I’m Greg McIntyre and this is lunch with a veteran. One of the reasons we do this is to document a veteran’s experiences and where they have gone since leaving the military. My special guest today is Jim Quinlan. He is a resident of Cleveland County, a Marine and a member of Post 82 American Legion and has been extremely involved in American Legion baseball.
JQ: Yeah, I literally got out of the Marine Corp, got my degree under the G.I bill and ended up working for the American Legion back in Iowa where we did baseball, boys state, oratorical, all the youth programs. In 1986, I got hired into the national headquarters and ran the American Legion Baseball program. We had fifty five hundred teams nationwide, and did the world series in twenty six cities over that career time, so I got a lot of work into the American Legion.
GM: When did you go into the Marines?
JQ: I went in, in October 1971 and was put into personnel.
GM: I was born in January 1975.
JQ: So I was in and out before you were even born. I was a personnel chief, my job started off as a mail clerk. The mail comes into the troops, you sort it out by the different sections, S1, supply, operations whatever it was. We had to type up a lot of orders, so whenever someone flew, they had to go on flight pay because flying is hazardous, so every month if you have two thousand people you had to put on flight pay, at the end of the month you had to take them off, and then you have to put them back on. Whenever someone got transferred, or got promoted all that stuff had to be paper worked.
GM: I didn’t have flight pay but I had sea pay, and then we had hazardous duty pay when we went into a war zone, tax free, and I imagine someone in the payroll department had to make those changes every time there was a change.
JQ: Somebody in administration had to say, here’s a list of people who are now qualified for combat pay, or the hazardous duty pay, or the flight pay. Even if the troop wanted to get sunglasses which were authorized for troops who were flying, again you had to cut a special paragraph one order, he had to take it up to the base PX and they would order out his sunglasses, especially if he had prescription sunglasses.
GM: I think most people out there think of the military as being on the front lines but that’s not true. I say it all the time, any job you find in the civilian world, you find in the military.
JQ: Exactly, people have to fix and run computers, people have to do the payroll. Back then you didn’t get a check in the military, you got cash, so every month you had a dispersing officer come down and count out your pay. Then we had to have all that stuff typed up, and you had to sign to get your cash. When you were on deployment you got extra pay and again you had to go to the dispersing office and someone had to type it up, and they didn’t have computers or even have electric typewriters back then, it was all done with a manual typewriter.
GM: What did you say, a Remington Raider?
JQ: That’s right, I used a Remington Raider, I could type. Electric typewriters were just coming in but again, because our squadron was deployable, you may be going overseas, you may be going somewhere where there’s no electricity and you can’t plug in so everything was done with the old manual, hit the carriage return, type away, hit the carriage return.
GM: What if you made a mistake?
JQ: Then you had to retype everything over. We would handle CO office orders so we had to go through and type a perfect document, except we would deliberately make three mistakes. One was in the beginning, one in the middle and one at the end. The defendant who was being charged with these usually minor infractions would have to go through and find that mistake, fix it, and initial it, that way for legal documentation later, it proved that he read it because here are his initials on every page that had those three mistakes. So if you made a mistake, you had to start all over, you couldn’t use white out because everything was done with carbon paper. We had carbonless forms on paper back behind on everything so if you made a mistake it appeared back behind too. It was a slow process.
Now the stuff is computerized so you enter it in and it immediately goes to stores or to supply.
The advantage then was you worked with the First Sergeant, you got to work with the commanding officer and the XO. I was fortunate enough to get to know those people and those were the people who could recommend you for a promotion.
GM: And I guess that would help you develop people skills also?
JQ: It did. When the First Sergeant chewed somebody out you could learn an awful lot about how diplomatically he did it so they didn’t make that mistake again.
GM: Right, do it without breaking them. There are always different ways of doing that.
JQ: Bring them into line.
GM: That is something that is hard to learn. When you are trying to discipline someone so they know they did wrong but make them want to do better without just yelling, that’s a skill.
JQ: Anybody can yell.
GM: Yeah, how do I get them to buy in?
JQ: And this is not going to be tolerated anymore, you’re going to do a better job because you are capable of doing a better job.
GM: One thing that comes up that always amazes me is the military will give a ridiculous amount of responsibility to an eighteen or nineteen year old without thinking twice about it.
JQ: Once upon a time we had an American Legion conference and we had the Captain of the USS Iowa there. He’s got twenty two hundred people on board, it’s a small city, and he says, three fourths of them are teenagers. They fire the sixteen inch shell, they’ve got the radar going, they’ve got all these things going on and they’re eighteen or nineteen years old.
GM: That’s the big difference between the private world and the military world. Most businesses or people wouldn’t think about hiring a teenager and giving them much responsibility at all.
JQ: In the military one of the things you learn is that you’re going to be on time. The First Sergeant didn’t let you sleep in because you wanted to sleep in. If you were supposed to report for muster at 0700, you do it or you’re in trouble. There are consequences. The military regiments cut into real life every day. Working with American Legion baseball teams, there’s these teenagers and you say, hey, you’ve got curfew at midnight, well, they’re not used to going to bed. We’ll say, you have an option, you can either go to bed or we’ll take you to the airport for your airline tickets in the morning. They get your message real quick.
When the team is working hard together, we rarely had problems but every once in a while they’d say, what are you going to do, send us home? and we’d go, yeah. You can sleep in your beds tonight or you can sleep at the airport, they got the message. With the military, those skills of being organized, being on time, getting things going, they work. We would have an American Legion tournament, and one of the things the American Legion does like other youth programs, when a team wins that state tournament, the American Legion steps in and takes care of all those expenses, air-fares, hotels, meals, baseball, umpires all were pre-arranged. Like with the team from Alaska, we know they fly out of Anchorage but you don’t know who’s coming until forty eight hours ahead of time, so you have to have twenty airline tickets waiting up in Alaska for the team who wins and flies down to maybe Portland Oregon, or it might be the corner of Washington, or it could be in Shelby. All that stuff needed to be pre-arranged. We would end up flying or busing around fourteen hundred kids all in one day, and checking into hotels. That was always the pat on the back we gave ourselves, that was our success getting all that coordinated.
GM: You were the national director of the American Legion Baseball operations from 1986 to when?
JQ: 1986 to 2012 when I retired. Twenty eight years there, and seven back in Iowa doing similar type stuff but on a state level.
GM: And now Shelby is the home of the American Legion World Series.
JQ: Again, totally changed the impact of American Legion Baseball World Series. We went to some great cities, Fargo, North Dakota, nicest people in the world, went to Rapid City South Dakota, Spokane Washington, went all over the place, Middletown Connecticut, great people who worked their hearts out for a year, but after a year we had to start all over. So, you end up at Middletown Connecticut in 1988 and you’re going to Millington Tennessee in 1989, a whole new committee had to start over, educate them and say, this is what has to happen. Back then, those teams worked their fanny off and if there was any money left over that money would go into the team coffers to help next year’s team. Here in Shelby, we can build on the success year after year. Quite frankly the world series barely breaks even, if it wasn’t for our sponsors we probably wouldn’t be able to pay all the bills. It gives us a chance to build on the success. We never had a concert down town in Shelby five years ago, and now we do. It keeps on growing, the attendance has been outstanding and it continues to grow every year.
Fargo North Dakota, their team actually got into the world series and they averaged almost two thousand people a game, while Shelby averages almost seven thousand people a game, and they don’t have a team in it yet.
GM: We have some good teams, we just need to win that championship.
JQ: Well, it’s tough. In ninety years, I think there are seven teams who have hosted a tournament and won. Back in the thirties and forties there used to be just two teams in there. You have one year it’s in the east, the next it’s in the west, a best of three. Starting in 1944, that’s when they started the double elimination tournament and it was rare for a team to win the state tournament, then go regional and go on to host a world series and be there in the tournament. It is extremely tough.
GM: So, you think the organization skills and discipline you learned in the military translated to your career?
GM: You got the G.I bill, right?
JQ: I was hurt when I went in the Marines, I hurt my knee real bad and so I went to school under what we called VOC Rehab, where I probably got fifty dollars less a month than the G.I bill guy but it paid for books and tuition, so that money could be used for grant, food, electricity and everything.
GM: That’s what the G.I bill paid for me was rent and groceries but that allowed me to step out of the job I was doing and get my education.
JQ: All those skills, and I came from before computers were used, and I’m not intimidated by computers so I hopped right in because it was so much nicer than doing it with the old carbon forms. You had to make six copies and if you made a mistake you had to start all over again. The commanding Officer doesn’t like typos on their paperwork. And in the military, you would have the inspector general come around every year and so your paperwork was in fact judged. They came through and they would be looking for mistakes and in the end those mistakes would count against your squadrons. It made a big difference.
GM: Well, I want to thank you for your service and your contributions to the American Legion and Post 82. I am honored to be a member of Post 82.
JQ: Post 82 does a much better job. They had a kid who was a champion at the oratorical last year, and five kids are going on to boy’s state, and they’re sending a young man off to the student trooper which is like highway patrol class for a week. They’re doing a lot of good over there.
GM: And they’re starting a biker club.
JQ: Yes, American Legion Riders.
GM: They do a ton of fund raising.
JQ: They raised, I want to say, one point seven million dollars which goes into a scholarship trust, and that money goes to kids whose parents were killed on active duty since 911, or if you’re a fifty percent or more disabled veteran you can draw scholarship money. It’s all put in a trust so the interest is earned and again goes to those kids or veterans.
GM: American Legion does a ton, and in our last meeting it was the Legions ninety eighth birthday and we talked about how it began and the monumental things it’s done. I think it was the first million plus donor to the Heart Association.
JQ: The Cancer Society also, and they are a big contributor each year to the Ronald McDonald houses.
GM: Most people out there probably think only of American Legion Baseball but the Legion does a ton of stuff. If you are a veteran, we need younger veterans in there. I know there are a lot of younger veterans who could benefit from the camaraderie and fellowship of the Post 82 members and their support. The ridiculous number of young veterans coming back with real problems for real reasons, I think these things can be somewhat offset by a support group. The members have been through similar things. When I sit down and talk to Vietnam vets, I realize my service was not dangerous or hard at all. The veterans of today are going through some very dangerous and tough situations with injuries and trauma but that support can help, it certainly can’t hurt.
JQ: There was a chaplain in the National Guard who came and talked at the American Legion and he said, you need to get these young guys in because when the world war one and world war two boys came back, they called it combat fatigue but it was post traumatic stress, and get them in with other veterans. If old Joe talked about when he was in Korea or Vietnam and he related some of that combat, that can help younger guys to think, he can talk about it, so I can talk about it, it does relieve stress.
You talked about the G.I bill, it was a Legionnaire called Harry Colmery, a past national commander, and member of congress who wrote the G.I bill and the American Legion got that passed by one vote. It was opposed by some other organizations who wanted the money to go strictly into hospitals.
GM: I believe the American Legion is the only non-profit who can lobby congress?
JQ: For the most part but the other organizations can too, there is the DVA, and the VFW, I’m not sure how it works but they have a political action arm. With the American Legion, we don’t care if they’re republican or democrat, the issue is the issue and that’s what we are going to argue about.
The American Legion is a non-profit charter organization, any veteran who needs to put in a claim, we will do that at no charge to them, put in the paperwork and send it on up through our chain of command.
GM: I urge any veteran out there to look to their American Legion Post and get involved. Any time you go into a room full of veterans and you are a veteran, there is an instant connection and you feel at home.
Contact me if you have any questions. Elder Law is what we do!
I’m Greg McIntyre, I’m here with Hayden Soloway and this is the elder law report. Today we’re talking with Brandon Sterns who is a high schooler and the key impetus behind the development of the Military Extravaganza which was held in Shelby on April 9th 2017. I found it amazing that a high school senior pulled this together.
The military extravaganza was a march, a celebration, a parade and a host of events including a concert later on. If a high school senior can get an event like this together and get a community energized around him and his group, then what can people out there do for their community?
It’s a challenge.
So, Hayden, you know a lot about the Military Extravaganza.
HS: I know it was very challenging to make this happen, and I know Brandon had plans to do the event last year. Why didn’t you do it then?
BS: Last year I tried to plan it about four months before the day of the event and unfortunately four months is not a long enough time to plan a big event like this. This time, I started planning last August.
The guest performer is Jett Edwards. Jett is a native of Kings Mountain but lives in Tokyo, Japan and has lived there for twenty four years. He does several different benefits for veterans. The one he is trying to get out at this event is, he gives away a house on the east coast and one on the west coast. This will happen in September. He’s on tour now.
HS: Are these for veterans or disabled veterans?
BS: One is for a disabled veteran and the other for a homeless veteran. One of the things that we thought was interesting was, if he doesn’t get enough in donations to pay for the houses, he will take the money out of his own pocket and pays for them himself.
GM: I have a couple of questions I’d like to ask. How does a high schooler decide, I want to do this big military extravaganza for veterans, and then it balloons into this thing where you have ceremonies and parades and colleges turning up to discuss military programs? I commend you for putting this together. I couldn’t put this together without a lot of help.
BS: For me, it was, how am I going to do this? I was always bullied throughout high school, so for me to get up and get out to do something like this has really brought me a lot of joy. I know I’m doing something for somebody else and helping somebody in need because in Cleveland County alone there is a lot of homeless veterans. We want this to be a time of celebration and a time of gathering, and to know that you are welcome and welcome to the campus of Shelby High School.
I have a lot of military in my family, my dad served in the Army for twenty nine years and my grandfather served in the Marines for twenty one years. Three of my family members have received the Bronze Star. I say, just get out and try something new, don’t believe someone who says you can’t doing something.
GM: What is it you want to do with your life when you get out of high school?
BS: When I graduate from high school I will go to Palm Beach University in Palm Beach Florida. It’s a very nice place and I want to get my bachelors in pastoral studies. My plan is to become a Baptist minister.
HS: Is Club Miracle a safe place to do the things you want to do, such as, help others, distinguish yourself, escape from some of life’s hardships?
BS: Club Miracle was founded on five things. Three of those things are, the military, taking care of the homeless, and also helping students in school. Club Miracle has eighteen active members. It’s a place where you can go, and if you have an idea, let us know and we will see what we can do.
GM: This is a club in Shelby High School?
BS: Yes. We have done many different things, a soup kitchen at Central United Methodist Church, we do an Easter egg tree which is a Christmas tree with Easter eggs on it, we did a drive for Hurricane Mathew, we do a lot of stuff.
GM: Thank you for what you’ve done to organize this event, it’s awesome and your actions have inspired me to do something.
Here’s how we can help our veterans. As an elder law attorney and a veteran of the US Navy, I meet with veterans all the time. I am a certified attorney with the US Department of Veterans Affairs and we handle pension benefits for veterans who may need a little help with in-home, assisted living or nursing home care. For more information, you can call me on 704-259-7040.
Contact me if you have any questions. Elder Law is what we do!
I’m Greg McIntyre and I’m talking with Ludy Wilkie. Now, the reason we do lunch with a veteran is first to show case veterans, and second, I think by preserving and hearing these stories, not only are they entertaining but they can encourage young people to explore their dreams within the military.
So Ludy, could you tell us your story?
LW: Well, the military certainly helped me. I finished college in 1969 at Western Carolina. I wanted to go on to graduate school but just did not have the money and so the only option that seemed available was enlisting in the Army and getting the G.I Bill of Rights. I worked for a short time that summer after I graduated at a radio station but Uncle Sam was always tugging at my coat tails and a friend of mine who is a member of our American Legion advised me, get Uncle Sam before he gets you. I got interested in military journalism and the armed forces radio and TV, and one group that thought they could get that for me was the Army Security Agency.
Now, the ASA as it was called required a four-year enlistment, and I did that, and it was interesting. A few weeks earlier I had been in college discussing Emerson, and then after entering the Army we were pounding up the trails at old Fort Jackson and it was an experience. At first when I enlisted I found the opportunities for journalism were closed but a lieutenant at Fort Devens, Massachusetts took an interest in my case and several others, and it was arranged that I go to a Department of Defense Information School located in Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana. After that I went on to Okinawa where I was a military journalist.
I wrote articles for home town newspapers, such as, so-and-so got promoted, such a person got a medal, and I wrote for newspapers on Okinawa, civilian newspapers as well as military and for the Hallmark. Hallmark magazine is the official magazine of the US Army Security Agency. I was one of the first and only correspondents to get a byline in one of the stories I wrote. For my efforts as a military journalist and for my work in the post chapel helping put on dramas and plays, I was fortunate enough to get the Army Commendation Medal.
GM: How long were you on Okinawa?
