Friday, May 19, 2023

Hero and True American Patriot: Rear Admiral Philip Dur

 Hero and True American Patriot: Rear Admiral Philip Dur

By Pastor Doug Stauffer
Faith Independent Baptist Church
Journalist for Bay Life Newspaper
October 2022--Article 31 (2022-10-031)

Rear Admiral (RADM, 2-star) Philip Dur was this month's speaker at The Ft Walton Yacht Club. Members and guests of the Okaloosa County Republican Club sat enthralled by his speech and the depth of knowledge which covered a wide range of historical subjects and contemporary insights. He mentioned feeling at home among a group of like-minded patriotic Americans.

He applauded all those who served during the Cold War (1945–1991), the last war that America won. His speech was peppered with insights into the past, but his primary focus was on the dangerous future we face.

Philip Dur was born to a diplomat and spent most of his early years overseas. He was educated in the United States, earning undergraduate degrees in international studies followed by a PhD from Harvard. As a 33-year-old commander in the United States Navy, he briefed President Ronald Reagan every day for 30 minutes for months. He thought of the President as a genuine American, brave with love for this country and its people that knew no bounds. He believes this country needs such a leader with Reagan's stature to take us through the troubled times ahead.

He served our nation and the Navy for 30 years at the height of the Cold War and in its aftermath as the Navy struggled to redefine itself in the post-Soviet era world. RADM Dur's career as a surface warfare officer—with a specialization in national policy—took him through a series of exceptional assignments ashore and afloat, where he was both a witness to history—and had a hand in shaping its course.

RADM Dur provided a front-row seat to some of the pivotal events in our nation's history: from the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty during the Arab-Israeli War in 1967 to the high-stakes diplomacy as an advisor to President Ronald Reagan during the Beirut Crisis of 1983. He was also a participant in the last great act of the Cold War with the Black Sea bumping incident between a Soviet frigate and the ship Dur was commanding—the USS Yorktown.

As a Flag officer, he was the chief architect of the Navy's strategy. Admiral Dur's story provides a concise description of the Navy's role in the Cold War from the 1960s to its end with the fall of the Soviet Union. His seat at the table during most of the critical events of that period offers an insightful perspective of policy formation and execution. His insights are vital to understanding how the United States dealt with the complex issues in maintaining a fragile peace with the Soviet Union, which is again headline news.

RADM Dur is a highly decorated military officer, including the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, the Defense Superior Service Medal and many others. Some people in the audience are old enough to remember the headlines of numerous events from the Cold War era, but Admiral Dur offered us "The Rest of the Story." He stressed understanding the importance of freedom of choice and limits of government, and the limits of governance.

He stressed that the most critical role of government is the defence of the American people. It is a defence against foreign and internal threats—crimes against persons and property rampant in this country today. It is essential to focus on the uncertainty and dangerous future ahead. We live in a far more dangerous situation than the one inherited at the end of World War II.

As someone completely unfamiliar with the workings of the Navy, his commanding two great warships—a destroyer and a cruiser—was mind-boggling and fascinating. His stories caused his audience to sit on the edge of their seats, wanting more. His book “Between Land and Sea” is remarkable. A true American hero that I am blessed to call a friend. 

 Read the newspaper (page 6 East)

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Okaloosa County Celebrates its Military Heroes in 75th AF Anniversary

 Okaloosa County Celebrates its Military Heroes in 75th AF Anniversary

By Pastor Doug Stauffer
Faith Independent Baptist Church
Journalist for Bay Life Newspaper
October 2022--Article 30 (2022-10-030)

Okaloosa County gathered together to celebrate the military: first with the U.S. Air Force’s 75th Anniversary celebration, followed the next day with a salute to several veterans inducted into the Florida Veterans’ Hall of Fame. The 75th Anniversary took place at the Northwest Florida State College Mattie Kelly Arts Center in Niceville. The Hall of Fame event took place at Magnolia Grill in Fort Walton Beach.

Eglin Federal Credit Union and the Greater Fort Walton Beach Chamber of Commerce hosted both events. Boeing and Northwest Florida State College also sponsored the 75th-anniversary celebration.

75th Anniversary Celebration

Nine panelists discussed the role played by the Air Force during major events in U.S. Military history. Topics of discussion featured many first-hand accounts from people involved in training for the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo, Operation Desert Storm, the Iran Hostage Rescue Mission, Osama bin Laden Raid, Vietnam War, Korean War, Operation Enduring Freedom Afghanistan and more.

