about his soldier. The escorts of these fallen soldiers talk about them as if they are still alive and still with us.

'My soldier is on his way back to Virginia ,' he said. He proceeded to answer my questions, but offered no words.

I asked him if there was anything I could do for him and he said no. I told him that he had the toughest job in the military and that I appreciated the work that he does for the families of our fallen soldiers. The first officer and I got up out of our seats to shake his hand. He left the flight deck to find his seat.

We completed our pre-flight checks, pushed back and performed an uneventful departure. About 30 minutes into our flight I received a call from the lead flight attendant in the cabin. 'I just found out the family of the soldier we are carrying, is on board', she said. She then proceeded to tell me that the father, mother, wife and 2-year old daughter were escorting their son, husband, and father home. The family was upset because they were unable to see the container that the soldier was in before we left. We were on our way to a major hub at which the family was going to wait four hours for the connecting flight home to Virginia .

The father of the soldier told the flight attendant that knowing his son was below him in the cargo compartment and being unable to see him was too much for him and the family to bear. He had asked the flight attendant if there was anything that could be done to allow them to see him upon our arrival. The family wanted to be outside by the cargo door to watch the soldier being taken off the airplane. I could hear the desperation in the flight attendants voice when she asked me if there was anything I could do. 'I'm on it', I said. I told her that I would get back to her.

Airborne communication with my company normally occurs in the form of e-mail like messages. I decided to bypass this system and contact my flight dispatcher directly on a secondary radio. There is a radio operator in the operations control center who connects you to the telephone of the dispatcher. I was in direct contact with the dispatcher. I explained the situation I had on board with the family and what it was the family wanted. He said he understood and that he would get back to me.

Two hours went by and I had not heard from the dispatcher. We were going to get busy soon and I needed to know what to tell the family. I sent a text message asking for an update. I saved the return message from the dispatcher and the following is the text:

'Captain, sorry it has taken so long to get back to you. There is policy on this now and I had to check on a few things. Upon your arrival a dedicated escort team will meet the aircraft. The team will escort the family to the ramp and plane side. A van will be used to load the remains with a secondary van for the family. The family will be taken to their departure area and escorted into the terminal where the remains can be seen on the ramp. It is a private area for the family only. When the connecting aircraft arrives, the family will be escorted onto the ramp and plane side to watch the remains being loaded for the final leg home. Captain, most of us here in flight control are veterans.. Please pass our condolences on to the family. Thanks.'

I sent a message back telling flight control thanks for a good job. I printed out the message and gave it to the lead flight attendant to pass on to the father. The lead flight attendant was very thankful and told me, 'You have no idea how much this will mean to them.'

Things started getting busy for the descent, approach and landing. After landing, we cleared the runway and taxied to the ramp area. The ramp is huge with 15 gates on either side of the alleyway. It is always a busy area with aircraft maneuvering every which way to enter and exit. When we entered the ramp and checked in with the ramp controller, we were told that all traffic was being held for us.

'There is a team in place to meet the aircraft', we were told. It looked like it was all coming together, then I realized that once we turned the seat belt sign off, everyone would stand up at once and delay the family from getting off the airplane. As we approached our gate, I asked the co-pilot to tell the ramp controller we were going to stop short of the gate to make an announcement to the passengers. He did that and the ramp controller said, 'Take your time.'

I stopped the aircraft and set the parking brake. I pushed the public address button and said, 'Ladies and gentleman, this is your Captain speaking I have stopped short of our gate to make a special announcement. We have a passenger on board who deserves our honor and respect. His Name is Private XXXXXX, a soldier who recently lost his life. Private XXXXXX is under your feet in the cargo hold. Escorting him today is Army Sergeant XXXXXXX. Also, on board are his father, mother, wife, and daughter. Your entire flight crew is asking for all passengers to remain in their seats to allow the family to exit the aircraft first. Thank you.'

We continued the turn to the gate, came to a stop and started our shutdown procedures. A couple of minutes later I opened the cockpit door. I found the two forward flight attendants crying, something you just do not see. I was told that after we came to a stop, every passenger on the aircraft stayed in their seats, waiting for the family to exit the aircraft.

