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When To Say When
My favorite talk show host is Mark Levin, closely followed by Neal Boortz. Why? Because they understand the Constitution and government’s role in our lives. Those are the two shows that I try very hard NOT to miss. And if I do, I download the podcast and listen later. Yesterday, Michael Berry filled in for Mark Levin and wouldn’t you know it? The public education system was brought up. Some people in the Huntsville School System (I know you’re reading this) really need to pay attention to the clip. After you listen, read more. Here’s the link (http://www.zshare.net/audio/666960204386abf3/)
Yesterday was NOT a good day. Not a good day at all. I met with a lawyer to discuss my treatment by the school system. Why did I do that? Because a few days ago, they contacted the Army and complained that I was threatening them. Yes, that I was threatening them. Two grown women, one of which is educated and filling a senior position in a public school system, LIED to the Army about my communications with them.
The PTA President complained that I was constantly harassing her with emails. I have sent a total of SIX emails to her, three of which were responses to her emails. Of those three unsolicited emails, one was a request to speak at the PTA meeting, one was a request about where she obtained personal information about me, and one was to tell her what I was going to talk about at the PTA meeting anyway. Additionally, I’ve only sent TWO emails to the principal, only one of which was “answered.” One of those emails expressed concern over the uniform policy and the other one was CC’d to her requesting a meeting with her and the Superintendent to discuss our treatment at the school.
NONE of these emails conveyed anything close to a threat. I find that charge actually quite laughable and not of the caliber of people charged with taking care of our children. After all, it’s not good practice to have people that behave like children to teach children. If the school administration can’t handle a simple complaint from parents, how can we expect them to solve the more complicated issues of dealing with teenagers?
I’m taking a huge risk writing this. Why? Because every time I write something about the principal of my kids’ school or the PTA president, they call the military. This blog is called “A Soldier’s Perspective” and not everything I write is going to be positive and reflect the best the Army has to offer. LTC Kevin Arata, chief of the newly created Online and Social Media Division of Army Public Affairs, is quoted as saying, â€œPeople will always have something bad to say, but we take the good with the bad and trust the truth will come out. Sometimes itâ€™s not pretty, but weâ€™ve learned that most of the time it is.â€ Do I make people uncomfortable sometimes on this blog? Yes. I’m a realist and I tell it like it is. Fortunately, most of the time it’s positive. Unfortunately, sometimes it’s not.
Yesterday, it resulted in a completely unwarranted formal counseling statement and dressing down by a senior NCO. Before the ass-chewing, I wasn’t even asked for my side of the story. Nope, just outright full-frontal, ass-chewing without gathering the facts first. The two women causing these problems will take some pleasure in this revelation, I’m sure. There’s a part of the NCO Creed that reads, “I know my Soldiers and will always place their needs above my own” and “I will communicate consistently with my Soldiers and never leave them uninformed.”
I showed the individuals present for the “professional development” session everything I wrote on this blog. It’s public, I have nothing to hide. Fittingly, they failed to find these so-called threats I’ve been communicating. I even went to Army Criminal Investigations Division (CID) to get their opinion about whether or not I had communicated a threat. While there, I logged into my email and allowed them to personally read EVERY email I’ve sent to the Principal, the PTA President, the Secondary Schools Supervisor, the Superintendent, the Board of Education, my fellow pissed off parents, and to Alabama PTA. While CID noted that they wouldn’t have necessarily been as brash or infused as much emotion in the emails as I did, they correctly concluded that I have not communicated anything threatening except a lawsuit – which isn’t against the law. They must think they’ve done something wrong or they wouldn’t even be concerned about a lawsuit.
Was I brash? Yes. Was I rude? Some may feel that way. For argument’s sake, let’s say I was rude. Was I brunt and to the point? Yes. Did I use choice words? Not in emails. Interesting, my harshest words were publicly written here on this blog. Was I threatening? Never. NEVER. I did all those things in a civilian setting at a meeting between parents and school officials without any Army sponsorship in which I was not wearing a uniform, did not represent the Army, and did not wear anything indicating I was in the Army. Therefore, even admitting that I was brash, rude, crude, harsh, direct, blunt, pointed, pissed-off, angry, and verbose, nothing I did violated Army regulations, creeds, codes of conduct, laws, creeds or the UCMJ. Why? Because I acted in my capacity as a parent, not as a Soldier.
