law, mental health, politicians, politics, racism, Texas, true crime

Enough pro-life platitudes! Texas Has Its Priorities Completely Screwed Up!

Early this morning, I woke up to the horrible news about Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. It’s another school shooting, this time perpetrated by a lonely, bullied, obviously mentally ill young man named Salvador Rolando Ramos. Days after his 18th birthday, Mr. Ramos legally purchased the weapons he would use to shoot and critically wound his grandmother, and then go on a shooting rampage at the elementary school. Mr. Ramos, who wore body armor and carried a rifle during his deadly rampage, was fatally shot, apparently by police.

At this writing, at least nineteen children were murdered, along with two adults. Both adults who died were teachers; one was Irma Garcia, a teacher with 23 years of experience at Robb Elementary, while the other, Eva Mireles, had taught for 17 years, and had a daughter in college. Many other people have been physically injured, and will forevermore carry the emotional and physical scars from yesterday’s shooting spree. The rest of us– the decent ones, anyway, are injured by yet another senseless school shooting in a country that professes to be “the land of the free”. And this time, the shooting happened in a state that professes to be so “pro-life” that many of its citizens will do almost anything to force women to stay pregnant.

The “right to life” crew, many of whom are men, claim that a developing fetus’s right to be born is more important than anything. The claim that abortion is cruel and inhumane. But at least a developing embryo is completely unaware of its being aborted. Children sitting in classrooms– some of whom were probably conceived with help from modern scientific reproductive methods– were no doubt absolutely terrified when Ramos opened fire on them. For those kids, Texas Republicans offer “thoughts and prayers”, and ridiculous suggestions about arming teachers and “good guys with guns”.

I am technically a Texas resident, although I haven’t lived there since 2014. Every year, when I cast an absentee ballot with my votes, the ballot goes to Texas, which is where Bill and I happened to be living when he finished his service with the Army. I didn’t hate Texas when I left there. I thought it was too hot, and there were way too many religious wingnuts. I didn’t like the extremely right wing politics of people in Texas, nor did I enjoy all the gun toting wackos I saw in downtown San Antonio. But I kind of respected Texas’s free-spirited culture. I enjoyed most of the people I met there, the music, the food, and having temporary access to members of my family, and Bill’s mom and aunt. When we left in 2014, I thought maybe we could move back at some point. Now I know that I don’t want to live there again. In fact, I’m not sure I really want to live in the United States again.

In the almost eight years since we left Texas, I have come to really dislike a lot of things about it. I despise the politics of Governor Greg Abbott and his relentless attack on women, as he also champions gun lovers. I can’t wait to cast a vote against Mr. Abbott. I don’t really care too much about who runs against him, either, which is a pretty terrible place to be. I would like to care about and even like the politics of the people who run for public office. But lately, the people who are running are so incredibly lacking in sense that I find myself voting AGAINST people, instead of for them.

According to the Washington Post, Salvador Ramos was severely bullied by his peers for having a strong lisp and a stutter. He had friends when he was younger, but then started doing self-destructive things, like cutting up his face with a knife “for fun”. Still, his friends said he was a very nice kid– shy, but nice. He’d be bullied for being different, but he had a few friends who stuck by him. Things seemed to go really downhill for Ramos when he shared a picture of himself wearing black eyeliner. For that, he was bullied by his peers and called a derogatory term for a homosexual male. Then, one of the friends who would try to stand up for Ramos, left the area when his mother’s job was transferred. At that point, Ramos began to dress all in black, grow out his hair, and wear military style boots. He quit going to school. At night, he and a friend would drive around and shoot at people with BB guns. He’d also egg people’s cars. He told one new friend that he wanted to join the Marines so he could “kill people”. The new friend became an ex friend after that.

Ramos’s mother eventually tried to kick him out of their home, and Ramos posted about it on Instagram. The incident showed Ramos calling his mom a “bitch”, as police intervened to break up the fight.

Ramos had a wish list of automatic weapons he wanted. A few days ago, he posted a picture of himself with a couple of rifles. There were some people who tried to help him, in spite of his odd proclivity for guns, but Ramos’s home life was terrible. According to a neighbor, Ramos’s mother used drugs. He eventually moved in with his grandmother, who owned the house where Ramos lived with his mom. A few days ago, the neighbor saw the grandmother, who mentioned that she was in the process of evicting Ramos’s mother, because she was abusing drugs.