When the family got up and gathered their things, a passenger slowly started to clap his hands. Moments later more passengers joined in and soon the entire aircraft was clapping. Words of 'God Bless You', I'm sorry, thank you, be proud, and other kind words were uttered to the family as they made their way down the aisle and out of the airplane.

They were escorted down to the ramp to finally be with their loved one.

Many of the passengers disembarking thanked me for the announcement I had made. They were just words, I told them, I could say them over and over again, but nothing I say will bring back that brave soldier.

I respectfully ask that all of you reflect on this event and the sacrifices that millions of our men and women have made to ensure our freedom and safety in these USA, Canada, Australia New Zealand, England.
Foot note:
I know everyone who has served their country who reads this will have tears in their eyes, including me.

Prayer chain for our Military...
Please send this on after a short prayer for our service men and women.

They die for me and mine and you and yours and deserve our honor and respect.

Still there?  Here's the second one, the sack lunch tale.  Place brain in neutral, right hand on mouse, left hand on tissue dispenser.
Sack Lunches :

I put my carry-on in the luggage compartment and sat down in my assigned seat. It was going to be a long flight. 'I'm glad I have a good book to read. Perhaps I will get a short nap,' I thought.

Just before take-off, a line of soldiers came down the aisle and filled all the vacant seats, totally surrounding me. I decided to start a conversation.

'Where are you headed?' I asked the soldier seated nearest to me. 'Petawawa. We'll be there for two
weeks for special training, and then we're being
deployed to Afghanistan

After flying for about an hour, an announcement was
made that sack lunches were available for five dollars. It would be several hours before we reached the east, and I quickly decided a lunch would help pass the time...

As I reached for my wallet, I overheard a soldier ask his buddy if he planned to buy lunch. 'No, that seems
like a lot of money for just a sack lunch. Probably wouldn't be worth five bucks. I'll wait till we get to base.'

His friend agreed.

I looked around at the other soldiers. None were buying lunch. I walked to the back of the plane and handed the flight attendant a fifty dollar bill. 'Take a
lunch to all those soldiers.' She grabbed my arms and squeezed tightly. Her eyes wet with tears, she thanked me. 'My son was a soldier in Iraq ; it's almost like you are doing it for him.'

Picking up ten sacks, she headed up the aisle to where the soldiers were seated. She stopped at my seat and asked, 'Which do you like best - beef or
chicken?' 'Chicken,' I replied, wondering why she asked. She turned and went to the front of plane, returning a minute later with a dinner plate from first class.

'This is your thanks.'

After we finished eating, I went again to the back of the plane, heading for the rest room.
A man stopped me. 'I saw what you did. I want to
be part of it. Here, take this.' He handed me
twenty-five dollars.

Soon after I returned to my seat, I saw the Flight Captain coming down the aisle, looking at the aisle numbers as he walked, I hoped he was not looking for me, but noticed he was looking at the numbers only on my side of the plane. When he got to my row he stopped, smiled, held out his hand and said, 'I
want to shake your hand.' Quickly unfastening my
seatbelt I stood and took the Captain's hand.
With a booming voice he said, 'I was a soldier
and I was a military pilot. Once, someone bought
me a lunch. It was an act of kindness I never
forgot.' I was embarrassed when applause was
heard from all of the passengers.

Later I walked to the front of the plane so I could stretch my legs. A man who was seated about six rows in front of me reached out his hand, wanting to shake mine. He left another twenty-five dollars in my palm.

When we landed I gathered my belongings and started to deplane. Waiting just inside the airplane door was a man who stopped me, put something in my shirt pocket, turned, and walked away without saying a word. Another twenty-five dollars!

Upon entering the terminal, I saw the soldiers gathering for their trip to the base. I walked over to
them and handed them seventy-five dollars. 'It
will take you some time to reach the base. It will be about time for a sandwich.
God Bless You.'  Ten young men left that flight feeling the love and respect of their fellow travelers.

As I walked briskly to my car, I whispered a prayer for their safe return. These soldiers were giving their all for our country. I could only give them a couple of
meals. It seemed so little...

A veteran is someone who, at one point in his life, wrote a blank check made payable to 'citizens of Canada ' for an amount of 'up to and including my life.'