LW: Two years and it should have been longer. I was there from 1970 to 1972.
GM: That was during the time there was a big rebellion there?
LW: Indeed, there was a lot of tension on Okinawa, it’s a small island, nineteen by sixty miles and American military bases make up about one third of the bottom half of the island. The Okinawans were very sensitive about that. Our extensive use of their land and with the Vietnam war going on, they were afraid of getting drawn in to another war. The stationing of B-52’s on Okinawa also become an issue. It was just a very tense time, and there was some anti-American resentment.
I remember during my first year there, an American driver accidentally hit an Okinawan pedestrian but the Okinawans could tell it was an American car because we had different colored car tags. In retaliation, they started attacking American cars and setting them on fire. We were restricted to base until that settled down. The riots made the newspapers here in America, so, there was a lot of tension going on at the time.
I remember the ASA required enlistment of four years but as I walked into our headquarters building a fellow soldier from Sylva, North Carolina called Guy Hall called me over and said, have you heard Ludy, they’re cancelling the four year enlistments, we can get out with only three. This was very good news, I got to come home a year earlier than I thought, but yes, Okinawa was a very tense place, but a very interesting place.
During world war two when American forces invaded, the battle of Okinawa destroyed about eighty percent of everything above ground on the lower part of the island. This was one reason the Okinawans were fearful of getting drawn into another war.
I was on Okinawa when it reverted to Japan. It had been decided since the Eisenhower administration that Japan would eventually take over the island and I was there when that happened. I believe the then Vice President Agnew made a visit to the island, and for many years I had the newspapers, the civilian newspaper the Morning Star, it opened up, Welcome to Japan. There were places flying the Japanese flag and the Japanese Yen was one of the excepted currencies off post. Now this was interesting, prior to the reversion, Americans were told to patronize only the establishments which featured an ‘A’ sign in restaurants and such, that meant they met certain standards of hospitality and fair business practice and hygiene, and welcomed American patronage. After the reversion that could not be enforced but establishments such as restaurants were still asked to display an ‘A’ sign anyway, indicating they welcomed American patronage. Some places did not.
It was quite an experience to change money into Yen. Technically we weren’t allowed to before we left the island but we could always go off post and do that. It was quite an experience when Okinawa was given back to the Japanese.
GM: How did you find the people? It sounds like they were not happy about the American occupation at that point in their history. I spent some time on the Naval base, Port Yokosuka in Japan and I visited Tokyo and found the people were very friendly, well maybe not friendly but civil, and sharp and clean. I have been to places where the people were very friendly. The Japanese certainly have a rich culture, very smart but are not super friendly to outsiders. We have a huge debate about immigration in the US right now and I don’t think that’s a problem in Japan. My eldest son and I were looking at statistics and he was telling me there are very few people from other cultures who live there permanently.
LW: The Okinawans individually were very courteous and friendly to the individual American but they resented the military presence being there occupying much of their property. Okinawa had once, centuries back, been an independent kingdom but was never left in isolation. China and Japan would vie for control of it. China recognized Japans sovereignty over the Ryukyu islands, and the Okinawan king was given some rank in Japanese nobility but the Japanese tended to look down on the Okinawans as their poor neighbors. The Okinawans actually opposed the reversion, they would have pamphlets in English saying Japan is not our fatherland, even though they had to learn the Japanese language. It was such a small island that it would have been difficult for them to defend against foreign invaders. The Okinawans had always been dominated and influenced by other cultures, they had never been left alone. It was given back to Japan because we took it from them during world war two. The battle of Okinawa was the last major battle of world war two, and some of the Japanese later admitted when they heard Okinawa had fallen, they knew it was all over. It was the last outpost between the American forces and mainland Japan. It was called the keystone of the Pacific because out of there we had other bases.
You were mentioning some of the Asian people being friendly, I went on leave for nine days to Taiwan. The people of Taiwan were very friendly. Chiang Kai-shek was still alive then but they knew if the Americans were not there the Republic of China would be coming over to get them, so that was one place Americans were very welcome. They would walk up to you on the street and start a conversation. A professor invited me to dinner in his home but I didn’t get to go. They were great believers in international relations. In little Taiwan, capitalist Taiwan out-produced red China. One time I was at a PX, I needed to cash a check and there were sirens passing by and it was General Chiang Kai-shek on his way to work. He had not left the country since becoming the ruler. I shouldn’t tell this but I will, the Chinese did pirating, they would pirate American books and records and reproduce them illegally despite the copyright, and we were not supposed to send them through mail but you could hand carry them out of the country and bring them home. I brought home some books and records and such, and two of the books were text books one of my professors at Oklahoma University had contributed to. I never told him I had pirate copies of that book. People would go there and get teak wood furniture and bring it back.
GM: Taiwan is a real holdout in that region for capitalism and free market enterprise.
LW: Getting back to Okinawa, one thing we experienced a couple of summers there was the drought. It would get very dry and we would have to ration water, and sometimes you could buy jugs of water but to purify it you had to put chlorine bleach in it. We would pray for rain or a typhoon to hit. One typhoon did hit, typhoon Vera but it only filled up the reservoir a little bit. They had a problem with water rationing which was odd being surrounded by the ocean on all sides.
GM: Water, water everywhere.
LW: But not a drop to drink. We should have practiced some desalinization somewhere for fresh water.
GM: It doesn’t sound very healthy to drink the chlorine bleach water?
LW: We just put a few drops in. We put chlorine in the pools, it’s the same type principle. The island was very poor, they still had open ditches where they dumped their sewage, it was right out there in the open. We had to get accustomed to that.
GM: Have you been back to Okinawa anytime?
LW: No I haven’t.
GM: That would be a neat experience. I wonder how things are in comparison?
LW: I believe they have closed a number of smaller bases but I think there’s still a lot of anti-American tension over there. The locals do have jobs on American bases, and this resulted in a higher standard of living so they have a catch 22 type situation. They don’t like the Americans but the bases provide them with jobs.
GM: It sounds like they don’t like the Japanese either.
LW: Some of the Okinawans who remembered being drafted into the Japanese army during world war two certainly don’t. Incidentally, while I was there they found the last Japanese soldier to surrender, I think on the Philippines, and on Okinawa the last one to surrender was in 1959. He was a hold out, he did his duty to the emperor and had not surrendered.
GM: That is nuts. They were just living in caves or something?
LW: Certainly living in caves and the wilderness areas. They were dedicated, they would not surrender. On Okinawa one place to visit was suicide cliffs where the Japanese Generals refused General Buckner’s invitation to surrender, they drank a toast to the emperor and committed harikari. The lesser officers had to be the ones who surrendered.
GM: That was one thing that made the Japanese so fierce in world war two. A commitment to country and the emperor all the way to death. I think that is almost unparalleled.
LW: It was, and even while I was there they had a company that had to explode ordnance because unexploded ordnance, shells, bombs, grenades were still found all over the island from world war two. Old but still deadly. There was a special unit assigned to do just that. That would have been a very frightening job, going out and recovering old shells and bombs.
During low tide you could see where American soldiers had fallen through the coral during the invasion. American Marines died there. They still had some old Japanese bunkers and such, which was a vivid reminder of world war two.
GM: How the world changes so quickly. My grandfather was in world war two. Now Japan is a great ally, and we certainly reinvested in rebuilding Japan there’s no denying it.
LW: It would have changed a lot from the time my father was there during world war two. He talked to me about it to the time I was there. He knew the mayor of one of the towns over there after the Japanese had surrendered, but their ways were somewhat different from ours.
One interesting thing that people loved to do and I did, was to go to a restaurant that served Kobe beef, and they would marinade and cook it in front of you. They would ask how you liked your steak. Some people argued it wasn’t true Kobe beef which originated in Korea, beef that was raised on beer. They would take the young calf and raise it on beer, just beer. There were two places that did that, Sam’s Anchor Inn and Oseki’s, I think in Koza. I did not visit this place but there was a small colony or something, but there was an orphanage which had been a small leper colony, and some of the American soldiers would visit those orphanages and help take care of them.
GM: So, you were a journalist and in the military, and still found time to do many creative things such as writing and acting, the world’s greatest playwright.
LW: The world’s greatest undiscovered playwright. We have a playwrights group that I helped found and meets in Hendersonville, The Lost Playwrights. We are expecting to do some promotions for the Hendersonville library. Some people from Shelby have gone to that, Brendan LeGrand who does documentaries, and Tom Bennett from Kings Mountain who writes plays.
GM: How many plays have you written?
LW: I would have to stop and count, but some have been produced. Once in Rutherford County, once in Crest High School, The Diary of Faust, with gypsies and werewolves, a secret society with the book of forbidden knowledge, and there was the play, The Ballard of Nancy Hanks which has been done twice. We proved that Abe Lincoln was born in Bostic and not in Kentucky, that one has been done. I started out doing readers theaters based on the book of Luke and the book of Ruth. I got permission from the Thomas Nelson people to use the New Kings James version for the book of Luke, and the American bible society to use the Good News Bible for the book of Ruth. We did an O Henry trilogy, basically stage readings of three O Henry stories, and we had his next of kin up there at the time. Pastor Paul Porter gave a talk about O Henry. Here in Shelby for the season opener for the community theater we did one of my plays Hello Johnny Appleseed, and I did a series of five one act musicals and we did the Three Jolly Coachmen.
GM: You’ve written hymns as well?
LW: Oh yes. I did a play at the Lutheran Church about children who build a nativity scene but can’t get permission to put it up anywhere, we did two hymns from that. Peter Strickland who teaches music at Crest High School did the arrangements for some of these.
GM: Most people think the military is just people with guns but it’s much more than that. I always try to tell people how much of a benefit it has been in my life. It helped me get away from home and see the world, going over to Asia and the Middle East, and living in San Diego. Just those places expanded my vision of what the world is far more than what you get from watching television. It was very good for me. Also, you can do virtually any job you want in the military, such as the work you did as a military journalist. Do you think that it benefitted you in any way?
LW: Absolutely, it was a fantastic experience. I had a feeling of success, I was in a sense a published writer, and I have great stories about interesting people. One fellow was a volunteer boy scout leader and we did stories on him. There were just all sorts of fascinating stories when you get in to this. Talking about wanting to travel, I was stationed for a while at Fort Deven, Massachusetts and we would go into Boston on weekends and visit the historic sites. I got to see some theater, I saw Pearl Bailey in Hello Dolly for example. I met a lady who was one of the Mayflower descendants and I have an autographed copy of her book, Boston in my blood, bought at the oldest continuous bookstore in the United States. Then I was at Fort Benjamin Harrison Indiana.
GM: I wonder if Ben Franklin ever used that bookstore?
LW: Well, I wouldn’t be surprised.
GM: Because he was such an avid reader but he didn’t stay in Boston. I think he left Boston when he was something like thirteen.
LW: I bought some interesting books there. I got a copy of Phantom of the Opera and the book, Gone with the wind with scenes from the movie. I met one of the actors, Rand Brooks who played Scarlett’s first husband, and he autographed it for me. Being around the historic parts of Boston was an experience.
GM: When you have gotten out of your home town and you travel, especially when you live in other places, I think it does something for you that you can’t get otherwise. You just bring back a different perspective.
LW: After I left the military to get my masters at the University of Oklahoma, and the G.I bill made that possible, some of my friends, fellow English majors were sitting talking, it was tough being in the military but one of them said, well the military is an experience, you have to live through MASH to write about it. This goes back to exactly what you’re saying; the folks who had been veterans in college, had different perspectives on life than the kids who came there right out of high school. They had seen some of the good and bad parts of the world.
GM: Plus, they had had a job for a few years and had some maturity under their belt.
LW: And responsibility and such things.
GM: I figured quickly as an enlisted Navy guy that the difference between me and a Naval officer was a piece of paper, that college degree, and whether I was smart enough or not, that wasn’t going to get me into that officer’s position unless I got that piece of paper. This was something that become really important to me. My father said the same thing about his enlisted experience.
LW: I can say that about mine, I was determined to go on and get my Master’s degree after the military and this made it possible. We used to have a joke under the enlisted men, that the difference between the enlisted men and the officer was the enlisted men worked for a living.
GM: I knew the same joke in the Navy.
LW: We had some Navy men stationed where we were, and I got to be good friends with them and respected them very much. They were people who knew their trades and knew them well.
GM: So, it sounds like the military for you was to get a head up by enlisting and controlling your fate, and get something out of it as well. In exchange for you saying, look, you can use my talents for so many years in enlistment or commission, I might put my life on the line for you and in exchange you get the G.I bill, you get your graduate degree and could pay for it. I used the G.I bill to get my Juris Doctorate and my MBA. I have veteran’s health care benefits also because I served during war time and was in a war zone. There are tons of different benefits you can get by being in the military and they can last you for the rest of your life.
So, great experiences in the military and I am an admirer of how prolific a writer you are.
LW: Thank you.
GM: I’ve written a couple of books, Saving the Farm and RockStar Lawyer, so I understand some of the difficulties involved with writing but I’m nowhere near the number you’ve poured your heart and soul into. Something else we have in common is the American Legion, you’re a leader of our post here in Shelby.
LW: Well, I work with their oratorical contest which is very important. High school students get to participate in this contest, where they give a speech about the US Constitution and an impromptu speech about one of the Amendments. There are no losers in that contest, everyone who participates is a winner.
GM: If someone wants to contact you to see your plays or find out more about what you do, how can they do that?
LW: They can contact me at LUDY@shelby.net.
GM: I want to thank you for everything you do for our American Legion Post and for your service.
Contact me if you have any questions. Elder Law is what we do!
I’m Greg McIntyre the elder law guy and today on Lunch with a Veteran I have a special guest, Dr Rit Varriale who is a veteran and a pastor of Elizabeth Baptist Church here in Shelby North Carolina.
You’re not only a veteran, you’re an Army Ranger?
RV: I went to Ranger school, Ranger class 2/93, we finished up January 22nd of 1993 and from there I went to the 82nd Airborne Division as a Scout Platoon Leader for Division Scouts.
When I was in the configuration for the division, every infantry battalion had a scout platoon, then the division had three scout platoons that was attached to the aviation brigade, and I was one of the leaders for division scouts for two years. Great privilege, great opportunity to be a scout platoon leader for that long, and then I was executive officer of division scouts for eight years, so I had a great time.
GM: I’ll bet, and stayed in great shape.
RV: Yes, and I still like to work out so, chalk that up to the Army.
GM: I know you do a workout program here in the community called F3.
RV: F3, is fitness, fellowship and faith. Basically what we say is, in order for a man to reach his full potential, he has to bond with other guys committed to those same things. They are committed to physical and mental fitness, they are committed to fellowship with one another, and they are committed to faith which is the most important thing.
GM: And it’s from 5:15 am to 6am.
RV: 5:15 sharp and the claim to fame is it’s free, it’s not going to cost you anything. It’s all guys and is outside regardless of the weather conditions, so, rain, sleet, snow. We have been going for almost two and half years now, and we have not missed a weekday workout, even in times when there has been an ice or snow storm, at least one guy has shown up at the workout site, called AO’s and has worked out on his own and then posted a workout, so, a two and half year streak working out every morning. Now, I’ve missed a few, and everyone has missed a few but the guys have kept it going. That’s part of the camaraderie of the fellowship.
GM: Do the workout sites change?
RV: The workout sites change. We are at the city park, the new ball-fields behind the city park on Monday and Thursday mornings at 5:15am sharp, we will start doing our calisthenics and then go into the workout. On Tuesdays and Fridays those are our run days. On Tuesday we meet at the Earl Scruggs center where we do light calisthenics and stretching and then boom, we hit the road running. Guys go in different directions because they have different skill levels with running so you go at your own pace. Some just walk around the court square and do exercises around there. On Friday morning we just changed our AO to the new First Broad River Park on Grover Street that has the trail running along to Ingles on the west side. If you start at the parking lot and run to Ingles and back, it’s right at three miles. Wednesdays we meet at the community college and that’s another boot-camp workout. So, Monday, Wednesday and Thursday are boot-camp workouts, Tuesday and Friday are run days. It’s a nice balanced workout.
You can message me or go to F3 on Facebook or Twitter and F3nation.com on the web and find local F3 groups.
GM: It sounds like the Army Ranger fitness has carried on throughout the rest of your life. I think that’s important. Did you get that from the military or where you in to fitness and sports before that?
RV: In high school I played football, wrestled and did track and I also spent a lot of time in the outdoors, skiing, hunting and hiking so all of that was already part of my life. I think that was why I gravitated towards the military and the Army in particular, so when I got to the citadel it was a natural fit. I liked the regimented lifestyle, it worked well for me. I liked the citadel after the first year.