I read all of this stuff, and I wonder how much help Ramos got from people who could do something for him. Did he ever speak to counselors? Was he encouraged to address his mental health and educational issues? At this point, I don’t know. I don’t want to blame educators, because I know they’ve got enough to deal with every day. And while it would be easy to blame people who bullied Ramos at school, being bullied is not a reason for someone to go on a shooting spree. I wonder what life situations led to Salvador Ramos’ fatal decisions yesterday.

I think these kinds of stress related meltdowns will only get worse, as guns are promoted as a solution to ending violence and maintaining “freedom”, and desperate women are being compelled to be pregnant when they aren’t ready to have babies. How many troubled women will be forced to give birth, thanks to the idiotic bans on abortions? I believe that people like Salvador Ramos evolve because they have very fucked up home lives, and not enough is done to help them make things better. There are too many children being born into situations where there’s substance abuse, sexual abuse, violence, racism, and poverty.

I haven’t even touched on the horrific gun fueled rampage that happened at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York on May 14th. That incident, which occurred at the hands of Peyton S. Gendron, a disgruntled 18 year old racist White guy with a gun, resulted in the premature deaths of ten people and the wounding of three. Eleven of Gendron’s victims were Black. Gendron survived his rampage, and is now in protective custody and on suicide watch. If the police hadn’t stopped him when they had, Gendron says that he would have shot more people. He’d had plans to visit churches and an elementary school. As awful as Gendron’s attack was, at least his victims were all adults. But that doesn’t make it much better, does it?

I’m so tired of violent, thuggish, Republican bullies with guns and big mouths. I’m so angry at people who champion narcissistic cretins like Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, and the usual gang of idiots in the Republican National Committee. No, I don’t think Democrats are perfect, by any stretch. I don’t like extreme left wing politics, snooty attitudes, and lack of common sense some Democrats have. But at least Democrats have something to offer besides thoughts, prayers, more guns, and restrictions on abortion. This news just makes me sick… and it makes me feel an odd mixture of relief that, for now, I live outside of my country, and guilt, that I’m so far away, watching from a distance as the United States I’ve always known turns into a weird dystopia.

It’s hard to believe that a lot of us were looking forward to today, as Josh Duggar finds out his fate. I was also looking forward to finding out more about Tariq Witherspoon, the man who ran over and killed my friend, Matt, last year. He supposed to go to court in New York today. Those were two cases of callous, lawless men facing their crimes. But I sit here and think of how many people have died in the last two years… from COVID-19, cancer, murder, manslaughter and recklessness, and suicide. And we want to bring more babies into this mess? When we don’t even have enough formula to feed them? We can’t offer citizens decent, affordable healthcare, housing, or an infrastructure that doesn’t collapse as the climate becomes less hospitable to humans! Why in the hell would we want more innocent babies born into this hellish reality on Earth?

In a matter of days, Bill’s third grandson will be born. He will join his four year old brother and two year old sister. I worry about those kids, who are going to be growing up in a country that continues to grow more troubled by the year. I know how much their parents love them, and have wanted them to come into the world. I only hope that by the time they’re ready for school, more has been done to repair the serious issues that are causing little kids like them to die when all they’re trying to do is go to school, attend church, shop for food, or just be children, exploring the world.

I’m so glad I never had children. This world is completely fucked. Below is an “oldie but goodie” Facebook post that was making the rounds six years ago, and is sadly still very relevant.

Yeah. I am for shutting down the gun stores.
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law, racism, true crime

Chasing and finally catching justice for Ahmaud Arbery…

I remember being horrified as I first read about Ahmaud Arbery’s last moments on this planet. The 25 year old Black man was out running in Brunswick, Georgia on February 23, 2020. He was unarmed, and made the unfortunate decision to pass through Satilla Shores, where he would eventually encounter the three White men who ended his life. Travis McMichael, his father, Gregory McMichael, and their neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, chased Arbery in their vehicles. Unlike Arbery, two of his pursuers were armed. The two McMichaels had weapons and rode in a vehicle together as they chased the young man who was out for a run. Bryan brought his camera, which he used to video the confrontation. In light of what happened yesterday, I’m sure Bryan wishes he’d left the camera at home.

Gregory McMichael, a former police officer in Brunswick, had initiated the chase when he saw Ahmaud Arbery run past his house. He had wrongly suspected Arbery of burglary or theft in Satilla Shores and decided to take it upon himself to make a “citizen’s arrest”, bringing along a .357 Magnum pistol revolver. Travis joined his father, toting a shotgun. Bryan inexplicably decided independently to join in the chase, but hadn’t known if Arbery had done anything illegal.