That is Honour, and there are way too many people in this country who no longer understand it.'
OK.  Still there?  Box of tissues running on empty?  By the way, this is the $129 Mucus Recovery System that you might find listed on a hospital bill in the USA. 

First, a few general thoughts on critical thinking, or in this case the lack thereof, that allows people to pass on these messages as if they are real documented events.  Lack of critical thinking is an essential ingredient for gullibility to operate; otherwise people would immediately spot the obvious flaws in the stories.  Remember my definition of gullibility is the thing that fills the void at the nexus of strong emotion and ignorance.  The more emotion in the story, the more I tend to believe the emotion is there to overwhelm the critical thought process of the reader.

 It has also become apparent to me that many so-called educated people in North America are functionally innumerate; they are clueless as to what are reasonable timeframes and distances given in internet fables.

Let's start with the Caskets on a Plane fable -- sounds like a good movie title.  This tale comes from a blog purportedly written by an American commercial airline pilot.  It sounds like an expanded version of the famous Howard Johnson  one (deceased soldier returning home on a commercial flight).

 First, here's a bit about military protocol for the transport of deceased servicemen, facts everyone should know just from listening to the news, but which most people miss because they are too busy emoting.  Returning deceased American military always go to Dover Air Force Base, in Delaware for autopsy.    Are you aware of any exceptions?  (Similarly Canadian casualties go to Trenton AFB, then by ground to Toronto for autopsy.)  The protocol for notification of next of kin allows for family to meet the incoming deceased at Dover if they so choose.  So I don't buy the "can't see my deceased soldier's casket" line.  The family can view the incoming container from overseas as well as the final coffin transport from Dover.  This part of the fable stinks to high heaven.

I have trouble with the idea that the pilot would be told by a flight attendant that there was a body on board.  Surely that would be listed in the cargo manifest and the pilot would know about it.  Flight attendants do not get random bits of info on cargo to pass on to the pilots.

I also have trouble with the part about the pilot being told first about an accompanying soldier, and later about a newly found accompanying family.  They didn't know about each other?  Doesn't pass the smell test. 

Let's examine some timeline details given in the story.  Often the timeline will tell you what is possible, what is impossible, and what is probable.

It is only about 150 air miles from Dover AFB to Richmond, Virginia.  I have no idea whether they would use air transport for this distance, but I would use ground transport.  The plane was in the air for 2-1/2 hours before beginning descent, so they likely would have covered at least 1000 air miles -- overflying Richmond (a possible destination) by at least 850 miles.  Flight time from Miami to Richmond is only 2 hours as another comparison, but this plane is in the air around three hours, so it must have originated in the plains States somewhere, something like Dallas, TX, which is ludicrous.

But this is not the end of the stupidity.  Supposedly they are just on the first leg of their flight; they have a 4 hour lay-over at a major hub terminal before their final leg home to Virginia.  A lay-over from Delaware to Virginia?  Where is this mythical major hub?  Please explain that one to me.  Unless you can explain some exception to release of remains from Dover, this entire tale stinks to high heaven.

The only thing missing from this tear jerker is the fallen soldier's dog, presumably named Rex or Skip or similar.  The writer probably forgot to include that Rex was in a pet shipping container, stationed at his whining insistance alongside his master's casket.  Can't believe they left that part out.

On a personal note I do not agree with the theme.  I think the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have nothing to do with protection of our rights, freedoms, liberties, or so that we can "live in peace" as noted in the story lead-in line.  That is utter rubbish!  Those wars have made us less secure, not more, and indebted us in the process.  And our grandchildren will have to live with the blowback from our wars over the past decade.
OK.  Still here?  Probably had to get another box of tissues from storage, right?  Ready for the sack lunch flight fiasco?  Here we go . . .

I included this one because it is a funny bastardized version of an American tale, changed by someone with (extremely) limited intellect to supposedly fit the Candian context, and widely distributed in Canada.  It is goofy because almost nothing fits the Canadian context, and it is still goofy in the American context.

On a personal note, I used to live on a Canadian family farm that ended 1/2 mile north of the American border (see my blog photo).  Our nearest neighbours were Americans and we sometimes visited simply by driving "across the line" without the niceties of assistance from kindly customs officials.  The last time I did that was because I got a pick-up hung up near the border with both front wheels in badger holes, and walked a short distance to get planks from the American neighbours. 