According to DOD Directive 1344.10, dated February 19, 2008, it is DOD policy “to encourage members of the Armed Forces…to carry out the obligations of citizenship.” It also states that “any enlisted member on active duty may seek, hold, and exercise the functions of a nonpartisan civil office as a notary public or member of a school board, neighborhood planning commission, or similar local agency, provided that the office is held in a non-military capacity and there is no interference with the performance of military duties.” Soldiers have the RIGHT to participate in these vital school functions without having to worry about being vilified by the chain of command provided they don’t break the law or violate military rules and regulations.
Where does it end? Will Chili’s call the military if I yell at them for getting my order wrong or they bring me raw food? Will Wal-Mart call the military if I yell at management because they overcharged me and I had to wait 30 minutes in line for a refund? If, as a citizen, I call and complain to my Congressman or local representative for voting for a bill I didn’t support, will he/she call the military? If I yell at my next door neighbor’s kids because they’re kicking in my fence, will they call the military? Where does it end?
But, that’s only part of the problem. The Army has a LOT of blame with this issue. And I realize that just by writing this, I’m not doing myself any favors. People in the military have become so politicized that we no longer recognize right and wrong. If someone called me and complained that one of my Soldiers cussed at a teacher, I’d tell them it’s none of my business. Because it’s not. On a personal level, I’d probably talk to them about how to best express themselves, but it’s none of my business. Why didn’t someone in the chain simply look at the facts and tell them that there’s nothing they can do? I have no problem being called into an office and asked what happened in a relaxed environment. My commander did just that the first time these school officials called. He didn’t chew into my ass. He simply asked me my side of the story. I forwarded him the links to all the blog posts I had written and all the email traffic related to the incident and explained what happened at the meeting. With ALL those facts, he recognized that I hadn’t done anything wrong, and handled it. This probably explains why they called again and went higher up the chain this time. Desperate people use desperate measures.
I have a flaw. When you start off screaming and yelling at me, I tend to instantly get defensive and, frankly, a little pissed off. I’ve NEVER yelled at one of my Soldiers until I knew all the facts. What perturbs me even more is that even AFTER learning that I hadn’t done anything wrong, I still received a formal counseling. I’m sure you’re asking yourself exactly what I could possibly have been counseled on.
Professionalism – or lack thereof – for my behavior at a SCHOOL MEETING in which none of my leadership was even present. A school meeting which is frankly none of the Army’s business. Is it now the Army’s place to educate my children and handle my complaints? Should I no longer complain to the school about school issues and just have my leadership handle it? Is that really where we are now?
We have a saying in the Army that you’re a Soldier 24 hours a day. That’s true in many respects, but not so in others. For example, when I’m making sweet love to my wife, it’s CJ doing it, not Soldier Grisham. When I’m grounding my kids from the computer, it’s CJ doing it; not Soldier Grisham. When I’m camping with the Scouts or volunteering with my church youth program, it’s Brother Grisham doing it; not Soldier Grisham. And when I’m criticizing the school system or PTA for violating their policies and procedures, it’s Mr. Grisham doing it; not Soldier Grisham!
I’m a Soldier 24/7 as it relates to ethics and legal issues. I’m a Soldier 24/7 as it relates to fraternization. Come to think of it – where can I find the “official” 24/7 Soldier regulation? Apparently, I don’t know all the rules and in my 15 years, I guess I’ve missed something.
If this is the Army – an Army where I have no rights to be rude to people in my private life or question my children’s educators, then I want no part of it. Maybe it’s time we parted ways… I understand some of my rights are restricted, but I did not hand them over completely when I joined the service. I have paid for my rights literally with my blood, sweat and tears.
I won’t let the Army stop me from seeking justice against the school system (PTA and principal translation of “justice” to ensure they don’t feel “threatened”: lawsuit and/or petition). If they want to push me (metaphorically, principal and PTA president), I’ll push back twice as hard (metaphorically, principal and PTA president). I will NOT be intimidated by their immature tactics of bringing my command into a personal matter.