Although Arbery had, on several occasions, entered an under-construction house with no doors in the neighborhood, there was never any evidence of theft, according to security camera footage. Travis McMichael had made a call to 911 about a week and a half before Arbery’s final run. He reported that Arbery was breaking into the unfinished house. Moreover, according to The Toronto Star, Arbery’s relatives were known to local law enforcement.

Gregory McMichael did have a past with Arbery, as McMichael had been an investigator for Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office from 1995 until his retirement in May 2019. When he was in high school, Arbery was sentenced to five years probation as a first offender on charges of carrying a weapon on campus and several counts of obstructing a law enforcement officer. He was convicted of probation violation in 2018 after he was charged with shoplifting. McMichael had been involved with the case, and was instrumental in getting Arbery’s probation revoked.

Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper Jones, had asked that the Waycross Judicial Circuit District Attorney, Roger Barnhill, recuse himself from the case. This was because Barnhill’s son was a prosecutor who had worked with Gregory McMichael in a previous court case involving Ahmaud Arbery. It was very fortunate that Cooper Jones had made that request, particularly since she hadn’t known that McMichael and Barnhill had any ties to her son’s legal past. She simply hadn’t wanted Barnhill on the case because his son worked for the Brunswick district attorney’s office. If Barnhill hadn’t recused himself, Cooper Jones’s lawyer, Lee Merritt, said, “the case would’ve been no billed to a grand jury and the McMichaels would’ve gotten away with murder.”

Barnhill had written in his letter of recusal that Arbery and his family had been in trouble with the law in Brunswick, and that his older brother was incarcerated. One of Arbery’s cousins also had a past with the police department. To those revelations, attorney Lee Merritt said:

“This speaks to the wider issue of mass incarceration. If Black people have any kind of criminal record, somehow that justifies their murder.”

But talk to some people in the community, and they will swear up and down that a person with a rap sheet deserves to be killed if they’re caught doing something illegal. Especially if the person with a rap sheet is not White. Sure enough, it took 74 days before the three men who were responsible for killing Ahmaud Arbery were finally arrested and charged with murder. The local prosecutor was friends with Gregory McMichael and did not want to bring charges against the men. So yes, the men were brought to justice, but it could have easily gone the other way.

Justice is served.

The trial took place in Brunswick, but every Brunswick Judicial Circuit Judge recused themselves from the case. Consequently, Chatham County Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley presided over the trial. Yesterday, I watched as Judge Walmsley read the verdicts for the three men who claimed “self-defense” when they decided to pursue and kill Ahmaud Arbery. I’m not sure why these guys thought Arbery didn’t have the right to defend himself when he was confronted by three men, two of whom had weapons.

Travis McMichael was pronounced guilty of all charges. Gregory McMichael was pronounced guilty of all but one charge of malice murder. William “Roddie” Bryan was pronounced guilty of felony murder (3 counts), aggravated assault, false imprisonment, and criminal attempt to commit a felony (1 count each). These were just the charges brought against them by the state of Georgia. There are still federal charges pending against the three men.

Not a happy day for these guys. They will probably not see the light of day as free men again. Bryan looks like he’s about to burst into tears as the judge announces the verdict.

I am impressed by Judge Walmsley. He handled this case very soberly, professionally, and fairly. I think his conduct starkly contrasts that of Judge Bruce Schroeder, who was reportedly more brash and quirky in the way he ran Kyle Rittenhouse’s recent trial in Wisconsin. The result of Rittenhouse’s trial was much less lauded by the public, as Rittenhouse was acquitted of all charges. Of course, these two cases have to do with race relations, but they aren’t really that similar. It still surprised me that Ahmaud Arbery’s case in Georgia seemed to end much more fairly than Kyle Rittenhouse’s case did in Wisconsin. Personally, I think Rittenhouse was acquitted because the prosecutor was too ambitious about the level of charges against Rittenhouse. I do think Rittenhouse should have gotten some prison time.

Today is Thanksgiving, and I have no doubt that Ahmaud Arbery’s family is giving thanks that the men who were responsible for killing Ahmaud will have to pay for their crimes. Ahmaud Arbery’s father, Marcus Arbery, let out a celebratory whoop when the first guilty verdict was read. He now says that he and his family can move forward. Maybe this is a sign of some progress in our country.