Because of the close proximity to Americans I am quite aware that people living only hundreds of yards apart can have significant language differences, and I consider myself conversant in Americanese which for some bizarre reason they refer to as English.   And you don't need that contact to understand the term "sack lunch" is American; I have never heard it in Canada.  Americans get their groceries in sacks, Canadians in bags.

And who has ever heard of even a bag lunch on a Canadian airline coming from Alberta or BC to (probably) Ottawa?  Or an airline that announces food availability an hour into the flight?  I used to have a drink and a snack between Saskatoon and Winnipeg, about a 50 minute flight.  Do they really serve sack lunches on some American airlines?

In my lifetime I have known many people in the Canadian military, some close friends from high school.  And also some American counterparts who we used to hold keg parties for after they were drafted to protect the American way of life from communism in Viet Nam 

Perhaps soldiers are different now than in my misspent youth, but this $5 lunch thing seeming expensive reeks of implausibility.  A Big Mac meal deal costs more; I can remember when the motto for that meal was "change back from a dollar".  Most of the enlisted ranks that I have known were hard-drinking folk.  On the night prior to shipping out to a major training exercise they were either with a girlfriend or in a bar, or perhaps both.  I expect the 10 soldiers were hung over and in no mood for food.  Let's remember that $5 barely covers a beer and tip these days, and probably isn't even close in a titty bar.  Jeez, I can remember paying $5-$10 in the mid-1970s just for the cover charge in topless bars in Montreal.  The soldiers were probably both broke and hung over, waiting for the next pay cheque so they could do it again; that's the military personnel I knew. 

I may be corrected on this point, but I believe military personnel in both America and Canada have a per diem expense account to cover any necessary meals and lodging when moving from one location to another.  So I'm leaning far more to the hung over theory than the broke one.

"Once, someone bought me a lunch. It was an act of kindness I never forgot."  This pilot must have had an uneventful life, or perhaps one time he was homeless and living under a bridge.  Many times people have bought me lunch and many times I have bought other people lunch.  But I don't remember them.  I do remember family buying my lunch on my birthday last month.  Other than that I can recall Howie Larkie buying me a few lunches in Winnipeg in the early 1970s; Howie was the local Labatt's representative, an unforgettable character.  This whole "act of kindness I never forgot" is excessively hokey.

Another reason I think the flight captain may have been a homeless man recently is that as he came down the aisle he had to scan the seat numbers along the way.  He's the captain and he doesn't know the location (at least approximate) of every seat number on his aircraft?  I want to be on this guy's Do Not Fly List, just for my own safety.

And the captain just strolls down the aisle?  I thought these days they are instructed to stay in the cabin with a handgun, waiting for the next wacko to set his shoe or genitals on fire.   
As the Snopes people state, this story could be true, but they have been unable to verify it.  To me it is just plain goofy  

Surely there are better stories with verifiable acts that people could forward me.  Still, I appreciate receiving them because they confirm in my mind how gullible our society is as a whole.  The kinds of tales people gush over in e-mails or the social media give me insight into peoples' thought processes.
Very few people question the origin or intent of the numerous pro-military fables on the internet.  To me they are just a small part of the propaganda used to control the thought processes and behaviours of the populace.  Rare is the individual like me who laugh at these silly tales, invoking the wrath of strangers, friends and families alike.

It is politically incorrect to be critical of the American or Canadian military and of the foreign policies that are making them increasingly disrespected around the world.  Strong critics tend to get put on special lists of suspected subversives.  To get a better idea of why this is the case, I would recommend watching the CBC series "Love, Hate and Propaganda" hosted by George Stroumboulopoulos, which can be viewed online here.   Yes, it is several hours long.  But very little of value can be obtained without a time commitment.

I hold no special reverence for military personnel.  They are no more deserving of praise than farmers, miners, forest workers, truck drivers, rig workers, or industrial plant employees.  People in all those occupations do what they do to earn income and provide for their families.  And I have known people who died in all those occupations, providing the materials that the rest of the population takes for granted every day.  No-one ever bought them sack lunches in appreciation for what they contribute. 