GM: Yeah, I’ve read the forbidden book ‘Lords of Discipline.’ So you go to the citadel, you’re an athlete in high school, how did you head towards being a pastor?
RV: That really started with a transition in my father’s life. When I was nine going on ten my father went through a pretty radical conversion experience. He wasn’t a hell-raiser, he was with GE, very responsible, committed to his work, committed to bringing home resources for his family but he was more committed to himself outside of work and those responsibilities than anything else. In his own words, the person he loved most in life was himself. He still loved my mother, he loved me but there was a lot going on in his life that God needed to work on, and until then our family was not as stable as it needed to be. When God got hold of my dad, it was a pretty amazing transformation. Even as a child, I couldn’t deny the change that was taking place, that I watched unfold before my eyes with my dad. That instilled in me that the relationship with God was real, and the relationship with God was powerful, and the relationship with God was needed for families to be all they could be, for men to be all they could be. So, growing up with that appreciation for what God did in my dad, that kept me in a closer relationship with God than otherwise. If my dad hadn’t gone through that, if my parents had split up there is no telling which direction my life would have gone. So, when I left home I had instilled in me this sense of God and country, you honor God with your life, you seek to serve God with your life. None of us is perfect but God is there and cares and can make a difference. That was very much instilled in me going to the citadel. As I went through the citadel I grew in my relationship with the lord. I think it was during that time that I realized my relationship with God had to become my relationship with God, and I couldn’t live off my dad’s spiritual coattails. I had to establish this sense of understanding and commitment to God on my own.
The neat thing was in my senior year, which was a year of spiritual formation for me, was the year I met my wife, and she was going through a very similar process in her life where she wanted to draw closer to God, she wanted the faith to become more real to her. We met in the fall of 1991 in Charleston and God just took that relationship and really did some wonderful things with it. When we got married shortly after I finished my Army Observer basic course, I went to regular school, then after that she and I went back to Fort Knox, Kentucky, where I did a scout platoon leaders course, then I went to Fort Bragg. One of the things we wanted to do was get plugged in to a good church. We had a church family at Fort Bragg which was absolutely wonderful. The pastor of that church asked me if I would start doing a home bible study at our house on base. I was reluctant because I didn’t feel I knew enough about the bible to do that, and he said, well you just pray about it. In my time of deliberation, I felt God was saying, the day you think you do know enough on your own and stand up to represent me, is the day you need to sit down and shut up. You will never know enough about me to represent me in your own strength. You go with what I have given you and go with it. So, I went back to him and said, I’ll start bible study and I’ll just go with what I’ve got and we’ll let the lord build on it from there.
That bible study was the beginning of the end of my military career, even though I didn’t know it, because my love for studying the bible, the thrill of watching people grow in their relationships with the lord, especially those people who come to Christ for the first time, that started to supersede my love for the military.
I can remember, it was just before I felt the call out of the military and into the ministry that there was a parachute jump going on at Fort Bragg, just a training jump, and the aircraft wasn’t filled. Whenever that would happen they would put a call out to unit commanders, hey, we need jumpers to fill this aircraft and my commander said, hey, we need to fill an aircraft so grab your gear, we are going to jump tonight. Well, I told him, sir, this is bible study night, and he said, we’re not being paid to bible study, we’re paid to jump so get your gear, we’re jumping. I remember being so frustrated that I was going to miss bible study. I was looking forward to it, I had prepared for it, and it hit me that day that something was going on here because years ago if someone had put out the word there were some extra seats and we we’re going to jump, I would have had someone fill in for me because my desire would have been to jump. So, in that period of time my desires changed. I was called into the ministry and in 1996 I left the military and went in the ministry.
GM: But when the military says jump you jump.
RV: Yeah, I still jump.
GM: I had a similar experience with a fire school I was supposed to go to and I had a test set up for GMATS or something to go to MBA school at San Diego State for when I came out the military. I had a chief who just dressed me down because my desires were to go further my education and not go to fire-fighting school. I was saying, but chief I’m getting out shortly after this six-month cruise and I want to go to school. They’re not really so concerned with that.
RV: Yeah, sometimes you get that attitude and those of you who are veterans watching have probably felt those same frustrations, they don’t necessarily want you to be pro-active and think about what you’re going to do, they want you to do what you are told to do. There’s a reason for that but it can be frustrating.
GM: That’s true. My desire to further my education did not match up with what the Navy had in mind for me. That doesn’t mean I could not have crafted a path within the military, I could have, many do, where I would have ended up as an attorney and in the military. You have to seek the right path and talk to the right people.
So at that time you had done your under-grad at the citadel but not done your doctoral work?
RV: At that point I had just gone to the citadel and graduated from there in 1992, and my plan was to trap through all the military programs because I had no plans on getting out. When I got out the military I knew I wanted to go to an institution where I could enhance my theological understanding. To me, the degree wasn’t the primary motive, it was the learning to get an understanding of God’s word, old testament, new testament, the history of Christianity. My thinking was, if you are going to lead the church, just like if you’re going to lead troops, and especially elite troops, you have to be prepared, you have to know your stuff. I felt the same way about the ministry, if I’m going to lead in church, I want to be prepared and understand Christian history and the debates that have circled around Christian theology throughout the ages, and look up things in the old and new testaments and have a measure of independence doing those things and studying and researching. That is why I started to work on my graduate programs in theology.
GM: You went through several graduate programs?
RV: Yeah. Up until my Masters in divinity at Campbell, school was a means to an end, whether it was high school, or the citadel, it was always, I have to do this to get where I eventually want to go. When I started studying theology, the study became an end unto itself. My wife used to say, you’re definitely a nerd because you’re the only person I know who at the beginning of the semester you come home with more books than what’s on the reading list. For me I found that when I went to Campbell, my studies were kind of therapeutic and for the ministry I think it is very important for ministers to have that ability to pull away from the busyness of a congregation, from the sorrows, stresses, the funerals and negative diagnoses from doctors, and be able to recharge your batteries. Not only do you have to bear the sorrows and unfortunate situations of life for the congregation, you have the highlights also, the birth of children, the weddings things like that. There are a lot of emotions flying about. If a minister doesn’t have that ability to pull away, they’re going to burn out. I found my studies were something that forced me to pull away and in doing so, it was therapy for me.
GM: You have written a book called Reformation and Responsibility, and you’re coming out with a second book called God Before Government. Did you always know you would start writing books or did that just happen?
RV: Once I found reading and researching to be therapeutic from a ministry perspective, the same thing happened from a social perspective while watching the radical changes taking place in our nation since the World War two era. This ship where the Judeo-Christian ethic was a respected driving force of the nation, that from world war two until now, the Judeo-Christian ethic is almost viewed as a racist attitude or oral view that needs to be subjugated to this general notion of liberal secularism. I found I wanted to weigh in on the conversation and write something. What was laid out in my heart was this concept of a reformation.
Roughly every five hundred years a pendulum in a society needs to swing because we need course corrections as human beings. One generation will get fixated on a certain course heading and the next generation picks that up and drives it further, and the next even further until they realize, you know what, back when this started, this course heading was good, it was a good correction but now that we have forced this same course heading for three or four hundred years, it’s become counter-productive. To put some hands and feet to it, the hyper individualism of our current culture is a perfect example of that. The focus on the individual that was a part of the enlightenment which was the dominant thinking in the time our nation was birthed, was good. Coming out of medieval Europe, late medieval period, renaissance period leading to the enlightenment period, and this idea that every person has worth and value, not just royalty, everybody, we’re one hundred percent on board with that, that was a good course correction, but when you start forcing the issue of individualism and individual rights to the extent that we are at today, it becomes counter-productive to the society. It’s no longer good for the whole approach, it now becomes where the larger sentiment, the majority is subjugated to the minority sentiment. Why? because we have adopted, without thinking it right the way through, that the minority must always be protected from the majority. Any situation where a particular ideology or minority group is being disenfranchised by the majority sentiment, immediately there is the rule of government to silence that majority sentiment, to handcuff it and give free voice and free reign to the minority segment. We have been on that course heading for a long time now. We are now just starting to see that a course correction is needed. If we don’t make that correction, things will be highly problematic for our country.
GM: By highly problematic, you mean destabilizing? It is scary to think whether we can survive some of the things we are going through and if it will rip us apart? You can see the clash coming.
RV: And it happens so fast. Those who are interested in this conversation and want to take it a little bit further, get on google and search ‘Roosevelt Bible.’ Then go to images and in the first ten or fifteen images, you will see a bible come up. What that is, is the Navy edition bible, the service member’s bible that President Roosevelt commissioned during world war two. When you consider the fact that the President of the United States commissioned that every service member in all the armed forces be given a bible as they prepared to defend our nation, that in itself speaks volumes compared to the attitude many of our leaders have today toward Christianity. Then when you look closer at the image of that bible it has the Christian flag above the American flag.
GM: The President of the United States endorsed that bible.
RV: And then it says right below the American flag, the church pennant is the only flag ever to be hoisted over the flag, and it is to be hoisted during divine services. Now ask yourself this question, Was President Roosevelt a smart man? Yes, he was, a very smart man. Was he aware that in the 1940’s there were Muslims in America? Yes. Was he aware that there were atheists in America? Yes. But, was he also aware that, if this is going to be a government of the people, by the people, for the people, and the vast majority of the people were Christians, then a display like this of the Christian church flag, the only flag that can be put over the American flag, the President of the United States said that. He put his signature to it. People are flabbergasted to know we even have these bibles but it’s that in such a short period of time those things have changed.
GM: I guess things always change but it’s like you can confess almost anything but your Christian beliefs. Any other belief is okay and you can voice that, and not only that but you can be violent and radical about it. That’s looked upon as okay. However, to voice a mainstream or opposing religious belief about any issue, that’s something you can be fined over, taxed over or put in jail over, and it happens.
RV: Right, and what we have forgotten again is, I did a piece with PRI, Public Radio International leading up to the election. I was talking to them about evangelicalism and the 2016 election but in that conversation I made the statement to the editor I was talking to that the irony is that those who are known in our culture for being open minded and diverse, are not seeking diversity and open mindedness, they are seeking conformity and they want to silence anyone who doesn’t agree with them. They want freedom of speech except for you, they want everyone to live out their values except for this group. It is highly inconsistent. This was the statement I made on PRI, if you are really going to promote diversity, then that means you have to allow people to think differently, you have to respect the diversity of opinions out there. Individuals think differently and they influence one another and you will have communities who think differently from one another, which means you will have regions who think differently, and states that think differently.
GM: Which is how our government was originally set up to run, not with this federal oversight that makes everyone think the same way.
RV: Exactly. There should be a diversity of thought and practice from one state to another. Those who promote that are the ones who are truly promoting diversity. Those who resist and fight that are the ones who are seeking conformity. So the great irony is, you have the left that seeks conformity, and it’s the conservative right that gives way to diversity.
GM: It’s a discussion that has not had much air time, a few outlets, lesser known media that will actually discuss that. But I think the media at this point has lost all sense of credibility for the most part. I enjoy switching on and catching up on politics but I will flip through all the channels and get the different points of view just so I know where they are coming from and try to formulate what the truth is. It is hard to do because you do have this whole propaganda machine pushing an agenda that is being pushed on to an entire nation.
RV: The development of social media is very beneficial in some way. Certainly one of the positives is to get information out that is more accurate than the once trusted mainstream media is putting out. You can get information out quickly to a large group of people to counter the false narrative that’s already out there. Granted, do I think the President should tweet as much as he does on so many things, he should probably reign it in a little bit, but there is still a legitimacy.
GM: Roosevelt went straight for people with his fireside chats and was extremely partisan with those to get the message out directly to the people.
RV: Right into the home with new technology. The only difference between how Roosevelt used the media and twitter is Roosevelt’s chat had to be scheduled well ahead of air time, with social media, you think it, you type it, you put it out there.
GM: Certainly the media doesn’t love that. How can they control that?
RV: For me, I’m really optimistic because I hope that it does force truth because it doesn’t matter who you are, if you are going to say something that is blatantly false, then the reality of that falsehood is probably going to be brought to the surface relatively quick. I think that is a good thing.
GM: I couldn’t agree more. You hear a lot of hearings and spins from political outlets in Washington and elsewhere, and then you can look at individuals who are putting out information about that subject and see an overall picture to light up the whole scene.
Now, you have actually flown the Christian flag over the American flag, I was at a ceremony where you did that. You made national news for doing that. You were on Fox news right? They were hard on you. I was surprised but you really held your own. I was very proud.
RV: There was a lot of good lessons learned there. I have not really talked about it publicly but you are right, when they contacted me on the days leading up to being on Fox news, the enthusiasm they had and the excitement they had seemed to suggest it was going to be a positive conversation. Those people who have been in the media and done interviews know what I’m talking about here. When you are speaking from a remote location, I went to the Fox studio in Charlotte, not Fox46 but they’ve got another small studio where they do feeds to New York. You’re in a room that is very small, and you are just looking at the camera. You can’t see what’s taking place on Fox news, you have an ear piece in so you can hear the individuals that are talking, and then the producers and the behind the scenes technology gurus, they can talk to you as well, so they’re telling you, okay, you’re going to be on in twenty seconds, you can hear the commercials and the people on Fox talking to each other, and then they will give you a countdown, five, four, three, two , one boom and I was really expecting a cordial conversation, God and country, but they threw it out there by saying, this is creating outrage, is this a display of patriotism or what? I’ll tell you what, here is a lesson for everyone and this really sunk in, I wish I had had this Roosevelt Bible knowledge before we did the flag thing.
GM: I thought that’s what sparked it for you?
RV: I didn’t know about it. If I had known about that bible, I would have brought it on Fox news with me but here’s the lesson, when something is right and you step out and do it, even if you do not have all your ducks in a row, even if you don’t have all your research that could really help you, the reality is, if it’s right, it will prove itself to be right in the end.
As soon as we did it, even though the media was casting it as an outrage, we tracked the number of comments coming in on Facebook, on our church message lines. Seventy-five percent of the people were thumbs up, God and country all the way and twenty-five percent were vehemently against it. They were militant in some cases, very threatening.
I think for the left, a lot of times they try to say conservatives have phobias. Let’s say you don’t agree with the issue of homosexuality, the left say, it’s not that you have a certain ethic that you are trying to uphold, no, no, it’s not that, you’re a homophobe. There’s a fear there. But when you step back and look at it, the ones who act the most fearful are the ones who are pushing the progressive agenda, and I think there is a legitimacy to the fear. That is, if the American people were to wake up to such things as the Roosevelt bible, and if the people would stand up to the courts as times, I think the left knows it’s game over, because now you have unleashed the sentiment of the majority, the power of the people, and the reality is, even though they claim to be the people’s party, the last thing they want is for the people to act on their power, their freedom of choice.
GM: Say an activist judge issues an opinion that was against one’s religious beliefs, and on the grounds of freedom of speech and freedom to practice our religion, you refuse to carry out an order that was against the US constitution. Here’s a question, would that be patriotic or not? You would be saying, no judge, you have issued an illegal order that I will not carry out.
RV: It’s like the old revolutionary war slogan, defiance to tyrants is obedience to God. Even the bill of rights, everybody knows the right of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but then just a few lines below it the more relevant and important line of the declaration of independence for our time, is the notion that when any government becomes destructive to these ends, those ends being life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, it says, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it. Then it goes on to say that, (and we are living prove of this,) although history has proven that people are more willing to suffer evils while they are tolerable than to right the wrongs to which they have come accustomed. The declaration itself says that, we have the unalienable rights from God and that is what gives us the authority at times to say no to the authorities. I remember watching a debate between a conservative judge and Cuomo on CNN, and Cuomo kept saying, come on judge, our rights don’t come from God, they come from people, let’s be practical about this, it was interesting that they never got to the crutch of the conversation, it’s not about so much the law written on paper, it’s about the ideology behind the law. If you’re ideology is that the only authority in life is the human authorities over you, what are you going to do when there are tyrants? What are you going to do when they’re wrong? But if you believe there is a higher authority and it is that higher authority that gives you the ability to ascertain whether those human authorities are right or wrong based on what you know of the higher authority, then not only does it give you that ability to ascertain what they’re doing is right or wrong, it also gives you the legitimacy to stand up and say no to them.
Here is a great irony of our culture and our day and age, take our current governor Cooper, the left, in order to, and one of the reasons why they win is because they are more tenacious at fighting. When Cooper did not like amendment one, he flat out said, I am not going to obey the law, I am not going to enforce the law, and he’s governor. Why is he governor? Well, he who dares wins. His base knows that when push comes to shove they hammer down. But when conservatives come down to that, they haven’t been willing to take that same strong stand.