This video was key evidence that got three men convicted. It was recorded by William “Roddie” Bryan, who probably wishes he’d minded his own business on that February day last year.

I don’t take any delight in seeing people locked up in prison, but I do think prison is necessary and just for violent crimes, especially those done out of hate. There is no excuse for the way these men hunted down Arbery and killed him. I do have some compassion for the loved ones of the incarcerated, even though I do think they belong in prison. Prison is tough on families, and Gregory McMichael’s wife is going to see her husband and her son go away, probably for the rest of their lives. I’m sure that is heartbreaking for her. But I also think that justice is finally being done. The McMichaels and Mr. Bryan should not have taken the law into their own hands.

If anything good has come out of this incident, it’s that some very old and bad laws have now been stricken from Georgia’s books. According to The New York Times:

…the trial of [Arbery’s] accused killers also brought up issues of policing — although in this case, it involved questions about private citizens and their rights to detain people who they believe to be breaking the law.

Those rights in Georgia were spelled out in a controversial Civil War-era statute that was significantly weakened by state lawmakers in direct response to the outrage over the Arbery killing. Lawmakers also passed Georgia’s first-ever hate crimes law as a result of the incident.

All of that set up a remarkable kind of trial in which the defendants claimed they were not guilty based in part on an old law that their actions helped to dismantle. At the same time, they were not charged under the new Georgia hate crimes law., though all three have also been indicted under the federal hate crimes statute.

Maybe the new legislation against hate crimes will mean that Ahmaud Arbery’s death won’t be entirely in vain.

Incidentally, Bill and I have been to Brunswick, Georgia. We went there in October 2009 to pick up my car, which was brand new and had just been shipped from Germany. I remember it to be a very weird town, mainly due to the strange taxi driver who picked us up at the tiny airport there. He was an old guy who drove like a maniac and scared the wits out of Bill. Bill ended up complaining about the dude at the hotel where we stayed– an Embassy Suites that was connected to the mall, which apparently didn’t even have an ATM.

The manager of the hotel actually refunded the cost of our stay because Bill noticed that the hotel had a shuttle and it wasn’t mentioned on their Web site. He had If we had known the hotel had a shuttle, we could have been spared the wacko taxi ride with the sketchy guy who had to be paid in cash and drove us to a bank. We never went back to Brunswick, although the beach area was kind of appealing. I think if we ship our cars next time we move to the States, we’ll have them delivered in Charleston. It may cost more, but it’ll be a lot less weird.

Happy Thanksgiving, if you celebrate. I think our holiday will mostly be a normal day, albeit with Bill off. He just vacuumed for me, which is a real treat.

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blue and red galaxy artwork
News, racism

Why I have discontinued the “Contact” form…

This morning, I received an email message from someone named “Mrs. Stull”. She had filled out the now defunct “contact” form, reprimanding me for something I apparently wrote that seems to have upset her. This was the content of her message to me.

Sadly I know about this group too well, we lost many family members to this group.

What caught me was the comment about wealthy white people, when you say white, do you mean, Irish, French, German, Northern Italian, English, Scottish, Swedish, Russian, Slavic, the list goes on? Are you saying that people of colour are not wealthy? I looked at the article, but I was under the impression that you were educated, and a housewife. You have managed to insult everyone by that statement alone, please remove that blanket insult if you want to make a point.

I went looking to find the article to which Mrs. Stull was referring. Often, I can look on StatCounter and see where people have entered the blog and and filled out the contact form. I did not find a StatCounter clue for the article Mrs. Stull was referencing, so I still have absolutely no idea which post has so upset her that she felt the need to vaguely accuse me of racism.

I was about to respond to Mrs. Stull via email, but then realized that the contact form linked to my personal email address, which I would rather not provide to perfect strangers, especially ones who seem to have the impression that I’m a racist and are bold enough to state it. I may have some ingrained racist proclivities, as almost everyone does to some extent, but I don’t generally go out of my way to insult people based on things like skin color or other things they can’t help. And for the record, I certainly do realize that people of all shades and racial groups can be wealthy.

This post is number 1,151. It is not possible for me to go searching through my entire catalog to try to figure out which specific comment of mine offended Mrs. Stull. Therefore, I can’t remove or clarify the “blanket insult” she alluded to in her email, because I honestly don’t know where it is, or to what she is referring.

