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The Casualties of Bullshit

Chances are, you've heard of Adm. Mike Boorda, late Chief of Naval Operations. Coast Guard Capt. Ernie Blanchard and FN Dennis O'Brien probably escaped your attention. But the three men have much in common:

• All were (past tense) extremely dedicated to their country and their service;
• Each demonstrated said dedication with outstanding performance and enthusiasm;
• And each took his own life, over a bullshit investigation.

On the morning of his death, Adm. Boorda had O'Brien's file on his desk. The younger man had committed suicide following a ludicrous hazing investigation aboard the USS Los Angeles.

O'Brien had proudly earned his silver submariner's dolphins and a few of his shipmates pounded them into his chest (unike Marine paratroopers, they leave the backs, resulting in a bruise, not a puncture wound). Senior Chief Micheal Norris, the senior enlisted person aboard, saw the bent pin and O'Brien's bruise, and launched a hazing investigation. The crew locked arms and wouldn't say shit. The Old Man reported up the chain that the investigation was deadlocked. The squadron commander said that wasn't good enough, demanding "results." He got it--albeit not the way he expected. The command put the screws to the crew, locking the ship down--as in prison--and on the night of October 18, 1994 21-year-old Dennis O'brien put the barrel of his service handgun to his skull and pulled the trigger.

On the other side of the hemisphere, in the ivory tower of Coast Guard aristocracy, Ernie Blanchard told some jokes at an Academy dinner. They were not politically correct jokes, and some women in the audience took offense. Blanchard sent them a written apology. Not good enough. He offered his resignation. No deal. The Coast Guard told him he had to stay for the ride. He would be court martialed and possibly lose his pension. Another handgun fired at close range, and another casualty of bullshit gets a military funeral. With honors.

Blanchard was, by all accounts, a great Coast Guard officer, graduate of the academy, former skipper of a medium endurance cutter, and at the time of his death, head of public affairs for the service. It's almost a shock that the good ole' boys from the club would throw one of their own into the blades over a few bad jokes but when they denied his resignation he must have heard the round go in the chamber and he decided to pull the trigger himself.

Why were these investigations so important?

Would the admiral have inserted himself if the crime aboard the Los Angeles were theft or vandalism? Why hazing? The post-tailhook Navy would like to pretend it has some higher standard for how its people treat one another and the Coast Guard is apparently willing to flush a mans life down the shitter rather than appear tolerant of political-incorectness. And people said the Marines in the video were sadistic.

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The Casualties of Bullshit

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