GM: I don’t know if the conservatives and the outspoken part, the rebel conservatives always go together but we do need more outspoken conservatives who can articulate the message in a healthy, positive way and to influence people.
RV: And the reality is, heck I don’t agree with myself a lot of the time, so I don’t expect any one else to agree with me all the time.
GM: So, you flew the Christian flag over the American flag and you’ve written this great book Reformation and Responsibility, and also you have another book coming out shortly.
RV: It is supposed to be out but you know how that is, but the book is called God Before Government, and here’s the issue in that, we tell people to pay attention to the words because the words are important. It’s not God before country, because we love our country, and we respect our government but when you sit down and look at it from a biblical perspective, old and new testaments, any time a human authority asks you to dishonor your commitment to God, your commitment to God has to trump your obedience to that human authority.
GM: But what about my family, what about my pension, what about my pay check? Those are questions you will hear. Our commitment to Christianity is not necessarily about what is practical, it’s about what’s right. There was no bigger rebel than Jesus Christ.
RV: Yeah, and that’s the point, if you stop and think about it, what sent Jesus to the cross? It was civil disobedience. Had he simply tolled the line with his teachings and respected the temple in Jerusalem and the leading Pharisees in the local synagogues in the area, had he simply fallen in line with them and marched to their orders, he would never have gone to the cross.
GM: The people that were worried about their lives were the people who denied him.
RV: Which is hard for us as humans, he is the lord and he demonstrated that kind of courage and conviction doing always those things that pleased the father. We are human beings and even though we may have the zeal and courage of a Peter that at one moment says, look, if everyone abandons you I will die with you, but in twenty-four hours we can find we’re denying him three times in a row and that’s our human weakness.
GM: The real question for me is, what you do as a Christian when you carry out orders of the court, orders of the government that go against everything that Christianity is, is that what you do?
RV: Certainly different scenarios require different responses, should there be limits to religious freedom? Everybody would say yes. Should we be able to go out and sacrifice animals? No. So, we believe there should be a limit to religious freedom. You don’t have a blank check to say, well this is what I believe theologically and so therefore I have the right to do it, this is what my God says. No, that would be chaos. The question that we are wrestling with today isn’t what are the limits of religious freedom? The question we’re wrestling with today is, what are the limits of secularism?
To what extent does secularism have the right to go into the public school system, to go into private businesses and into every nook and cranny of society and say, this is my domain and if you are going to play here, then you are going to check your religious beliefs in at the door?
The question is, rolling back the over reach of secularism, we have well defined the limits of religion in this country.
GM: Sure, and I think anybody is saying look, you’re not saying everybody has to belief a certain thing, or do it a certain way just because you do that, we now no longer have the right to do it a certain way.
RV: The brilliance of the founding father’s statehood and having differences of opinion and practice, one state to another is part of the solution. The longer we go down this road of a zero sum gain, winner takes all with respect to ethics and society in America is a recipe for complete disaster.
GM: It is a recipe for disaster, revolution and chaos. I want to say the Roman empire had a similar end with vast corruption and pushing secular agendas.
RV: Let people live and let live. Most conservatives, most evangelicals I know here in North Carolina, they have no desire to tell people in California, or New Hampshire what to do with their lives and how to live them, but at the same time they have no desire for the people of California and New Hampshire to tell us how we are going to live our lives.
Can we still come together for a larger common good with respect to finance systems and the military for the country? Sure, yes we can. But the more we try to push this winner take all approach into the most personal areas of our lives, such as religion, the more dangerous the course we are on as a nation.
GM: Thank you because who would have thought a southern Baptist minister could be such a rebel. You are so smart and articulate.
RV: I don’t know about that.
GM: I think you have definitely followed in the steps of Christ because I identify with that part of his life when I think about going against the system because that is hard to do. It’s hard for me to go against the system because I feel that pressure, I think about it at night, is this the right decision for different things in my life, those things where I decided to go against the grain. I think you are right, people who stand up and are bold enough to act how they belief will certainly energize people around them and more readily achieve their goals. Just like the governor of North Carolina.
RV: Exactly, he who dares wins. If you believe in your way of thinking and living, then give people the ability to do what they believe in and then in the end let’s see how it all pans out. I think that is a better approach. If any other state wants to take a completely different course from North Carolina, go at it, if you’ve got the votes, you’ve got the people, go at it. And if North Carolina wants to march to the beat of a different drum, great, we’ll check the results twenty-five years from now. Let’s see what the schools, families, finances look like and then we’ll compare.
GM: Families are in such trouble in the United States, it hurts my heart.
RV: This goes back to the whole notion of reformation and responsibility. The premise of it was that it’s not that God and society are responsible to the individual, individuals are responsible to God and to society starting with their families. So, where we needed that reformation in the sense of our responsibilities is all upside down right now. We act as though God owes the most dysfunctional individual something, and likewise, the larger society owes the most dysfunctional individual the right to be as dysfunctional as he or she wants to be.
If we start looking at it from the perspective of, we each have roles and responsibilities to play, my life is not my own, I should seek to honor something more than myself, than my own pleasures and my own desires, that starts with honoring God and then immediately spills over to honoring my family by fulfilling my responsibilities to my family. We have lost that.
We go to Jerusalem every year and I got my wedding ring in Jerusalem and is a great reminder of my wife Shannon, it says, my love, you are as beautiful as Jerusalem.
GM: Rit, I want to thank you for being on the show, it has been an honor and one of the most interesting conversations I’ve had.
Contact me if you have any questions. Elder Law is what we do!
I’m Greg McIntyre and I’m here with Evan Thompson who is not only the district commander for the American Legion but also our Post 82 commander at the local region chapter in Shelby North Carolina. I have the honor of being the judge advocate general and Evan is also my father-in-law.
It was the American Legions 98th birthday on the 15th of March 2017.
ET: We had our American Legion meeting to celebrate the 98th birthday of the Legion, and we also honored our women’s veterans as it is women’s veteran’s month.
GM: Women can now serve in combat on the front lines and in any area of the service.
ET: Many people do not know that women served in the revolutionary war and in the civil war. How they did it was they cut off their hair and dressed up as men because they were so passionate about what was going on. They ended up serving and fooled people for a while I’m sure, but today we’re talking about the American Legion and the many programs available because people need to know that we are not an organization that just sits around in our blue caps and does nothing.
First, I’d like to talk about our American Legion auxiliary. That’s not a program of the American Legion but they are a part of the American Legion family. The American Legion auxiliary consists of all the ladies who have ties to veterans. It can be through their husbands, fathers, or grandfathers and that will make them eligible to be part of the auxiliary.
GM: I wonder with so many women veterans, can their husband be a member of the auxiliary?
ET: No. Maybe one day, but not now. The auxiliary does a lot to help our post and also to help veterans on their own. Another part of the American Legion family are the American Legion Riders and we are currently in the process of creating an American Legion Riders chapter.
GM: That will be a biker’s club within the American Legion which will do fundraising.
ET: They raise millions of dollars every year, and they fund the legacy scholarship and a nursing scholarship.
The very first American Legion program that everyone in this area is familiar with is baseball. That is one of the biggest programs in the American Legion and serves the youth of the community and the nation. We are fortunate to host the American Legion World Series in Shelby North Carolina and we will have it for some time to come.
GM: It is a nice stadium too.
ET: The baseball program started in 1926 and since that time it has grown and grown. It promotes citizenship and sportsmanship throughout the nation and applies to these young men and boys. Before every ball game they recite an oath of sportsmanship and citizenship. Many professional baseball players played American Legion baseball. You’ve got to be good to play legion ball.
Another program that we’re really proud of is Boys State. In fact, your son, my grandson is going to be a delegate to the North Carolina Boys State which takes place June 18th through June 25th in Salisbury North Carolina at Catawba College.
So, what is Boys State? It is a program that teaches young men about government and how democracy works. During that week they are immersed in studying the government. They elect senators, they elect a governor and mayors of various cities because they are broken down into cities and the cities compete against each other.
This is not a political thing. Some people think this is political but it’s not. American Legion is apolitical which means we don’t support any particular candidate or party. Boys State is a tremendous program. If you go to a military academy it can really help you in your entrance to that academy, and looks good on any college application.
GM: My wife told me Michael Jordan went to Boys State.
ET: Michael Jordan did go to Boys State.
GM: Are you kidding me?
ET: I’m not kidding you. Michael Jordan went to Boys State, George Bush went to Boys State.
GM: It teaches how to run a government, the functioning of government and regardless of your politics you have to able to function within government, how to govern people and procedure.
ET: That’s right, they select a supreme court as well and have mock court. It is a great experience for a young man. At the end of the Boys State program, they select two young men to go to Boys Nation, and they will go to Washington D.C and spend another week immersed in federal government. They have to be at the top of their class in State but it is a really great experience. I wish I could have gone to something like that but I didn’t even know about it, however, one of my class mates who went to the Naval academy went to Boys State and he said it helped him tremendously and was one of the best experiences he ever had.
GM: Regardless if you want to go into politics, join the working government or become an attorney, it is a great experience.
ET: It helps you become a much better informed citizen.
GM: If you want to learn more you can go to ncboysstate.org.
ET: Another American Legion program is Operation Comfort Warriors. This is a program designed by the American Legion to assist soldiers who were either hurt in combat or have had some kind of medical issue. When they go into a hospital, usually they are away from home and the hospital doesn’t have the finances to provide everything that soldier needs, such as comfort items, recreation items, so the American Legion put together this program. Throughout the year they constantly put together comfort and recreational items for soldiers experiencing a medical difficulty, and that is nationwide. It is a great program and a lot of money has been put into it. Every dollar that is donated to Operation Comfort Warriors goes to those soldiers, there are no administrative costs associated with it, the Legion takes out nothing. So if you have a fund raiser and donate the money to Operation Comfort Warriors, all the money goes to the soldiers.
That brings me to a program called the National Emergency Fund. That was used quite recently on the coast of North Carolina when the hurricane came through and devastated all those houses, and helped in hurricane Katrina.
The American Legion provides funds to veterans and even to the American Legion Posts who got flooded out in a recent hurricane. All the funds donated to a fund go directly to the fund intended and are used to assist in times of disaster.
The current department Chaplain said that when he first became a Legion member, his house got flooded from a hurricane and someone told him he should apply for aid, and he said he had only been in the Legion a couple of months and had given nothing to them except a twenty dollar membership fee, but he was encouraged to apply and right away got a check for fifteen hundred dollars. He said afterwards he felt he wanted to pay back the Legion and is now the department Chaplain of the North Carolina American Legion.
A program our post really pushes is the High School Oratorical Contest. This is what that consists of; any high school student who prepares an eight to ten-minute oration about the constitution or some area of the constitution, and gives this presentation in front of the American Legion Post in their area and win the competition there, go forward to a district contest where all the post winners from the district compete and a district winner is selected. That winner then goes to the division level. If you win the division level, you go to the state competition. In the state competition there are five divisions in the state, so five individuals competing to win the North Carolina Oratorical Contest. If you win that level, you go to the national contest. Last year we had a young man called Gabe Turner go all the way to the national competition level.
You have to prepare those orations and then you do a three to five minute presentation on one of the amendments to the constitution. That is a fine program and is very competitive but the winner of the national competition gets an eighteen thousand dollar scholarship ($18,000). If you come in second, I believe it is a sixteen thousand dollar scholarship ($16,000), and third place gets a fourteen thousand dollar scholarship ($14,000).
It is well worth doing and we need a lot more people to get involved in it.
GM: I have been lucky enough to be a judge at the local level a couple of times.
ET: That’s right. We have another program which is not very well known, it’s called Temporary Financial Assistance. There is a lot of requirements in order to qualify for this program. Let’s say a veteran gets in a real financial bind, and it does have to be a veteran, maybe they can’t pay the rent or electric bills or whatever, they can apply to the American Legion for Temporary Financial Assistance. The qualifications are: 1- there must be a child in the house, because it is geared around the idea that we are trying to take care of youth. 2- You must have tried every other avenue for financial assistance before the American Legion will qualify you for any financial assistance.
Other programs that you as an American Legion member can be involved in, quite often when people join the American Legion, they say what’s in it for me? When you join the American Legion, you should have the attitude of, what can I do for another veteran. We really need to push that concept because it is so important.
What do members get for paying their Legion dues? They get the opportunity to give back to other veterans, to the community and to the youth.
One really good program is a discount program for Legion members. Another part of the American Legion family is called Sons of the American Legion. We don’t have a Sons of the American Legion chapter associated with our post but many posts do. Some of these benefits are available to the auxiliary as well.
GM: You can get discounts on travel and lodging, Best Westerns.
ET: Moving and relocation and veteran’s holidays. What that means for you is, you have to search for availability, if you don’t do that it can cost you a little more but typically you can go to a resort for seven days and nights for a total of $349 to $369 dollars. If you don’t use it, that same resort can cost anywhere from $700 to $2000 depending upon the amenities available.
GM: The Wyndham Hotel Group is part of that too.
ET: Wyndham has beautiful facilities. There is another program called the Legion Insurance Trust where every member of the American Legion is given a free one thousand dollar ($1000) accidental death policy.
That is most of the programs that we associate ourselves with.
GM: So there is a ton of advantages to joining the American Legion, and they do a lot of charitable work.
ET: Absolutely. We also have members who are in nursing homes who we visit and get them Christmas gifts every year and we participate in the local Christmas parade to get people to be aware that we exist. On April 9th there is a military extravaganza at Shelby high school from 1pm and go through out the rest of the day and into the night, everyone should be aware of that if you are a veteran. There is a free concert, speakers, a celebration and a multitude of activities. There will be a big escort by the Sheriff’s Department of veterans from downtown to Shelby high.
GM: If people are interested in joining the American Legion what do they do?
ET: There are all kinds of ways to do that. If you have questions you can call me, my number is 704-600-6075 and I will be glad to help with membership or with your questions. You can also visit our post on meeting nights and have an idea of what we do. We meet on the second Monday night of each month and our post is located at 1628 South Lafayette Street in Shelby.
There is a post in Kings Mountain, Henrietta, Forest City and that post is up nearer Rutherfordton, and in Chimney Rock. I believe Cleveland County has over eight thousand veterans and currently our post membership is around two hundred and forty, so we would love to have you a part of American Legion Post 82, and at every meeting we have a meal for five dollars.
GM: I would love to see the younger guys joining the Legion.
ET: That’s right, we need the younger veterans because the American Legion members are slowly dying out. It is not being rejuvenated at the pace it ought to be. The last information I had was we may drop below two million members this year.
GM: If you are coming out of the military and trying to figure out civilian work, come to the American Legion and figure it out. Thank you Evan talking with me about the American Legion.
ET: You are welcome.
If you have any questions you can contact my office at 704–259–7040.
I’m Greg McIntyre and I’m here with Hayden Soloway and David Rose who is Hayden’s cousin.
So, Hayden, what do you know about your cousin’s military service?
HS: Mostly what he sent me. David was older than me so he was a BMOC before I went to high school. He was well known among the students, fantastic baseball player, he had a status there. He was someone I admired from a distance, so I am interested to hear about his service.
GM: What’s BMOC?
HS: Big man on campus.
GM: I’m sorry I did not know that. I’m looking at a picture here of an L20 U6A Beaver. So, you were in the Air Force?
DR: No, I was in the Army.
GM: You went from BMOC to being in the Army, to working on flying Beavers in the Air Force? But the Army had them too?
DR: Right. The Army and Air Force had Beavers, the Air Force called them U6A Beavers and the U stands for Utility. It could hold six people or you could take all the back seats out and fill it up with cargo. DeHavilland built it in Canada and initially was used by bush pilots for people going in and out for fishing expeditions. Most had floats so they could land on water. Their strength was being rugged, very dependable and could get into areas where there wasn’t much room for take offs and landings.
GM: And you were a tech inspector? What does a tech inspector do with a U6A Beaver?
DR: When I joined the Army, I joined for the aviation or to be an aviation mechanic because my brother Joe was in the Air Force and he guided me towards the aviation part. I did like airplanes and was also mechanically inclined. So, we went for basic training to Fort Jackson, South Carolina for eight weeks and then to Fort Worth, Alabama for mechanic school. The Vietnam war was just getting cranked up.
GM: What year was that?