This isn’t the first time this has happened. In fact, I even recently wrote about the phenomenon of people writing to me about certain articles without providing a link to or the title of the post they are referencing. The comment form is also a convenient conduit for spammers, whose comments are always useless and annoying.

I’m writing this post at 6:11am and have only now had my first sip of coffee, so I apologize if this post comes off as a little pissy, but I really did not appreciate receiving that email. Nobody likes to wake up to a random insult from a complete stranger, particularly when what they’re complaining about isn’t clearly specified or referenced.

I was going to respond privately, but then realized that I’d rather address everyone as a whole about this policy change, since it affects all readers. It kind of weirds me out seeing people lurking on that page, anyway, as if they’re hunting for information. Folks, if you have a question or are curious about something, simply ask. There’s a good chance I’ll answer you honestly.

So, from now on, any readers who want to comment about something on this blog will need to do it on the post in question, rather than fill out the contact form. I am going “no contact” with the contact form. It doesn’t work as intended and often leads to confusion and irritation for me. Life is tough enough and too short as it is.

There’s also the Overeducated Housewife Facebook page, for those who wish to comment or contact me privately, but actually, I’m giving some thought to discontinuing that, too.

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Germany, racism

Repost: One story leads to another… or– Mabel Grammer, the extreme “anti dependa”

Here’s a follow up post to the one I wrote about General Nadja West. This post was written August 6, 2016 and appears here as/is.

It never ceases to amaze me how you can go from learning about one thing to another.  Sometimes, it feels a little like digging for gold.  I’ll start reading something, learn an interesting tidbit, then study the tidbit more until it leads to an even bigger and more interesting story.  That’s what happened to me yesterday right after I posted about how military folks often end up marrying, dating, and/or mating out of their own cultures.

Yesterday, I was inspired to write a post about LTG Nadja West based on a short news article I read about her.  Before yesterday, I had never heard of LTG West.  I’ll be honest.  The actual article about her wasn’t that interesting, other than the fact that she’s a very high ranking black woman in the Army who happened to be speaking at an Army post where I spent a lot of time when I was growing up.  What  initially intrigued me was seeing that she’s clearly a product of a collaboration between a German woman and a black man.  Since I live in Germany, I’ve seen that phenomenon many times and it really fascinates me.   

I know I wrote about LTG West yesterday, but I wrote my post before I learned more about her story through an obituary for her adoptive mother, Mabel Treadwell Grammer, who died in June 2002.  In 2002, LTG West was a Lieutenant Colonel, just one rank higher than Bill was at the time.  He would be promoted the following year for the last time, and LTG West would continue to climb to the stratospheric rank she’s currently holding. 

LTG West’s mother, Mabel Grammer, was an incredible woman.  She graduated from Ohio State University and became an activist for civil rights.  She was also a journalist.  As a young woman, she fought the War Department in an effort to desegregate Arlington National Cemetery.  She interviewed Thurgood Marshall and stayed at the then whites only Waldorf Astoria Hotel.  She was a mover and a shaker.  Clearly, Mabel Grammer was a woman who was a go getter.

In 1950, Mabel Treadwell Grammer married her husband, Chief Warrant Officer Oscar George Grammer Sr.  She then became an “Army wife”, like I was, and also like me, was unable to have children of her own.  Like so many other Army wives, she eventually moved to Germany.  Like so many other Army wives, she ended up with way too much time on her hands. 

Mabel Grammer used her time to explore Europe.  During her travels, Mrs. Grammer visited the shrine at Lourdes in France.  According to Mrs. Grammer’s obituary and LTG West, Mabel Grammer suddenly had a “vision” of sorts.  She realized that she had much to offer others.  She decided to devote her time and energy to helping other people instead of focusing only on herself.

Mrs. Grammer went back to Germany and began to visit orphanages, where she became acquainted with “brown babies”.  Known in Germany as “Mischlingskinder“, these were babies who were born to German women and black American servicemen.  Their German mothers couldn’t or wouldn’t keep them, so they were given up to orphanages, where they languished.  These children weren’t adopted by German families because they were mixed race.  Many thousands of these so-called “brown babies” were born in Germany during and after World War II.   

A woman who was adopted in Germany by a Black family. She explains that even though she’s half German, she feels like a tourist in Germany.