The 75th-anniversary celebration included several special guests, including SEAC Ramón “CZ” Colón-López, the Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Retired Capt. Dale Dye a decorated Vietnam War Marine. Dye is the founder and head of Warriors, Inc., a technical advisory company specializing in portraying realistic military action in Hollywood films. He has offered his expertise to television shows such as the HBO miniseries “Band of Brothers” and “The Pacific.”

Ted Corcoran, president and CEO of the Greater FWB Chamber, stated, “It’s just amazing that our neighbors and friends were involved in these crucial military operations throughout the world.” Corcoran pointed out that the Air Force, and the military as a whole, are just loved in Okaloosa County, and this event is a special way to honor our brave men and women. 

The panelists included: Cindy Cole Chal, Col Howard Hill, Col Larry Ropka, Col Bill Keeler, Chief Master Sergeant Bill Walter, Lt Col Kirby Locklear, Lt Col Corby Martin, Col Allison Black and Lieutenant General Marshall “Brad” Webb. The riveting stories brought the news headlines to life.

Salute to the Veterans’ Hall of Fame Inductees

The state established the Florida Veterans’ Hall of Fame in 2013 to recognize and honor military veterans who have made a significant contribution to Florida through their years of service. Nine Okaloosa County veterans have been inducted since 2016.

Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs representative Bob Asztalos spoke about the importance of the Veteran’s Hall of Fame. The chamber presented two plaques to Okaloosa County Commissioner Trey Goodwin to display in the county’s two courthouses.

“This is not to recognize the veteran for their military service, it’s their post-military service. It’s for what they did when they came back,” said Asztalos. “It’s incredible to me how veterans will go off to war, will serve this county, will do all of that, and then come back and continue to keep giving. And that is who we are honoring tonight.”

Corcoran concluded by saying, “the quiet professionals that we have here in the Air Force don’t pat themselves on the back very often, and it’s our job to do that!”

 Read the newspaper (page 23 East)

Read the article

Sunday, May 14, 2023

Governor Funds Future Trucking Needs

Governor Funds Future Trucking Needs

By Pastor Doug Stauffer
Faith Independent Baptist Church
Journalist for Bay Life Newspaper
October 2022--Article 29 (2022-10-029)

It was a pleasure to see Governor Ron DeSantis again in Niceville. Dr. Devin Stephenson and Northwest Florida State College hosted the Governor and his entourage for another significant announcement. The announcement concerned another sizable expansion of Florida's Commercial Driver's License (CDL) training. He also announced the creation of new opportunities for apprenticeships in Florida. Governor DeSantis awarded $1.5 million to NWFSC to expand the capacity of CDL training programs. These funds aim to enhance the existing CDL driver training program at its Chautauqua Center in DeFuniak Springs, including the purchase of equipment, to potentially serve 250 students in the program's first year!

He also announced nearly $12 million to Florida school districts, colleges, state universities, and private training entities to further support the Governor's workforce development initiatives. These funds are intended to start or expand registered apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs throughout the state through the Florida Pathways to Career Opportunities Grant (PCOG).

The Governor pointed out, "In Florida, over the past three years, we have made significant investments into workforce education, with an emphasis on trucking and the entire transportation industry. With today's announcements, we have now increased our CDL training capacity at state institutions from less than 1,000 prior to 2019 to more than 3,500. These investments are driving the growth of our rural communities and state as a whole."

Manny Diaz, Jr., Commissioner of Education, expanded upon the announcement,  "We already know that a traditional university path is not for every student. Thanks to the leadership of Governor DeSantis, students now have a variety of options to get on the road in a new career. With the Governor's continued support, our state colleges are perfectly positioned to meet industry demand and advance Florida's economic independence and prosperity."

DEO Secretary Dane Eagle remarked, "The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity is proud to support Governor DeSantis in his ongoing commitment to investing in workforce development and training initiatives in high-demand industries. Nearly everything we depend on in daily life is made possible through the trucking industry, and these strategic investments will positively impact hardworking Floridians, the trucking industry, and the state's economy, while also ensuring that Florida is number one in workforce development by 2030."

Michelle Dennard, CareerSource Florida President and CEO spoke next: "Florida is a critical link in our nation's supply chain, and the demand is soaring for Commercial Driver's License holders. With the leadership of Governor Ron DeSantis and our education partners, the CareerSource Florida network is honored to help connect Floridians with the vital training needed for careers in transportation and logistics."

Michelle Burns, CareerSource Okaloosa Walton Executive Director, stated, "Commercial vehicle drivers are a backbone of our economy and crucial to our continued economic growth. We are blessed to be able to increase our support for this industry and thank Governor DeSantis for his support for our region and this vital industry."