DR: I went in August of sixty-three. I know we were there when Kennedy was assassinated, so right up to end of March nineteen-sixty-four. All of us at the graduation of aviation school were going to be sent to Vietnam, and I didn’t want to go to Vietnam, so a friend and I went around to some of the other branches, the Rangers, Special Forces, the guys who jump out of airplanes, not thinking that they would be the first ones to be sent to Vietnam. But we were turned down, so we were all sent to our facilities and I went to Fort Riley, Kansas.
GM: I have a question for you. You were a baseball player, what was your position?
DR: I played short stop, third base and left field. I had a paper round and I’d gone out for the American Legion team and had someone substitute for my paper round, and my dad came out to the field and said, Dave you need to be working, so I didn’t get to play. I played in the Army, that was where I really played baseball.
GM: So, you come out of high school, you know you are going to be drafted and you get ahead of the game by joining up, is that correct?
DR: Well, I went to college in fifty-eight at Marion College in Marion, Indiana. I lasted up until Christmas and I had a stomach problem so I came home. I worked back in Shelby, then in sixty-one to sixty-two I went back to college and then came back and knew I was going to be drafted. Initially, I wanted to go into the Navy into the nuclear submarine program, and the Navy recruiter had taken me to movies and basketball, and lunch and dinners and I was sure I was going in, and then the USS Thresher sank. I think they had two nuclear submarines sink in that era, so the night before they were supposed to pick me up and take me to Columbia, I called and said I’m not going. So, I joined the Army to get in the aviation program.
Your question was about the tech inspector.
‘GM: It was but you’re coming from Shelby, North Carolina, you’ve been to college then join the Army and go to boot camp, how was that experience?
DR: It was wonderful. In high school I was in the band, and in the band you march, in the Army you march. At Fort Jackson we were put in a company. We were in the presence of the Drill Instructors and they took us upstairs into a barracks, beds two high, and said, we need to get these beds lined up. Well, nobody really wanted to do it, so I said, come on guys we need to get this done because we have to do it, then we can go off. This Drill Sergeant was on the stairs listening and heard me for lack of better words, take charge, and for that and the fact that I knew how to march, I was made a squad leader. I didn’t have to do KP, I didn’t have to do guard duty, I didn’t have to do any of the functions the others had to because I was their leader.
GM: I had a similar situation in boot camp where I was the A-Rod, and that was the second in command of the division and that person marches everyone around. I was a young kid from the South, we were in Chicago, Great Lakes for boot camp and I could sing and I got fed up with people messing up the first week so I stepped up, and that gave me rank coming out and leadership possibilities and got me off certain duties.
DR: Squad leader had what we called ‘acting jacks,’ which were bands on our arms with corporal stripes on them so they were temporary. I still have those.
GM: So you enjoyed boot camp? I did too. Most people don’t say they enjoyed boot camp.
DR: I may not have enjoyed it as far as what everybody else had to do, KP, guard duty and things like that.
GM: You graduate from there, then what?
DR: Fort Rucker, Alabama Aviation School and then to Fort Riley, Kansas. We were supposed to be able to work on the airplanes when we graduated as the school was thorough and I was first in my class at tech. There was a guy there from Florida and he had gotten an air frame and engine degree from Emory University and we were just neck and neck the whole time, I was first he was second, he was first I was second. In the final exam, the question he missed which put me in first place was, if the engine has fluctuating oil pressure what does it cause? And it had, low oil levels, bubbles in the oil which was the answer, and I think he answered low oil which gave me first, that was one of my claims to fame.
GM: How did you get assigned to a squadron of Beavers?
DR: At Fort Riley we were just mechanics. We weren’t assigned any particular airplane. The unusual thing at Fort Riley was there were a number of civilian mechanics and those mechanics didn’t want us Army guys infringing on their time, they didn’t want us to take their jobs, so we did other things. I shot on the rifle team for special troops, I played baseball for special troops, I drove the jeep for the company commander and hardly ever worked on an airplane until orders came to go to tech inspectors school at Fort Eustace, Virginia. From tech inspectors school I was sent to Korea and that’s where the Beavers were. My airplane was five-one-one-six-eight-four-zero (5116840), it was Army green and later on they started camouflaging them with tan, green, blue and things like that.
In Korea, basically all we had at our facility were Beavers and the L19 which was called the Bird-Dog which was a two seater single engine aircraft, one person in front and one in back. We had a lot of Beavers and Bird-Dogs, and on the other side we had helicopters. I just became infatuated with the Beavers and choose the aircraft to be mine. Finally, I was made crew chief of that airplane. The funny things is, when they flew my airplane they would say, why does your airplane fly faster than the other ones we fly, something like seventeen hundred and fifty (1750) rpms for cruising, and there would be an indicator for speed and it might be ten to twelve miles an hour faster than another one, and I said, I wax the leading edge of the rails. At the school, TBAVN7 technical bulletin aviation seven says, you do not wax airplanes, and I said, I know that, they said, TBAVN7 says you don’t wax them, and I said, why does it say it, you don’t need to know that, that’s the law. Instead of waxing the airplane, I just waxed the leading edge of everything, the landing gear, the wings and it made it fly faster.
GM: Do you know why you can’t wax an airplane?
DR: I don’t because TBAVN7 said you can’t.
GM: How was your duty in Korea?
DR: Korea was good. The thing about being in aviation is you always have to be close to an improved facility. You have to have water, electricity, air compressors, whatever you do in the field. We did on occasion have to bivouac like the regular soldiers, once or twice a year. There was a grass strip behind the hangar and we would pitch our tents there and they would come over and drop flour bags to simulate bombs and bring food out to us, so that was our tough living.
GM: Did you have any experiences in Korea that were memorable?
DR: Yeah, one of them is tough. At my base I was crew chief and they sent me down to Daegu to a facility that was a Korean Air Force base with the US Air Force and the US Army. In that facility we would take the airplanes apart, disassemble them. You have to do this every few years, or after so many flying hours, then check everything, put it back together.
GM: Did you ever put it back together and were left with one part?
DR: No, there were no left over parts. So, it was payday on the last day of the month in September sixty-five, and the Koreans on the other side had just finished rebuilding an F80, the T33 which is the trainer version and carries two people. Well a Korean guy came in my office and said, Rose, they’re about ready to test the T33, you wont to go fly in a jet? I said, yes I do. I got my helmet and was all ready to go and they left me by myself as the airplane was gone through and I thought I probably shouldn’t go, so I said, tell them to go on, maybe some other time. In about twenty minutes there was sirens and all hell broke loose. The plane had taken off and was supposed to make a left turn after take-off but instead it took a right turn and crashed into a mountain and the pilot was killed of course. I called my headquarters and told them what had happened. They brought the pilot down and someone who was there said, glad you didn’t go. By doing my duty and staying there it saved my life.
GM: That’s a powerful story. Glad you didn’t make that flight.
DR: Exactly. That was the worst thing that happened. Everything else was wonderful.
The good thing is, and I like to tell this story, all the planes I worked on or inspected, I never had one that couldn’t take off when it was supposed to, couldn’t complete its mission or had to make a forced landing. That was perfect, I like that.
GM: And as a tech inspector that’s your job to make sure the aircraft works properly.
DR: If you were to work on say, the prop, or do something with the end of the flight controls, that’s known as a safety flying condition, I had to go behind you and look at your work and then sign off on it by signing my name that everything was okay. When you sign your name, you really want to make sure everything was okay.
GM: How long were you in the Army?
DR: Three years.
GM: During that time you played baseball?
DR: That was when we couldn’t work on airplanes because of the civilians, I had nothing else to do and I was on the special troops baseball team.
GM: And you got paid to play on the special troops baseball team?
DR: Well, Army pay, yes, and we were undefeated, but I hurt my knee sliding, and I hurt my hip sliding so I decided I wasn’t going to slide anymore. I was so fast I could steal second base and not slide.
GM: So, you go to Korea, work on the U6A Beaver and you had a spotless track record there and an eye for perfectionism and being meticulous which I guess you have to be. Then you come out of the military, where do you go in civilian life?
DR: Well, there’s still Vietnam. When I came back from Korea, I was sent to Fort Belvoir, Virginia as a tech inspector. They were starting a new aviation company in Thailand and I was the only single unmarried tech inspector at Fort Belvoir, so I got volunteered to go to Thailand for four hundred and twenty days TDY (temporary duty). I think I sent Hayden a copy of the letter of commendation that I got for two engine changes, which is pretty technical on U6As. One night in the company area, one of the Captains said, Rose pack your bags for ten days we’re going to Saigon, and go to the supply sergeant and get yourself a pistol. I’d never shot a pistol before in the Army, and the supply Sergeant said, are you qualified to fire one of these? I said, no, and he said, well, you can take the pistol but I can’t give you any ammunition, so I said, what do I need a pistol for if I don’t have any bullets? One of the Captains said, here I’ve got bullets for everyone, and he had a whole flack bag full of bullets and we got on the airplane.
The deal was, we were flying two airplanes to Saigon and leaving one there. There was another plane that came in from Corpus Christi Texas in a box. It had been delivered to Saigon and we went over to put it together, test fly it and fly it back to Thailand. It took us ten days to do that. I didn’t get out of Saigon to look around but it was a pretty place. One night I was on the roof of the USO building watching a movie called ‘The Ugly American,’ and while we watched that movie you could hear in the distance, boom, boom, from the sound of artillery, it was an unreal situation. That was my Vietnam experience.
Another thing, there was this fellow I knew who was a helicopter mechanic at Fort Eustace and we got word that he was killed in an accident in Colorado. When we pulled up after landing in Saigon, there was a guy giving us the signals to come in and it was that guy, it was fake news. I said to him, hey you’re supposed to be dead, and he said, what? I said, we got word you were killed in an accident in Colorado. It was obviously false news. He came up to me later and said, would you like to go out on a mission tonight as a gunner on a hughey, that’s the UH1 helicopter that they used in Vietnam and I said, yeah, that sounds like fun, then I started to think, if I’m shooting at somebody they’re probably going to be shooting back at me, so I declined.
HS: I didn’t realize you had that many decisions to make. I thought you went where they told you to go?
GM: I always tell people this, anything you have in the civilian world, the military has it. We interviewed a guy recently called Martin Mongiello and he had been to hotel management school in the Navy and was a cook in the Navy. He ended up cooking at the White House and Camp David. Anything you want to do in the civilian world you can learn in the military and they will pay you for it. I could have come out of the Navy working on electronics or aviation electronics. I could have gone private sector and come back as a contractor or gone to work for Boeing or someone like that. I decided on a different direction. So, what did you do when you got out of the military?
DR: I should have continued in aviation but I didn’t. I went to work for a life insurance company in Virginia. My Dad was in the insurance business all his life so he sort of lead me that way, but I knew quite quickly that that wasn’t for me. I started in August of sixty-six until May of sixty-seven, when I started working for Nabisco and worked there until seventy-nine. That was a good job, it was very labor intensive. Then I worked for a company out of St Louis, Missoura, and then worked for Panasonic from eighty-four until ninety-one.
GM: So, how do you think the military shaped your life?
DR: My job as a tech inspector gave me more confidence. I thought when I came out I was a changed person. I was more confident, I interacted with people better and I seemed to grow up I guess you would say. It did me good.
GM: It is amazing the responsibility the military puts on the shoulders of young kids.
DR: I think every person should spend some time in the military, whether it be a year or two, I think everybody needs that experience.
GM: Get away from home, grow up a little bit, take more responsibility, you learn about yourself more than anything. Whether you stay in for the rest of your life or not is not relevant. You could but you don’t have to. You will carry that confidence with you, and you can learn it. I thought, these military schools are there for me to pass and do well if I put my time and effort into it and apply that to college or law school or anything, and you have the confidence to do it. I could live on my own without having to rely on my mom or dad all the time. Kids live at home now until they’re thirty.
HS: My grandson came out of the military an entirely different person. He was one of those who just got carried along through school and didn’t make great grades. He was first or second in the competitions he was in when in the military and just came out totally different. He’s goal driven and he wants to be a teacher and a coach. He never would have had the confidence or the inclination to do it otherwise.
GM: I think there is a misconception about being in the military. You can complete your education and come out with money and continue in further education. There is a lot of benefits to being in the military.
DR: Everything is available to you in the military, just pay attention and take advantage of what they offer you.
GM: I think getting outside of your town, whether you live in Shelby or a larger place it doesn’t matter, and learning that it’s a great big world out there. It adds to the way you think and how you see the world. That’s important.
DR: Going from Shelby, North Carolina to meeting someone from California is strange. And if you’re from North Carolina and you’re in Korea and meet somebody from Fayetteville, you think of them as brothers.
GM: I spent a lot of time in Asia when I was in the Navy and we went to South Korea but never made it out to where you were. We were in Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore and hit Australia a couple of times, and the Middle East we were at Bahrain, Abu-Dhabi and Dubai.
DR: So, you have seen the world.
GM: It’s an eye-opening experience just to get out of town and see the world. Thank you for talking with me today it has been a pleasure and thank you for your service.
I’m Greg McIntyre of McIntyre Elder Law. If you have any questions call our office at 704–259–7040.
I’m Greg McIntyre and I’m here with Tom Haines, (not Tom Hanks) and his wife Nancy and she has just handed me this awesome art of Tom Haines, the author of ‘SNAFU My Vietnam Vacation — 1969.’ The art shows Tom standing as the peace symbol. That’s a big gun.
TH: That’s a M60.
GM: And the ammunition.
TH: That’s some heavy stuff. The rucksack that we carried was sixty pounds, then whatever else we carried was additional weight, boonies for an entire day being designated as the bearer of M60 ammunition, and at six foot three and one hundred-sixty-five pounds, it wasn’t easy.
GM: My grandfather was part of a three man machine gun unit in world war two marching from Le Harve, France into the battle of the Bulge, but three of them would split up that gun and carry it. Did you have a team you carried that with?
TH: No, but let me start from the beginning. I got my diploma and a BS in Marketing from Gannon University in one hand and my draft notice in the other.
GM: Where’s Gannon University?
TH: Erie, Pennsylvania. I graduated in 1967 and my dad was in the post office and I hadn’t got my draft notice handed to me but he knew I was on the list. He gave me a heads up and said, well, now you’ve got your choice. You can go into the Marines, or Coast Guard, or Navy, or Air, or Army, whatever and pick out what it is you want to do. That way you’re not stuck on going straight to combat for your training. Without a lot of thought I choose the Army because that was what my dad was in during world war two. In fact, he was shot in battle which took him out of action for six months.
So, I picked the Army, and then as far as what branch I wanted to go into, I got to the induction at the recruitment center and the gentleman there said, you are perfect material to be an officer. What I did was, I ended up being accepted at the officer candidate school at Fort Benning. I went to Fort Dix and went through basic training and then went through advanced infantry training. Then I was sent to Fort Benning for twelve weeks of officer candidate infantry training, so I was really qualified for the infantry. I decided to shorten my stay in the twelfth week along with seven other guys that quit as well. We were headed to the center for sending you to Vietnam. We were going to that compound and there was a First Sergeant behind a building looking around the corner out of a B-Movie going, ‘Pssst, psssst,’ he was giving us the sign of, come over here I need to talk with you. So, we went over and he said, Guys, I’m the First Sergeant of the Scout Dog Unit, I need four scout dog handlers. The training will take an extra twelve weeks and who knows, the war may be over by then. I remembered the only advice my dad gave me, don’t ever volunteer. So, what did I do, I volunteered.
They took us to the scout dog unit and next morning he calls us in to give us our assignments and he said, guys, I lied to you. We all went, oh no. He said, I don’t need any scout dog handlers, what I need is a truck dispatcher, a veterinary technician, a clerk typist and a supply specialist and luckily each one of us picked the one we wanted and there were no conflicts. So, for the next year I was at Fort Benning in the scout dog unit.
I had about nine months left in the service and every time my orders came down from Vietnam my First Sergeant would pull them. He said, I can’t let this guy go. He’s too crucial to the running of this unit. Well, he was on vacation when the orders came in so there was no one to pull them. So, we got our orders to go to Vietnam.