Facebook Privacy Settings Hoax

"Three can keep a secret, if two of them are dead." -- Benjamin Franklin
"Four score and seven years ago I found that not everything on the internet is true, regardless of how many times repeated."  -- Abraham Lincoln

The first quote above is real, and the second is obviously made up.  If you accepted the second at face value you have a severe gullibility problem that needs to be addressed.

With respect to the first quote, all criminal collaborators understand the truth therein.  I submit that anyone with two or more "Friends" on Facebook should take this saying to heart (unless, of course, those Friends are deceased).  

You should never expect privacy on the internet.  The expression "internet privacy" is an oxymoron.  You should assume that all your postings and every site you visit are backed up on a server somewhere and could be available to almost anyone anywhere at any point in the future.  Ever hear about Wikileaks or the hacker group Anonymous?   Government security agencies regularly monitor the social media for so-called subversives (a group I may be in, since I openly criticize many government policies and actions), and government agencies use the social media for propaganda.

What I find most baffling is that the same people who post the most personal things on the social media suddenly become concerned about their privacy settings.  You may have seen people post items like:  "Finished moving into new house at 123 Gullible Lane", with photos showing furniture and electronics.  A few weeks later there may be a post "Woohoo!  Going to Costa Rica Dec. 20-Jan 5".  I can remember when burglary used to be like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates -- thieves never knew what they were going to get.  Now anyone with rudimentary hacking skills can peruse potential targets without leaving home.

The Facebook privacy settings issue I deal with in this post is the one raised in this message which I have seen many times:
To all my FB friends: I request that you please do something for me ... I want to stay PRIVATELY connected with you. However, with the recent changes in FB, the "public" can now see activities in ANY wall. This happens when our friend hits "like" or "comment" and then automatically, their friends would see our posts to...o. Unfortunately, we cannot change this setting by ourselves because Facebook has configured it this way....So I'm asking for your help. PLEASE place your mouse over my name above (DO NOT CLICK), a window will appear, now move the mouse on “FRIENDS" (also without clicking), then down to "Settings", click here and a list will appear. REMOVE the CHECK on "COMMENTS & LIKE" and also "PHOTOS" by clicking on each one. By doing this, my activity amongst my friends and family will no longer become public. Thank you very much for doing this....
The first thing that tells me this could be a hoax (which it is) is the EXCESSIVE USE OF CAPS.  But instead of the normal proliferation of exclamation marks this message uses bastardized ellipses for some sentence enders.

What I did to determine this was a hoax was pop the sentence "By doing this, my activity amongst my friends and family will no longer become public" into a search engine.  You could use a smaller quote from the passage, and get similar results.  I got 3.7 million returns, of which the first 4 appear below (click for sharper image):
Note that the Snopes link is first.  This is one of the most popular sites for examining the truth in internet postings.  So here is the Snopes link.  Snopes quotes from a Sophos article which is worth reading; it seems to be the best analysis I have found.

The second link is some internet tech site where the writer has no problem calling this a hoax.

The fourth link is to Facecrooks where the privacy settings notice is referred to as a hoax.  Facecrooks also refers to the Sophos article linked two paragraphs above.

If you read some of the articles linked above you will understand the issue better.  Basically, the solution is to ensure that you use the "Friends" or "Custom Settings" to restrict who can view your postings, and ask your Friends to do the same.  The problem seems to arise when people use the "Friends of Friends" or "Public" settings, so don't use them and ask your Friends not to also.

You can review and change your Facebook Privacy Settings by clicking on the little arrow at the extreme upper right of your Facebook home page.  Here's a Facebook link on how to set your privacy setting on an individual post and another Facebook link on all issues related to privacy.
Unrelated to the above, I would encourage anyone who questions images on the internet to become aquainted with the Tineye site.  I have a plugin for this site on Firefox so all I have to do to find where else the image has appeared on the internet is right click the image, and click the Tineye option and in less than a second I will have all versions of the image.  

This is especially handy in debunking hunting and fishing fables that I get regularly via e-mail.  But it is also good at determining whether an image has been altered, and for tracking down where it was first posted.