In post war Germany, it was difficult for for Soldiers to marry the German women they had been dating.  The Soldiers needed permission from their commanding officers and the women had to jump through many hoops to gain approval.  Complicating matters was the fact that in those days, interracial dating was extremely taboo in both Germany and the United States.  In fact, marriage between races wasn’t fully legalized in the United States until 1967 and even then, it remained taboo for many years.  In Nazi Germany, interracial marriage was also forbidden.  In essence, the babies born to these interracial unions were abandoned by two “super powers”. 

Mr. and Mrs. Grammer decided to take in some of the brown babies they met in orphanages across Germany.  Their first adopted child was a ten year old boy.  That boy had friends at the orphanage, who also found a home with the Grammers.  The nuns who ran the orphanages asked them to take more; they went on to adopt eleven more children, including one son who had already been adopted but was returned because he had leukemia.  That child, named Edward, died in 1955 when he was nine years old.  The last child the Grammers took in was Nadja, who was just eight or nine months old in 1962 when she was adopted from a German orphanage.  She grew up to be a physician, the highest ranking black woman in the Army, and the highest ranking woman to ever graduate from the United States Military Academy. 

As if this story wasn’t enough, I learned yesterday through several sources that Mabel Grammer went on to arrange for five hundred “brown babies” to be adopted by black families in the United States.   Since this was occurring during the 1950s and 60s, much of the work to coordinate the adoptions had to be done by mail.  Mrs. Grammer did not use any help from social services, although according to her obituary, Scandinavian Airlines did help fly some of the orphans to the United States. 

I read in another source that although Mrs. Grammer’s incredible efforts were potentially lifesaving for many of the children, they weren’t without controversy.  The babies were being sent to families who didn’t undergo any background checks.  Mrs. Grammer didn’t meet the people who were taking in the brown babies and there were no follow up home visits to make sure the babies were being cared for properly.  Some of the children ended up in abusive situations.  Still, through sheer determination, Mrs. Grammer continued her work and dramatically changed lives for hundreds of people who would have otherwise been brought up in orphanages.  In 1968, Mabel and Oscar Grammer received a humanitarian award from Pope Paul IX, which was presented to them at Fort Myer by one of the pope’s representatives. 

Mrs. Grammer encouraged her own adopted children to forgive their parents for giving them up.  She also encouraged the children to seek out their biological parents.  She explained to her children that they should be grateful to their parents for giving them life and realize that they couldn’t know what difficult choices their mothers faced. 

According to Mrs. Grammer’s obituary, every one of the eleven Grammer children who survived until adulthood went on to make something good of themselves.  Quite a few of them went on to serve in the Armed Forces.  LTG West has said that several of her sisters were “WACs”; that is, they served in the Women’s Army Corps.  Another sister was a Chief Petty Officer in the Navy.   

I am still amazed that I found out about this story by reading a simple article in the Daily Press about Mabel and Oscar Grammer’s youngest daughter, LTG Nadja West, and being curious about where she came from.  I’ll have to do some more reading about brown babies.

A newscast about so-called “brown babies” from Germany.  A documentary about Mischlingskinder is discussed in this newscast.  

Since I’ve found out more about the “brown baby” phenomenon, I see the documentary is being sold through the BRATS Our Journey Home Web site.  I may have to spend some of my husband’s hard earned cash on a couple of new documentaries this weekend.

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Germany, Military, racism

Repost: International collaborations…

I’m sharing this post, originally written on Blogspot on August 5, 2016, because I think it’s a really cool story that is relevant to my experience in Germany. Keep in mind that it appears here as/is, as I am certain General West has moved on from Fort Eustis. I will also share a follow up post written at the same time.

This morning, I was reading the Daily Press, which is the newspaper from my hometown community.  I noticed an article about Lieutenant General Nadja Y. West, who recently gave a speech at Fort Eustis in honor of the 596th Transportation Brigade’s Women’s Equality Day observance.  LTG West is the first black lieutenant general and the highest ranking female to ever graduate from West Point and she once commanded the hospital (now clinic) at Fort Eustis, an Army post that is near and dear to my heart because I grew up nearby.  LTG West is a medical doctor who is currently the surgeon general of the Army.  Her husband is retired COL Donald West.  I see them as quite a power couple!

A video about General Nadja West’s career. I highly recommend watching this video from 2017, which came out after I wrote this post. What a cool lady!

Anyway, as I was listening to LTG West speak on a video that was posted with the article I was reading, I realized that she appeared to be the product of a German and American partnership.  She is clearly biracial and, in fact, has the sort of willowy look of so many German women I’ve seen.  Also, her first name “Nadja” is a very German name.