When I got there, I had three days for my processing, and when that was done we went to this one room and everyone there was saying, the guy behind that door is going to send everyone in this room to somewhere in Vietnam. We had no idea where, whether it was safe or not, of course there was nowhere safe in Vietnam but it was all up to that guy. So, it came my turn to go in the room and he had his head down doing some paperwork and then he looked up and I said, you’ve got to be kidding me, he was one of the other four guys who didn’t volunteer for the scout dog unit. He said, he got off the plane and they saw he had a college degree and sat him right down and he hadn’t been more than a mile from that building the whole time he was there. So, he said, where do you want to go? And I said, some place safe. He said, I can’t make you as safe as the gold in Fort Knox but I can send you to some place that’s not showing much action right now. I’ll send you to Pleiku. At Pleiku and I went to sign in with another First Sergeant and he looked at my orders and just about blew it. He said, what shit for brains sent you here as a specialist for supply? I said, I don’t know why, this is what they gave me. So, he said, I don’t need you in supply let’s look at your records, what’s your secondary MOS. Well, I was more qualified for the infantry than almost 95% of people in Vietnam. He asked me, do you have a military driving license? No. Do you know anything about engines? I can’t tell the front from the back. Can you drive a jeep? Not really. And he said, you’re not making this easy for me son. Then he said, do you know where to put gas in a jeep? I said, yeah, there’s a hole in the front next to the driver on the side. You’re my man, CO’s driver, you start tomorrow.
That was twice I was taken out of the infantry because of my college degree. At one point while I was there, I got really irritated because I was pulling guard anti-reaction, all these things where you’re on the ready to go out into the field if need be at the last second, which happened once, the rest of the time I was driving but I didn’t much of that because I kept getting put on the list. Well, he was walking up the plank and I had a bar of soap and I slammed it on the ground and he looked at me and said, you got a problem son? I said, yeah, when was the last time you saw me? He said, I don’t know, a week or two, I said, yeah, because I go on guard duty and right to reaction and back to guard duty, that’s not what I’m trained for. I want to go out in the field. He said, no, what I’ll do is send you somewhere about sixty miles away back in supply. Again, this was because I had a college degree. A lot of people said that didn’t take place but it did, a lot.
Being a driver ended up being a minus because I was all over the two core area of Vietnam where I was exposed to agent orange, and I am now suffering from that exposure.
GM: So, what’s the moral of this story?
TH: Get your education.
GM: But the military is always selective on who they send out and put in harm’s way.
I went in to the Navy before I finished my college degree and finished up while I was there and one of the main motivational factors to knock that out and move forward was that I knew the only difference between me and the officer was essentially a college degree. That’s important and it sounds like it had a big effect on what happened to you but you weren’t satisfied with that, you really wanted to see some action.
TH: Yeah, I was in that category, I’m invincible, I was 23 or 24 years old and it’s amazing how many people think that. When I was a kid I used to play war with those little green plastic men, creating situations but of course none of those guys were dead. They were all alive and aiming their rifles. You don’t really think of the fact that, well, it might be in the back of your mind but, I might get killed.
My dad might easily have died, he got shot in the back in a crossfire sniper attack, the bullet ricocheted of his trenching tool and missed his heart by this much. So, I knew that, and if you’re going to be in a battle, there is a chance you’re not coming back. I made a lot of impetuous decisions. The reason I dropped out of OCS was because it dawned on me that I was going to be responsible for the lives of 43 other people and I wasn’t prepared for that.
GM: They showed that in the movies of those days, Full Metal Jacket, Platoon, there was a series at one time about Vietnam where they would put this young green officer out there with the enlisted gristled war vets.
TH: If you didn’t do your job, there was a chance that your own men would take you out. That happened more than once. My room-mate who went through all this with me until we got to that little room, they put him in an MP unit and I’m not sure where it was but he told me some stories where you just shake your head and say, this is insane. The war was insane in itself, there was no reason for us to be there.
The reason for being in Vietnam changed a number of times. Now we’re here for this reason, now we’ve got to stay because of this reason.
GM: Now, I wasn’t actually alive at that time but from what I’ve read, the initial reason to go in, or at least the way it was sold to the American people was to fight the spread of communism, to hold that line between North and South Vietnam.
TH: That was the initial reason. It changed because the head of the country, Diem died and the new guy coming in made everything worse. It was basically a civil war between North and South but we were fighting it as a regional kind of thing and afraid that communism would overtake the entire region, and thus make our situation a lot worse.
GM: That seemed to be the legitimate reason to be there in the beginning perhaps.
TH: Then we didn’t fight the war to win it.
GM: In fact, it was never declared an official war.
TH: It was not a war it was a conflict. What I got out of it was really interesting stories. I was only there for 5 months, 13 days, 12 hours, 7 minutes and 6 seconds, give or take a second, because I was short going over and they allowed you to get out of the Army early to go back to school. I didn’t want a Masters so I went to East Carolina University to their School of Art. I have a BFA candidate, and the reason for that is, I did all my course work, everything done but I never did my senior show which was a requirement to get your degree. That was because I went into the night club business and it started eating up all my time.
GM: Looking at your bio, it’s very interesting going from college in Pennsylvania to Vietnam to college in ECU and then to being in the night club business hanging out with all these cool cats in the day.
TH: The reason I ended up in the night club business was they tripled the tuition for out of state students. I’m from upstate New York in a little village called Endicott. That little village was the home of IBM. Because I was from New York my tuition was going to triple and I knew I couldn’t afford that but if I dropped out of school and went to work for six months in North Carolina then I could become a resident. So, I just went around looking for places to work and I found this night club that was closed, it was a pretty big one, capacity was close to eight hundred. I got an appointment with the owner and I said, I’m going to make this easy for you, I know what beer tastes like, I know what rock and roll sounds like, I’m your man. He said, okay, you know what beer tastes like, you know what rock and roll sounds like, you’ll work on commission won’t you? So, I did. We struggled for a year or two and the club ended up staying open for thirty years and a week. The main reason for that was, we decided early on that we weren’t just going to be a rock club. We did jazz, we did beach music, we did heavy metal, punk and pop, even Christian music two or three times a week.
GM: Did you evolve with the times?
TH: We didn’t change with the times because we never got involved with disco. That came in really heavy during the time. We picked and choose the music we were going to do. We never did rap or country but we did a lot of country rock and blue grass. Then we latched onto comedy and starting doing that, and that got me into the comedy business after twenty years at the Attic. I switched over came to Charlotte and worked with the comedy zones, the largest comedy club.
GM: Did you manage the zone?
TH: I was part club owner and I did most of the booking. In fact, between me and one other guy at the company we booked more comedians than any agency on earth.
GM: Did you meet everyone personally?
TH: I met quite a few of them.
GM: Who are some of the people that you met?
TH: Let’s see, Ellen DeGeneres, Steve Harvey, Greg Allman, the list was quite extensive, I’m just drawing blanks right now. We did the Pointer Sisters and we did that when we were selected to do a concert on NBC at primetime. It was called the Blue Jean Network and we were the only night club in the history of the state to ever have a full concert on national primetime TV. That was a nice feather in the cap, and then a few years later Playboy magazine selected us as one of the top one hundred college bars in the country.
GM: That was the Attic in Greenville North Carolina?
TH: Yeah. We were also on the cover of Performance magazine which was the international magazine for the industry.
GM: It’s not your standard career path getting involved in night clubs and promotion and management but a career path and quite fun I guess.
TH: Oh yeah, it was, and going back to what you said earlier about Tom Hanks, I used to call Hollywood on a fairly regular basis, I never had a problem getting through because the second the secretary answered the phone, I’d say, just tell them Tom Haines is calling, and they heard Tom Hanks, and I never had a problem getting through to anybody.
GM: There’s a couple of things that interest me about military service and about the Vietnam war in particular, one is your experiences, and two is the psychological effects of what was going on between the different movements, the peace movement and the movement to end the war. You were over there at the time, right?
TH: It actually started before I went, the summer of love and all that.
GM: So, you were affected by that prior to going over?
TH: Right, in fact we were called into formation one morning but not at formation time so everybody was saying, what’s this about? They got us out there and usually it would be a First Sergeant or a Lieutenant who would talk to us, but it was the Captain. He said, gentlemen, the rest of our day is going to be focused on riot control. There were four or five different ways to control a riot, then he said, then we’re headed out to a college campus, but it ended up not happening, thank God. That was something I would definitely not been into.
GM: I feel the whole country was behind our world war two veterans but Vietnam veterans did not get that full backing, and it was because of the different views of whether this was a just war or what the purpose was, and how that affects you as a soldier who is over there, or do you not worry about it? Is it demoralizing?
TH: And the thing is one of the key elements of the war was, it was a guerilla war which gave us a slim chance of winning.
GM: I have spoken with people who said, during the day they worked with people who might have been an office clerk or something who might actually be involved with the movement on the other side who you would be fighting at night.
TH: I was driving back from, I wasn’t in a jeep, it was a two ton truck and I had just come back from delivering something, and there was this little boy walking down the road dragging this box behind him, he was real thin and really pitiful looking, and I stopped. I didn’t know there was a little girl straddling the ditch urinating, and she just jumped up and started bolting across this field, she thought I was going to molest her. There were all kinds of feelings about the Vietnamese people towards Americans, North Vietnamese, the Vietcong, and even the French before we got there. They’d been at war for three hundred years. So, then I looked at him and he was kind of startled, and I said, you want a ride, and he recognized the word ride and said, yeah, yeah, yeah, and he said, take home, and I said, yeah, I’ll take you home. So, he jumped in and I had a sub sandwich on the seat and he kept on eyeing it and I said, hungry, and he went into that thing and it was gone in a matter of seconds. Actually, when I stopped and picked him up, you know when you pick up a gallon a milk when you don’t know it’s empty, that’s how it was when I picked him up, I threw him into the air because I thought I would need the strength to pick him up, but I didn’t. He got a big kick out of that. So, we drove down into Pleiku and he said, house, and I said, I can’t take you there it’s off limits. He didn’t understand of course There was a sign that said, no military personnel beyond this point. Well, rules are meant to be broken, and so I broke a rule and turned into the neighborhood so to speak. It was just an unbelievable third world. The Vietnamese took care of their own homes very nicely, cleaned them and swept them, but once you were out of the house, the streets were just piled high as far as you could see with garbage. How often someone picked it up I don’t know, but it smelled pretty bad. So, I’m driving down the road and after about a half mile or so, he hits the floor hard, he went down and covered up his head and said, VC, VC. I looked out the window and there’s a guy standing there and he had a package in his hand, and our eyes locked and stared. I’m feeling for my M16 and there was a water buffalo crossing the road and we just stared at each other. The buffalo made it across the road and I started up again and I looked in the rearview mirror and he was just starring at us the whole time. I said to the kid, you sure he was VC? He nodded and said VC. He was very insistent. The people in Pleiku knew who were VC and who weren’t. That’s one of things that made the war so difficult, it was a guerilla war. Somebody said to me, you were in Pleiku, you must have been pretty safe during the war? No, rocket attacks would take place and there was always that fear of death but most people just accepted that they were going to get by. I ended up with about thirty percent PTSD from the experiences I encountered.
GM: Do you go into all those in your book SNAFU?
TH: Oh yeah, not all.
GM: I was reading the book and you have a very funny writing style.
TH: I was in the comedy business for twenty years and I wore all the hats. I was club owner, booker, I wrote comedy, I ended up on Jay Leno’s facts team and he closed with one of my jokes one night. I wrote for Carrot Top and a bunch of comedians, I also managed comedians. I co-managed Rodney Carrington, and I was on Carrot Tops management team.
GM: How do you think your military experience affected your life? How did that help, hurt or stimulate different course?
TH: It definitely set me on a different course, unintentional but it worked out pretty good in the end. If they hadn’t tripled tuition for out of state students, ECU was a party school but they did have a really good art school, school of medicine, school of business. It was a really good school but these people knew how to party, so, being ion the night club business, it was a good town to be in.
GM: Some people are interested in experiences, some are interested in going into the military and for me, going into the military enabled me to sort some things out, become independent, get out on my own and be disciplined I guess. I won’t say the military gave that to me but it certainly provided some structure that I felt I needed at the time. I was not ready to go to a place like ECU at eighteen.
TH: I had a lot of leadership positions when I was at Gannon, I was president of three different organizations, which is why they thought I would be perfect as an officer.
GM: You already had those leadership qualities at Gannon before you went into the military?
TH: Right. I want to tell you one more story before we wrap up because this was an interesting one. I had just gone on twenty-four hour guard duty, I had an eight or nine day beard growth because I was never in base camp I was always out doing other things, and some guy came up to me and said, do you know how to type? And I said, yeah, and he said, okay I got a thing for you, and they had me type up the death reports of two of the guys who were killed by our own men. It was a helicopter accident that decapitated one guy and killed the second one. They assigned a guy to work with me and this guy was like luney tunes to say the least. He was going through the guys things and putting this to go home and that to throw away but he decided to reverse it. He took a pack of condoms and a Playboy magazine to go home, and some letters he had written to his parents to get thrown away, and I said, what are doing? I made him change it over and that was the end of that, but while I was finishing it up, and you had to hit the keys on the typewriter pretty hard, this guy comes in and he says, is your name Haines? I said, yeah. He said, CO’s got a detail for you. I said, while don’t you go tell the CO to find someone else, I’m busy. He said, you can’t do that, anyway I’m off duty. So, I went up there and knocked on the door really hard and came in and immediately I said, sir whatever assignment you had I’m not going to be doing it, and he said, okay. Now, when someone says to their commanding officer, I’m not doing it, and the CO says, okay, that’s not right, so, I turned and said, just out of curiosity what was it you wanted me to do? He said, well, I saw you were from up-state New York and Miss America and her runner ups are going to be here and I thought you might just want to escort Miss New York state but you said you weren’t interested so. So, he said, sit down and we’ll discuss it, and he looked at me and said, when was the last time I saw you? Because of my nine day’s hair growth. Take today off, take two days off and make shaving part of that detail.
We went to pick up the girls and they flew in on a helicopter. They were coming towards us when another helicopter with all their stuff was landing and it was noisy. They were trying to introduce each other, and I shouted, which Miss state are you? And she said, huh, which mistake am I? I said, no, no, which miss state? She was Miss Kentucky and asked where I was from, and I said New York, and she grabbed this other girl by the arm and pulls her over, and said this is Patricia Burmeister and she is Miss New York state.
So, we were there escorts the whole time. There was a big show they were putting on that night and I checked the duty board and my name was down for guard duty so I was going to miss the whole show and I thought, that ain’t going to happen. What I did was go to her and I said, I’d like to see your show tonight, and she said, of course you’re going to see the show, why would you not, and I said I was put on guard duty. She said I think I can talk to someone and get you off, and she did. I watched the show and was back on guard duty the next morning.
GM: The book is called SNAFU and you can read about it at thebooksnafu.com where you can read three chapters of the book. Thank you, Tom for taking time to talk to me and thank you for your service.
TH: Thank you, I appreciate it.
If you have any questions you can contact my office at 704–259–7040.
Hi I’m Greg McIntyre, I’m here with Hayden Soloway and today we are talking about spring training.
I thought about this because it’s coming up to spring training season for baseball but this is about spring training for life and getting your bases covered. There are four foundations of elder law that everyone out there from eighteen to one hundred and fifty years old should have covered.
So Hayden, what do you have for us?
HS: Well, we talked about covering our bases and going through the steps to accomplish our goals and I got curious about baseball in general. To me baseball is little league and weekends at the ball park but I started looking at the stats of baseball and there are some interesting things here. Most baseball fans know that Pete Rose has the all-time record for hits, four thousand two hundred and fifty six (4256), and he played three thousand five hundred and sixty two (3562) games.
GM: And regardless of what anyone things of him, he was the best player to ever play the game of baseball, ever. That’s my opinion. You’re going to disagree with me because you’ve got the stats.
HS: No, well, I’m a Cal Ripken fan, he was there every single day and he was dependable but I have become a Yankees fan because my husband is from Brooklyn and he grew up with tickets to the Yankees and the Jets.
GM: A Jets fan huh. Let me tell you why I think Pete Rose is the best player of all time. He was a switch hitter, meaning he had home run power from both sides. He was a mean dude on the baseball field. He didn’t care how big you were, how tough you thought you were, he was running over you if you got in his way. He was steaming home. He had speed, he could steal a base and was an amazing fielder. Rose made it out there whether he was hurt or not and he ran out every ball to first base, foul ball, dropped third strike from the catcher, he was running it out. He didn’t just hustle though, he was a very talented baseball player.
HS: He was an example for a little leaguer.
GM: So, how do you teach a little leaguer to play? Watch how Pete Rose played big league ball. But just like Michael Jordan, there is a lot of players out there who can jump like Michael Jordan and who athletically could be him but they don’t have the mentality, they don’t have the mental game of Michael Jordan every time they step on a court. That’s what differentiates him from the rest, and what differentiates Pete Rose from the rest.
So, we’re talking today about rounding your bases, covering your bases. There are four bases, first, second, third and home base. What we are covering is chapter two in my book, ‘Saving the Farm.’ So, what is the first base of elder law?