The Governor focused his entire speech on workforce education, but the media ignored all the good news and questioned his reasons for sending migrants to Martha's Vineyard the day before. The Governor then spoke on Biden's border policies and his reasons for sending immigrants to Martha's Vineyard. The Governor said, "We are taking what is happening at the southern border very seriously, unlike some. He pointed out that Florida is not a sanctuary state, but other states receiving these immigrants claim to be such. 

This was another great visit from the Governor with great news for the Emerald Coast and the Free State of Florida residents!

 Read the newspaper (page 4 West)

Saturday, May 13, 2023

Memorial Service for K9 Officer Blue

 Memorial Service for K9 Officer Blue

By Pastor Doug Stauffer
Faith Independent Baptist Church
Journalist for Bay Life Newspaper
September 2022--Article 28 (2022-09-028)

On Sunday, August 7, 2022, K9 Officer Blue of the Niceville Police Department was killed in the line of duty. He and his handler, Sergeant Phillip Ritcheson, were traveling on Highway 85, south of State Road 123. At 5:51 pm their police pickup truck was struck in the rear when a van switched lanes. The truck overturned and came to a stop on the south shoulder of the highway. Sgt. Ritcheson suffered serious but non-life threatening injuries, and the van driver was treated for minor injuries. K9 Blue succumbed to his injuries and was escorted to the Bluewater Bay Animal Hospital by the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office.

The police department and the Niceville community are mourning the loss of one of their two police dogs. It is tragic for the Niceville police department, especially Sgt Ritcheson and his family, as Blue was also a part of their family.

After the accident, deputies with the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office escorted the fallen K-9′s body to Bluewater Bay Animal Hospital. Deputies laid an American flag over Blue's body and carried him inside the animal hospital while other deputies lined the parking lot and saluted Blue.

Sergeant Ritcheson spent several days in ICU before moving to a regular room. Blue was a 7- year old Belgian Malinois who served with the Niceville Police Department for five years. His end of Watch was Sunday, August 7, 2022.

Chief David Popwell stated: “It is with a saddened heart that the Niceville Police Department has lost K-9 Officer Blue, to a traffic crash on Hwy 85 while he was reporting for duty at 17:51, on 8-7-2022. His handler and friend, Sgt. Phillip Ritcheson was transported to the Ft. Walton Beach Hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

The Niceville police department stated in a press release: "The Niceville Police Department appreciates all the help that has come from the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Department, Ft. Walton Police Department, Eglin Fire and Medical, Florida Highway Patrol, Niceville/Valparaiso Fire Departments, and Okaloosa EMS … We appreciate all the love and support that has been shown."

According to Niceville Police Chief David Popwell, service arrangements are still in the works with Blue receiving full honors. The memorial is planned for August 26 at 10:00AM at the Niceville Community Center.

 Read the newspaper (page 3 East)

Friday, May 5, 2023

God's Purpose and Plan (September 2022) A Pastor's Ponderings

   A Pastor's Ponderings: God's Purpose and Plan

By Pastor Doug Stauffer
Faith Independent Baptist Church
Journalist for Bay Life Newspaper
September 2022--Article 27 (2022-09-027)

Over my four decades in the ministry, one of the most frequently asked questions revolves around the purpose of life and how to recognize the will of God. I always point out one truth first: God made us in His own image, intending for us to spend eternity with Him in heaven. Unfortunately, sin severed that relationship. To accomplish God’s desired reconciliation with His creation, He sent His Son to earth to take upon Himself the form of a man. “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). Humanity’s lost relationship found a means of restoration.

Jesus Christ became a man to be the sacrificial Lamb slain for sin. His life and death recovered all that was lost—from Adam and Eve (in the Garden) throughout eternity. The Bible describes the sheer joy in heaven when one person comes to know the saving grace found only in Jesus Christ. “Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth” (Luke 15:10). With that foundation, consider three indisputable factors:

1. God wills for everyone to come to a saving knowledge of Him. “The Lord … is long longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). God has a purpose and a plan for every person born into the world, and His desire is for all people to spend eternity with Him. Unfortunately, the Bible also mentions “the course of this world,” leading people in the opposite direction. Every life has a specific course that God wants to be followed. No two courses are identical, and each has its rewards and challenges.

2. God created us to have a personal relationship with Him. “Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him” (Isaiah 43:7). Have you ever thought about your life’s direction and course? The Bible has much to say about it. The right course is described as a fight, a war and a race with hindrances and prizes for winning and finishing. The Bible tells of a man named John who finished his course and Paul who finished his course. Paul considered finishing his course more important than life itself.