I went looking to find out what her background is and learned that yes, indeed, her biological parents were a German woman and African American man who was posted to Germany with the Army.  Sadly, LTG West was left orphaned when she was a baby.  At nine months old, she was adopted by Oscar and Mabel Grammer.  Oscar Grammer was a Chief Warrant Officer who worked with the Army in Germany and Mabel Grammer was a civil rights activist and journalist.  The couple adopted twelve interracial children in Germany and arranged for the adoption of 500 more by families in the United States.  LTG West was the youngest of the twelve children adopted by the Grammers.

Some of the most interesting people I’ve ever met are biracial.  LTG West is clearly very attractive, but she’s also incredibly accomplished.  I’m sure the people who created her had no idea how far their daughter would eventually go in life. 

Having grown up in the southern United States, I’ve seen my share of racism.  Germany is not immune to racism, although it seems to be directed more toward Middle Eastern people than folks of African descent.  One is much more likely to hear a German disparage someone from Turkey or Syria than a black person.   

Many German women seem to really be attracted to black men.  In fact, I remember when we moved to North Carolina, one of the movers was a very friendly black guy.  When I mentioned that we’d once lived in Germany, he laughed and said with a big smile, “German women love black men!”  I have since met a number of people who were born to German and African American parents.  In fact, a lot of the people I’ve met have been affiliated with the United States military, especially the Army.  The Army sends a lot more of its people to Germany than the other service branches do.

One of the things I have enjoyed about my years as an “Army wife” is the diversity of people affiliated with the military.  Because servicemembers go all over the world, they often end up in relationships with people from other countries.  Naturally, some places are more represented than others.  For instance, there are a lot of Japanese and Korean women who have married American servicemen (and it is, more often than not, women who marry men, though there are certainly exceptions).  I do know one Dutch guy whose wife is an Air Force officer.  I’ve run into plenty of British folks, a couple of Italians and Greeks, and one or two Portuguese married to Americans, courtesy of the military.  And I have several German friends who married Americans.

Someone has probably already done this, but I think it would be interesting to see the breakdown of international love matches that occur between American servicemembers and host country nationals. Naturally, not all of these “matches” work out.  I have one friend who barely knows her father, a Puerto Rican/African American Army veteran.  She grew up in Germany not really knowing her father, though she did eventually reconcile with him to some extent. 

A lot of people who have no experience with military folks think that they are a bunch of knuckle dragging lunkheads.  What I’ve found is that the military is full of people from diverse backgrounds and many are open-minded and intelligent.  It’s true that a lot of veterans are people who come from small towns without much opportunity.  Many people join the military to escape poverty or bankroll an education.  But then they end up in faraway places where they meet and mingle with the locals.  They collaborate to create another subset of diverse people. 

The same thing happened in my Peace Corps group.  About half a dozen people who went to Armenia with me ended their service married to host country nationals.  Many people think of the Peace Corps as a very liberal group, and it’s true that a lot of Volunteers are pretty politically liberal.  However, in some ways, the Peace Corps shares some similarities with the military.  It’s very obviously a government agency.  In fact, PCVs even take the same oath military servicemembers do.  I have been surprised to find Bill working with at least one of my former Peace Corps colleagues, who went on to work for USAID.

I have an Italian friend who constantly disparages the military.  He thinks it’s full of idiots who just want to destroy the world.  As someone who grew up an Air Force brat and later married an Army officer, I have found that many people with experience in the military are well-traveled and open-minded.  The ones who stay in the military tend to be pretty savvy about world affairs, and they often have opinions shaped by real life experiences outside of the United States.  I know a lot of people think the US military should leave foreign postings, but I think these opportunities to live and work abroad are good for American society.  Too many people in the United States never go anywhere and see anything.  At least people in the military get the opportunity to look beyond the borders.

Hanging out on a military base can be an interesting cultural experience.  Hell, just shopping at a commissary stateside is interesting, especially when you walk down the international food aisle.   You’ll find a number of exotic products stocked for the spouses of servicemember Americans who came from somewhere else. 

I think it’s really excellent that LTG Nadja West has done so well in her career.  I enjoyed learning about her, and would probably find her fascinating to talk to.  She’s quite a role model for all women.

ETA:  I just read the obituary for West’s mother,  Mabel Grammer, which I linked to earlier in this post.   I highly recommend reading it if you’re intrigued.  She was clearly an amazing woman.   

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