HS: Power of Attorney.
GM: General Durable Power of Attorney, which is different than what people think. It really says what a power of attorney is. Do you know why a power of attorney is so important?
HS: When I need things done, I want to rely on a person I trust.
GM: I agree, you want to appoint a very trusted person. It could be a family member. If you don’t trust a person should you appoint them as your Attorney In Fact?
GM: No, you should not because it gives them the keys to your financial kingdom, so you need to appoint a trusted person. It needs to be ‘General’ because it needs to cover every possible scenario. It needs to be ‘Durable’ which means it needs to have a durability clause. A durability clause means it survives incompetency, incapacity, mental disability or lapse of life?
HS: That is a special designation you’re making for that person.
GM: That’s right, I like to set it out as a separate clause within the power of attorney entitled the durability clause. I like to entitle the power of attorney, General Durable Power of Attorney, I don’t want there to be any mistake or misunderstandings as to what this document is.
If it does not have a durability clause in it when you need it, when you are incapacitated, if you are laid up in the hospital and cannot do what you need to do with your personal business, then it doesn’t work. If you don’t have a durability clause at that time it ceases to have power. There are self-interest clauses in power of attorney where a family member such as a wife or daughter that you appoint as your attorney in fact, if you have a clause in there acting against self-interest, then that person cannot perform duties to transfer property or anything that favors or benefits them at all. It can be a real problem for some planning. It can be a safe guard if you don’t trust someone. You want to know if that is in there or not.
HS: I know by just spending times with you at signings and seminars, those documents you produced have every one of those bases covered. Every possible scenario has been researched and it is exactly what it should be.
GM: Also, it needs to be recorded at the local register of deeds in the county where you live because if it’s not and you are incapacitated or incompetent, then it is not good at that time. You can go and record it at that time but usually a family is not focused on that in an emergency situation. General Durable Power of Attorney also avoids guardianship situations. Costly, nightmare, contested (potentially in a courtroom battle) with a family member or sub third party, government agency or another attorney appointed guardian over your money and property. One document, a power of attorney, prevents that. It can save a huge headache having that in place ahead of time.
So, we are going to hustle to second base. The Healthcare Power of Attorney is similar to the General Durable Power of Attorney in that you are appointing a trusted person to make decisions for you. Why would you want to designate someone to make healthcare decisions for you?
HS: I have learned from experience when I’ve gone to the hospital they always ask who they should contact in an emergency because they need to know who that is. Who is it who knows your desires and your medical history?
GM: You know, many times you see the sister from Sacramento or the brother from Boise come in, and maybe there is a son or daughter taking care of mom or dad for years making healthcare decisions, and all of a sudden that sister or brother who hasn’t been around for a long time has a totally different view of care. So, what happens? Who is the doctor, the facility or the staff supposed to listen to? Which sibling or son or daughter do they listen to? It makes it tough on them.
I’d like to use another sports analogy here, you appoint a quarterback. Someone who talks to the doctors and nurses, to the staff and administration. It could be life or death decisions or long term planning decisions. After that they come back and huddle up with the family and they talk. That one quarterback then goes back to the doctors and nurses, staff and administration so it is one consistent message. That is very important for continuity of care, the correct care.
You want your Healthcare Power of Attorney to be HIPAA compliant so you can pull medical records and transfer medical records from facility to facility. Just try doing that without something that is HIPAA compliant. You can’t do it.
Also, with both General Durable and Healthcare Powers of Attorney you also want to think who your back-ups are to come in if your primary appointed individual is unable to fulfill that duty.
So, we are rounding second and headed to third base. Third base is Living Wills.
It is horribly misnamed because it’s not really about living and it’s not about a Will, such as passing property. The actual name that I like to refer to it as, is a ‘Declaration for a desire for a natural death.’ That is where you can take the guilt-ridden decision, and say, ‘I know I have a healthcare power of attorney who is my wife or daughter, but I want to make the decision if I am terminal, incurable, brain death has occurred, or that end of life situation, it is okay to let me go. I go ahead and release from liability my healthcare agent and perhaps the facility and doctors who are following my wishes.’
I think it is still important to keep the human element between a Healthcare Power of Attorney and Living Will, which is the ability for the Healthcare Power of Attorney to step up and say, hey wait a second, I know mom or dad better than you, we are going to wait a couple of days.
So, if we’re playing cards and Hayden has the Healthcare Power of Attorney and I have the Living Will, she can trump me. It is not just a robotic cold document. A Living Will is probably one of the most important documents you ever sign for the most important decision you’ll ever make in your life. It is important to have these things in place.
Okay, we have rounded third and are heading home. Home plate is the Will. It is the fourth foundational document. So, what does a Will do?
HS: A Will designates who will receive the things you own when you pass that you have listed.
GM: It does. Now, we have bagged on Wills and trashed Wills and said they’re just insurance, and I think they are like insurance. I think it is better to set your property up to pass outside of the Will automatically. The financial industry figured this out a long time ago. On a life insurance policy, would you want to put your estate as the beneficiary?
HS: No, I’ll put my children and grandchildren.
GM: Exactly, so why wouldn’t you set up the rest of your property to pass that way? Your land, your home, protect it and pass it outside your Will. Plus, if something passes through a Will, it is subject to probate, to liens coming in. I think a Will is still important to have in place for insurance purposes, so, if there is something that doesn’t pass automatically, something you didn’t think of, setting up something that was not set up properly in the past, then the Will picks it up and gives it to the person you wanted it to go to.
Those are my feelings about Wills and the probate process. It’s more of an insurance to get things where you wanted them to go but it’s not a guarantee. It’s not a guarantee because of the looming numbers of seventy percent (70%) of everyone over sixty five years who may need some form of long term care, assisted living, in-home or nursing home care. This eats up a lot of savings. Sometimes people lose everything they own in the last few years of their life because of the costs of that care.
So, to protect your assets like your home, what would be a home run?
HS: A Ladybird Deed.
GM: That’s right, a Ladybird Deed. So, what is a Ladybird Deed or Advanced Life Estate deed or Enhanced Life Estate Deed as it’s sometimes called?
HS: A Ladybird Deed is a type of life estate deed. It takes the home and designates who it will go to when you pass away but you maintain control of it during your lifetime, and avoids the Medicaid look back period and spend down.
GM: So, you have a look back period for some benefits before Medicaid will come in and offer a healthcare benefit for say, nursing home or assisted living care. The look back is five (5) years for nursing home, three (3) years for assisted living care. A Ladybird Deed can be placed on your house right now under North Carolina policy and you can apply for benefits next month and get them, and they could not touch the house. It avoids the look back periods. That would be the home run.
That foundational package, those four bases, plus the home run would be a great package to put in place for most seniors in North Carolina. It would protect your home and save it for your loved ones. You can read all about this in my book ‘Saving the Farm, a guide to the legal maze of aging in America.’
If you have any questions you can contact my office at 704–259–7040.
I’m Greg McIntyre with a special chef’s version of lunch with a veteran today. Martin Mongiello is executive director of the United States Presidential Service Center and owner of The Inn of the Patriots. He is a 30 Year retired military vet, chef to Presidents, stars and a lucky few under the polar ice cap in a submarine and others.
So, how does a young guy say to himself, I want to do this and somehow the military is going to be a part of it?
MM: I was seventeen, I was trying to do something with my life. I did not want to wait and waste away and I was smart enough to get out of town. That was the first time I flew on an airship. We landed in Texas so I put a check mark for Texas, then I transferred and landed in San Diego for boot camp.
I was just putting one foot in front of the other. I swore up and down there was no way I would sign up for anything beyond four years. It was scary to me, but I ended up retiring in, that’s how hilarious it is. When you’re younger you don’t look back like we do now, and I think that is one of the biggest secrets of life. Listen to the old people because they are trying to tell you something, it’s always coming through in their speech, it’s a message.
GM: You feel like a lot of people are in a hurry, for instance, my seventeen year old is always in such a hurry to do everything perfectly, and get everything done and get into college early. I think we are in too much of a hurry. Learn a trade, a skill, a job, sure, but travel the world and have a great time.
MM: I was afraid to travel the world. For the first ten years, they offer you things like, go live in Japan, all expenses paid, or we’ll fly you and your household goods and you can live in Europe, and I was like, there is no way I’m leaving where I’m from and my family. How silly was that? It took ten years to get pass that. I lived out on Point Loma. That’s the nice part of San Diego, that’s some of the highest priced real estate.
GM: When people think about a military base, they don’t understand. The military bases I was on, the Naval air station North Island, the golf course there looks like something out of a pro golf tournament. You’ve got beautiful weather, the ocean, Point Loma has all the yachts.
MM: People have a lot of their weddings out there if they’re in the military.
GM: I remember the gym I was working out at on North Island, it was several hangars strung together. They would open the hangar doors, there was six basketball courts in there, weights or whatever you wanted. I always had time to do it during my day. I was looking out at several aircraft carriers parked just across the road and the city of San Diego in the back ground. It was a view and that was your day.
MM: I was surface warfare qualified and submarine warfare qualified and I had a weird opportunity where I never even knew I was interviewed by White House military office to do a job. Where I was going, Camp David, was a Seabee run command, so I was a Seabee for a couple of years without having any Seabee training.
GM: So, Seabees are people who put up construction.
MM: Airstrips and such. Camp David was always in need of endless construction. We built a few cabins while I was there and just kept up the facility. It is on top of a mountain after all.
GM: We build, we fight.
MM: Yeah. Who knew I was going to be a Seabee, I never planned on that.
GM: But food is your life, and centers around it, and that is something that people who aren’t involved in the military, especially the Navy, may not know. From second hand knowledge, my suspicions are the Navy has some of the best food. I can tell you, even going out on aircraft carriers the cooks are serious about their job. It’s one of the best run departments on the ship.
MM: Any number of entrees.
GM: They will fry up an omelet with anything you want in it, and you learn to order quick because they are servicing so many people. Hash, bacon, sausage whatever.
MM: Food has certainly gotten better in the military.
GM: I heard submarines have some of the best food.
MM: They do, we get more money so it makes it easier per day. You can get fifty-five or so more per person per day, so instead of feeding a human with seven dollars and fourteen cents, you’ve got seven dollars and seventy cents. I know that doesn’t sound like a lot to people but that is what food costs the US Government. People might say, how can you feed a person for seven dollars fourteen cents a day? When I first went in the Navy in eighty three right out of high school, we had a lot of junk food. We had third world butter and stuff that was clearly marked for donation by US Aid program. That was what we fed sailors and marines, some of the worst products, and contributed medically to terrific damage cardiovascularly. In the beginning when I first came in we used animal lard and the Navy was very proud we were switching to Crisco? We would only be ingesting Crisco from now on. What we know now is eating Crisco is also not a good thing. Crisco is kind of horrific. You get smarter and you change what you’re doing so the food has come a long way.
About that ten year mark in the Navy, when I was recruited by the White House military office, just as I started doing a lot more than managing hotels, I started managing private homes. The biggest homes you could manage would be the Presidents private home.
GM: How do you get to that point? You went in the military, you were a Seabee, how did you start cooking? Did you start cooking in the military?
MM: Yes. I was cooking in my house from around the age of four. I always loved cooking, so when I went into the military that was a huge aspiration. To pay for my private all boys catholic high school, which was very expensive, I worked in Italian restaurants and for iHop and worked these all summer long so I could save enough. In my senior year I worked full time at iHop which was hilarious. Twenty one years later when I was retiring, the CEO of iHop sent me an apron, hat and a letter to my retirement ceremony. It was hilarious to see it come full circle. That’s how I got cooking, and that lead me to hotel management school in the Navy.
GM: Why would the Navy have hotel management school?
MM: Because of barracks, housing millions of sailors on land per year. As soon as I graduated from that, I did four years at sea which is how the Navy goes, when you’ve done that you get to come on land. My first duty station on land was a huge resort in Pensacola Florida, the cradle of Naval aviation, that’s where I had a fifteen hundred room hotel that I was helping to manage. I was one of the managers and on duty general manager of the entire resort. That was a massive responsibility for a twenty or something year old. I was like twenty two, and that’s how the military works.
GM: They give you massive responsibilities at a young age.
MM: The military philosophy is, push down the most responsibility as humanly possible onto the eighteen years old back, neck and face. If it’s not something that’s unsafe, it will be pushed down onto them. Then if you want to become a chief, I was acquainted with the philosophy of, here’s how we will know if you are a good chief or not. When you go on thirty day vacation, called leave in the military, if everything runs like a clock and no-one can tell you’re gone for a month, and we don’t need to call to ask one single thing, or send an email or text, you have done your job as Chief Petty Officer. If stuff goes out of control or haywire, then you’ve not done your job.
GM: That’s because you are doing everything as the chief to keep everything running? Instead of delegating it to other people.
MM: That’s the problem, the military teaches that you will not hide any information, or skills, you will immediately remove all knowledge you bring to the workforce and give it to the eighteen year old, which is different than out in town. People hide information for job security, they won’t teach everything to some snot nose kid.
GM: I had to learn this to be a good manager. A manager does not do all the jobs. In fact, the game becomes, how quickly can I get this hot potato off my plate into someone else’s hand to accomplish that. I do not want to be the bottleneck. I want to oversee the process and make sure everything works. That’s hard as an attorney, someone who is so used to doing everything, having to find great people to hand those things off to. You make a great point, the military does not care that you are eighteen, they fully expect you to accept the training and responsibility and step up and get it done. They will show you how it’s done and if you do it wrong they will let you know.
Why do you think the private sector doesn’t operate the same way? I think there is some of what you say in the private sector but I think there is too much coddling. Kids stay home too long, then they go to college and they coddle them, then they go to more college and the same. Why don’t we put more responsibility and more faith in young people like the military does?
MM: The mass proliferation of the computer was not where we needed it, not like today. Today a child can attend college with just a laptop while living in Australia working at the American Embassy on a two year program, but still be in college in the US. You could send a kid to Zaire with the Presbyterian church on a program but the kid is in college doing his or her degree.
GM: I think we need to put more responsibility and faith in our kids, I suppose that’s what I’m getting at. The military does put that faith in you and expects you to step up. You’re tested so they know what your aptitude is and puts you in a job that coincides with that. Do you think that was a good thing to put that responsibility on your back, neck and face to start out with?
MM: I didn’t appreciate it then like I do now. I worked one hundred and twenty six hours per week because when you’re at sea, you’re either working or training, or doing your watch.
GM: We were on twelve hour shifts unless there was an emergency. When I first started, I worked on Hawkeye radar systems and I’d go out with a senior tech who knew the system like the back of his hand. We supported that airwing. That was four planes. Each was kept up twelve hours then switched out, so we kept the radar part of the aircraft up and running. That was our job. If we didn’t have it running, essentially the whole carrier group was blind. That was on the heads of some young guys. That kind of responsibility is put on you.
MM: I liked what the secretary of the Navy said with this promotion for the first female four star Admiral in United States history, he said, this is direct proof how far this country has come. Not only is she a lady but she is a black lady, and he stated this shows how far she has taken the United States because she wasn’t a token black lady, she worked her buns off for that position.
GM: The military is very diverse. Let’s get back to this, how did you learn to cook? I know you said you cooked before the military but were you a chef in the military as well?
GM: At what point when you were managing these hotels did you become a full-time chef in the military?
MM: As soon as I graduated basic cook school in San Diego, the guys came through and said they were recruiting for a new submarine. This was in the beginning at eighteen.
Boot camp, then cook school, then I flew to nuclear submarine school in Groton, Connecticut. I graduated that and went to my first boat the USS Sunfish and I was living in Charleston for four years. So, you’re under water, there is nothing to do, it’s seven days a week, eighteen hours a day, just cooking, it’s easy to rack up one hundred and twenty six hours a week. That’s really where I learned how to cook the best. In fact, Hillary Clinton used to ask me in her kitchen, where did you learn to cook all this gourmet food, and I would tell her, self-taught in a sewer pipe first lady. She would say, in a what? Inside a sewer pipe with one hundred and fourteen other men who generally used F and MF every third word, that’s where the learning center was. I never went to culinary school. That was my big dream when I retired was to go to college and I just graduated from Charlotte in 2010 summa cum laude at the arts institute with a bachelor’s degree. I used the post 911 G.I bill. I was the first duel enrolled student for the art institute in history under the post 911 G.I bill.
GM: What’s different about the post 911 G.I Bill?
MM: In the sixties and seventies they had a thing called VEAP, Veterans Education Assistance Program, and I was on VEAP. It was kind of like, you put in a dollar we’ll give you two. So, you could rack up three times the amounts.
GM: With classes while in the military I think I had to pay for a third.
MM: I did to while I was in but I didn’t have enough to get a degree. MGIB would pay ten times what you invested. The new post 911 G.I Bill has some requirements, and it’s based on percentages. I was one hundred percent qualified because I exceeded the three years in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. And for the first time it said you should be able to attend some courses online. The biggest thing is the payment for a certain amount of money for a housing allowance, so someone can go to college and still pay their rent. That has never been granted before.
GM: You talked very casually about talking to Hillary Clinton in her kitchen, can you tell me more about being a chef to Presidents. How does that happen?
MM: Only the Navy works in the White House staff mess, and only the Navy runs two restaurants underneath the Oval Office. Reservations are booked thirty to ninety days in advance at every table. The Navy also runs a take-out counter, sometimes up to a thousand gourmet lunches a day for staffers. Obama had four hundred and seventy three people on his staff, those people are all hungry. The worst thing those staffers could do would be to go out for lunch because you would have to go through security to get to your car which is super far away.
GM: So, you were recruited to work in the White House?
MM: Yes, I did state dinners and special events in the White House. I never knew the Navy did all the cooking. No other service is allowed. My Captain was explaining this to me one day. He said, we also run the Camp David resort. With you having graduated first in your class for law enforcement academy and doing all these special schools with the Marine Corp and Anti-Terrorism, and being a cook and having graduated from hotel management school, we think you’re the perfect candidate for Secretary of the Navy to nominate you for Presidential duty. I was like, alright, sir, yes sir. It was weird being invited into his state room. I had never been in that man’s state room other than to clean the baseboard and dust.
GM: But they had a job to fill and somehow because of all that training you came up.
MM: It was God’s plan.
GM: I say that, at the time I could not see why when I was doing this and that but looking back, those pieces of the puzzle fit. They make sense and make me who I am today. It sounds like all those different trainings made you the perfect candidate.
MM: You work with veterans and the law, so, as a veteran who would you rather go to for advice? The person who graduated from boot camp right? What it took for my wife Stormy just to graduate boot camp and to make it to the fleet is not something to take lightly.
GM: I say boot camp or any other school in the military or in civilian life is not meant to weed people out, it’s meant to get you through if you play ball. Do what is asked, have a decent attitude and you’ll be fine.
So, you go to the White House and then you get sent to Camp David?
MM: I was groomed and picked. I knew I was going to Camp David to work from the beginning. It took about a year and a half, so it was under H.W Bush when I was initially interviewed and selected. There were fifty six chefs that went through the interview that day and they picked three. About a year and a half later it was down to two of us who made it. This was where the United States will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to clear you and investigate both sides of your family. You can get bumped by close family members, it’s not just about you anymore.
GM: That makes sense, you might end up cooking and serving food to the President of the United States, that’s a big deal. That’s one of the most important jobs you could have.
MM: And people there know who you are and where you are.
GM: I’m sure they watch you.
MM: You must know what to do. If they test you to take a bribe in the men’s room at Lowes for eighty thousand dollars in tens to see if you will call it in on the phone within an hour and report it like you were taught by the CIA, and they will tell you, oh yeah, we were just testing you 14592. Don’t worry we will meet you and get the money, just make sure you don’t finger any of the five thousand with the purple band or take anything. But it’s the people who don’t call it in.
We had a thing at Camp David called the Sequoia Express, it was a blacked out car which would drive up and the agents would get out and everyone would start to scurry. They would go over with a magistrates order, and you could see it had a gold embossed seal, and they would say they were here to pick somebody up, and it would be like a sailor or a marine, and it’s like, you’ve got to be kidding me, that guys been in the military for twenty seven years, what did he do? You might hear weeks later that they went down to his house that night, cleared his children out of school, trucks down there, they emptied the whole house out, his wife and everything gone by the morning. They had a social services lady in there to interact for him to say goodbye to the children for an hour.
GM: So, quick question, how many Presidents did you serve under?
MM: I served four Presidents. I was hired under H.W Bush, Bill and Hilary Clinton, they did not allow a lot of people in the house ever. There were other Presidents who would come and visit the White House from different countries and you’ve got to cook for them and take care of them, and famous stars and CEO’s would sleep over at the White House at night. One night a guy that I really liked Steve Jobs was there for dinner and the White House Usher told me, oh he’s staying overnight too. That’s unbelievable man, cooking for Steve Jobs.
GM: So you met Steve Jobs?
MM: I didn’t meet him or shake his hand because you don’t bother them, that’s not your place.
GM: You’re not there to be seen.
MM: But it was still cool to be cooking for Steve Jobs and then he was hanging out staying the night. I only had one question; on the paper why does it say PIXAR, what is that? Oh, you didn’t hear, you didn’t know he was thrown out of Apple. I’m like, What, Steve Jobs, and he said, you don’t need to keep saying the man’s name. They’ll probably make a movie about what happened in ten or twenty years. Did you watch the movie?
GM: Oh sure.
MM: Just guests like that, it was unbelievable. From there I went to Japan and cooked for Prime Minister Hashimoto, I went into the deserts to cook for King Abdullah the second and his wife Queen Ranja. I worked at NATO cooking for the United States and United States Embassy.
GM: And now you employ those talents at The Inn of the Patriots in Grover, North Carolina which is right off eighty five on exit 2 (I 85, exit 2). You are also the owner of the United States Presidential Service Center in Grover North Carolina.
MM: Our bed and breakfast is called The Inn of the Patriots. There is a museum inside and a Presidential center. We have two gift shops there, the culinary school and we do consulting for resorts and private homes.
GM: Thank you for coming here, sharing and talking with me about your incredible service, it’s a real honor.
If you have any questions about Senior or Veteran’s Benefits, please contact me at 704–751–8031.
Good morning I’m Greg McIntyre the Elder Law Guy getting ready here with Hayden Soloway and our host the famous Milton Baker.
I am really excited today because I have my first ‘Press Conference’ as President of McIntyre Elder Law.
We will be shutting down the lines for the press but the information we put out on the elder law report today will be real and valuable to you.
I’m going to channel my best Donald Trump, I don’t know if that’s good or bad and there may be some backlash about it but it’s not something I’m scared of, I have Hayden here to defend me.
HS: Wow, you have a lot of confidence in me.
GM: Well, you’re going to be attacking me today, right?
HS: Yes, as well as I can.
GM: So, let’s get this show on the road. I don’t know if I can hang in there for an hour and a half like the Trumpster did a couple of days ago, what do you think Hayden?
HS: I’m ready.
GM: Today we’re going to talk about our administration, how the office is doing and I will be fielding questions about elder law from the lion press roaring to get a story, but I am prepared. I have been working hard for this. I spent two and half years researching and writing my book ‘Saving the Farm,’ A practical guide to the legal maze of aging in America, and Hayden, what is that book about?
HS: It’s about what you do. It’s about how seniors can protect their hard-earned money and property, it’s about Veterans benefits such as Aid and Attendance, you can look in the table of contents for specific topics and you will learn something.
GM: You have a saying about this book that I love.
HS: It is a reference book that reads like a novel.
GM: It really does because there is a great story in there and it also serves as a reference guide to seniors for many areas they’re dealing with on a daily basis, and areas and issues that seniors families are facing not just in the legal world but in the long-term care world. Getting your legal foundations in place, what are Ladybird Deeds and the difference between them and Life Estate deeds? What is tax planning? There are all kinds of things and more in the book. I interviewed experts in their fields to make sure each chapter had as much as I could offer. One of those experts was Teepa Snow who is a world-renowned expert on Dementia and Alzheimer’s. This was one of the best interviews I have ever done and I’m so proud of it.
HS: That was the hardest interview we’ve ever arranged. You had to do the interview while she was travelling. It was remarkable we could do it at all.
GM: I am so grateful to her for that interview. Her website is teepasnow.com, a positive approach to brain change.
I’m quite nervous, this is our first official press conference for McIntyre Elder Law, so why don’t we get this going.
Ladies and gentlemen of the press, thank you for being here today. I watch the news stations such as CNN and others. Some of them I like and some are telling a lot of lies about elder law and creating a lot of misconceptions that I wanted to clear up in this first press conference. Also, I am appointing Hayden Soloway as my senior ambassador as long as she accepts that position.
HS: I do.
GM: So, let’s go CNN, I know you’ve been lying about elder law.
HS/press: I have seen your book, and I really fail to see the point of an elder law attorney. If I have everything in my Will, I’m fine, aren’t I? How can you explain that? I’m serious about this.
GM: Well, I’m serious about answering your question. The reason you need an elder law attorney is the same reason that if you get a speeding ticket then you need someone who really handles traffic tickets. Someone who knows how to do that and knows that area because that is where their head, mind and research is. Just like Teepa Snow, who is an idol of mine, she has latched on like a pitbull to everything about dementia, the good the bad and the ugly, I do the same thing. When a pitbull bites, it’s jaws lock so you can’t get it to let go, you want that kind of tenacity. You want someone who is tenacious about speeding tickets if you get a speeding ticket, who can represent you the best way possible. This is the same if you were in a wreck, you would want to call someone in personal injury law and nothing else.
There are plenty of attorneys who do great with a general practice but the law is a big place as one of my law professors told me. If you can find one area that you are passionate about and learn and keep up with everything you can in that area, that niche you will be so far ahead of a general practitioner trying to figure out that area. For me, elder law became that niche.
HS: But I want you to answer my question. Elder law can’t be any different from any other area of law. In your book you talk about someone needing a power of attorney, why shouldn’t I just go and get a guardianship? I don’t understand why you recommend all these things when it’s just so simple.
GM: So, are you an attorney? No, okay. There is a lot of street lawyers out there, who give advice about things they have no real understanding of. I am a member of Elder Counsel which is a national group of elder law attorneys, I spend a lot of time studying in that area, and the reason you want to get an elder law attorney to look at issues involving seniors is because they have their focus on elder law issues. They spend their time drafting documents relating to seniors and elder law. That is the reason. I have a deep bench behind me with elder counsel, attorneys from North Carolina and across the country, that assist me and I assist them to make sure we can solve problems, unique problems that I may not have seen before. Have you ever heard the term, ‘iron sharpens iron?’
GM: Here’s what it means: You want to get someone who knows what they are doing in a specific area of law, they have the knowledge and resources to do it. You asked why is it different from any other area of law, well, I’m not a fan of wills, yes, I do them, but if we sit down, we are going to talk about alternative options for passing your property and avoiding probate, while also staying in control of your property for the rest of your life.
One of the guiding tenets of my elder law practice is, to keep a senior in control of their assets as long as possible and then open up and keep open health care and benefit options for that senior.
Let me ask you something, how many seniors, according to a 2005 US Department of Health and Human Services Report, are going to need some sort of long term care during their lives? Seventy percent (70%) of seniors according to the report are going to need some kind of long term care, in home, assisted living, or nursing home care. So, when I’m meeting with a family or seniors, I have one eye on that statistic. I have one eye on the fact that I know families who have had to spend down all their hard-earned money and property and lost the house because Medicaid had to come in and pay for that nursing home or assisted living stay. There are ways to prevent that. There are simple ways to protect your property. Ladybird Deeds are a great example of that. If you plan ahead, Life Estate Deeds can do that. There is deed and trust planning and all kinds of plans that can be made to pass your property.
Do you have payable and death beneficiaries on your checking accounts?
HS/Press: I have one on my insurance account.
GM: The financial industry is way ahead of the legal industry on this. So, you can get an insurance policy like you said, and do you pass it through your will, is the estate beneficiary on your policy? You probably pass it directly to an individual that’s how most people set up their insurance policies, or annuities, 401k’s, or IRA’s right? You’re not going to pass it through an estate because going to the courthouse and probating that money will open it up to liens.
When you probate a will, you publish in the paper for four consecutive weeks, you wait ninety days (90) from the first day of publication. Is that so people can send money to your estate? No. It’s so people, creditors, Medicaid can place a lien on that estate.
You can pass assets easily outside the will and estate. Also, there are bank accounts, it’s a little known thing called ‘Payable and Death Beneficiaries,’ or ‘Transferrable on Death Beneficiaries,’ where you can add children to your bank account but not give them any power to do anything, like a joint owner with rights of survivorship but just have them get the money should you pass away, and it doesn’t have to go through your Will. It sounds as if I’m talking myself out of writing Wills doesn’t it? I think it is important to have a Will, because that’s life and an insurance policy, a Will is a catch all to get something from where it is right now to where you want it to go.
I need to put out a disclaimer on this show because I’m not your attorney unless you hire me, and I won’t quit unless you fire me. I am an attorney in the state of North Carolina and we’re talking about elder law issues in the form of a press conference, so do we have another question?
HS/press: I have a question. I did my homework and found out I can give ten thousand dollars ($10,000), I think it’s now fourteen thousand dollars ($14,000) to my kids, and I can put my house in their name, so why do I need to protect my assets?
GM: This is a common thing in the accounting world, the ten thousand which is now fourteen thousand, I could give that amount of money to everyone in town and not report it to the IRS essentially. That works with the estate and gift tax. The estate and gift tax work together now. You can give away up to five million four hundred thousand dollars ($5,400,000) during your life, or at death when you pass through your estate. Here’s an example; The reason I would have to report something over say fourteen thousand ($14,000) is so they can record it and track it. Let’s say Mrs Churchill, when I give you a million dollars, you’re going to report that, and I’m going to give that to you during my life because you are beautiful and made a dress out of curtains, and I love that about you because you’re so resourceful. But, when I die, I can only then give you four million four hundred thousand dollars ($4,400,000). That million subtracts from it.
A lot of people get into big trouble because they might run into a long-term care incident and they are going to have to access Medicaid to pay for assisted living or nursing home care but they’re giving away all this money to grand kids or kids. Those gifts are trackable and Medicaid will go back and look for five years for nursing home Medicaid which is called ‘Long-term Medicaid,’ and three years for assisted living Medicaid called ‘Special Assistance Medicaid,’ they will go back and look at those look-back periods and ask, have you given any unauthorized gifts or unauthorized transfers under our rules, and those are unauthorized transfers under those rules. This can handicap people in getting needed healthcare benefits.
Seniors need to consult someone who knows about these things before they engage in major gifting because if it’s anything out the ordinary, and ordinary would be Christmas or Birthday gifts or tithes to the church, that could prevent you from getting the much needed healthcare benefit you need to pay for care. Medicaid might say, look, all the kids and grandkids have to give back all the money so mom or grandma can get long-term care before we will provide that benefit. The issue is, the kids might have spent that money already, then you’re in trouble.
HS/Press: I may need to go into a nursing home and I don’t have much money, and my houses are in my kid’s names. I want to know what to do about it because I can’t do things for myself anymore. In your book you say you can help veterans so what can you do for me?
GM: I do help veterans but that is a two-part question. Veterans Aid and Attendance Benefits are something we activate for veteran’s families all the time. That is for a veteran, or spouse of a veteran, or spouse of a deceased veteran. Aid and Attendance is a pension benefit but you must have a current need. It can help pay for nursing home, in-home, or assisted living care. Once activated, it’s a pension benefit that goes for the rest of your life. It’s a little-known benefit that the VA doesn’t advertise that much.
You mentioned homes earlier, I get that question all the time. At what age should I give away my house or houses, or my money or property to my kids?
If that is the state of the government, if that is the state of the environment, if that’s the state of the policies today, then something is dreadfully wrong. I do hear that question from seniors on a regular basis. It’s the wrong question. I say there is never an age when you should start to give all that away. I had a law professor talk about Wills, Trusts and Estates, and dead hand control of assets. I pictured a hand sticking up from the grave with a remote control. With Trusts, you can control those assets far beyond when you pass away.
I have seen seniors get in tough situations when they give away their assets, either from long-term care situations and can’t obtain much needed health benefits from Medicaid, or do not have kids that treat them properly and throw them out of the house because the senior no longer has control over the property. No matter the best of intentions, I have seen families break apart when money is in the picture. It’s like blood to sharks.
I am always glad to come and see a client at home or at one of our meeting places in Asheville, Charlotte or Shelby or anywhere in-between. I had another attorney who is very successful, he said, do you think your clients like to gather up all their crap and come into your office, I had never thought of it that way. Attorneys like to show off the big mahogany desk but the clients are always more impressed by what an attorney can do for them and how they care for their client. We routinely go to clients and our potential client’s homes.
I’m Greg McIntyre of McIntyre Elder Law. Call our office at 704–259–7040.
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