3. The purpose of life is to please God. “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created” (Revelation 4:11). Those that grasp this last truth are most blessed. God created each person for His pleasure. Those who find out what pleases God find their purpose for being on this big round ball we call earth.

Lastly, consider that all the good guys in the movies always have an archnemesis. This plot comes from the Bible as it contrasts the thief with the Saviour. “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Jesus lived and died so that we could live the abundant life. The Devil comes to steal your joy and peace by destroying your relationship.

Some of the greatest Christians I have ever met understood that we are in a battle for the souls and minds of humanity. I am not talking about religion but relationship.

 Read the article 

Thursday, May 4, 2023

Florida Attorney General Wows Attendees at Lincoln Dinner

Florida Attorney General Wows Attendees at Lincoln Dinner

By Pastor Doug Stauffer
Faith Independent Baptist Church
Journalist for Bay Life Newspaper
September 2022--Article 26 (2022-09-026)

After a decade of serving on the judicial bench, Ashley Moody had to resign to run for Attorney General. She understood the sacrifice it would take, but her love for Florida and Floridians propelled her to make such a sacrifice.

Four years ago, the people of the state of Florida elected Ashley Moody to serve as the state's Attorney General. She considers being the state's Top Cop the most incredible honor by Florida citizens. General Moody is a fifth-generation Floridian and has never been more proud to be from Florida than now. One of her top goals is to keep fighting hard to keep Florida, Florida.

She recently spoke at the Lincoln Dinner in Ft. Walton Beach, so she drew upon the sentiments attributed to the 16th President: "America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves." She discussed the challenges faced over the last two years as the Federal government has disregarded our laws and trampled our rights. The states agreed to be a part of this Union by Constitutionally ceding only limited power to the federal government. She vowed to protect our communities by protecting our sovereignty—the sovereignty of all Florida citizens.

The border crisis greatly concerns General Moody. She believes in backing sheriffs and police departments by enforcing the laws, especially concerning those entering our country illegally and choosing to reside in Florida. We cannot allow a breakdown in law and order caused by unvetted illegal immigration. Drugs like fentanyl are crossing our open borders in record numbers, causing mass overdoses. She said the amount of fentanyl seized in the last two years alone is sufficient to kill the entire population of this country ten times over. Yet, the amount seized is a small fraction of that entering through open borders. Fentanyl is a chemical intended to harm the masses and is the number one killer of adults aged 18-45. She has urged the President to classify illicit fentanyl as a weapon of mass destruction to enable a coordinated and uniform response.

The "Women for Moody" groups (with men too) are springing up all over the state, especially with the Federated Women's clubs. Her message resonates with mothers because, as she stated, she is a mom first. She said her heart breaks watching parents lose children because they are targeted on social media with counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl. Her message resonated with everyone when she claimed the designation by her foes and friends of fighting like a "junkyard dog." Societal breakdowns mean that her job is progressively more challenging every day. State attorneys with radical agendas are not elected to enforce laws selectively, so they must choose between doing their job or finding another.

Her husband, Justin, is a career law enforcement officer. He, too, believes in the conservative fight. Florida remains attractive because we value faith, freedom and family with a limited government. She and her husband believe that her continued service at this time in our nation's history is essential to continue the progress already made. She respects and admires those who make the selfless decision to put on a badge, a gun, and a bullet-proof vest. We must use the opportunities that God has given us by proactively and positively influencing the lives of others.

 Liberal publications often criticize this administration, yet the attacks are considered a badge of honor. Ashley is the first mother in an elected cabinet member position with young children at home in school. She quips that others say you cannot call yourself a "mom" anymore, but she's a proud mom and proud to be the top attorney in the Free State of Florida. General Moody said, "I get called many names, but my favorite is mom."

 Read the newspaper (page 12)

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

NWFSC Pastry and Baking Showcase

 Northwest Florida Baking Showcase

By Pastor Doug Stauffer
Faith Independent Baptist Church
Journalist for Bay Life Newspaper
September 2022--Article 25 (2022-09-025)

What happens when you are invited to eat pastries until you drop or pop with only one piece of advice from the chef: "Pace yourself"? Well, I can tell you that I have never experienced anything quite like this. Many of us arrived at the Raider Café not knowing what to expect. Well, expectations were met and exceeded with belt buckles bursting.

On Wednesday, August 3, Chef Layne Eggers and Chef Tim Yeabower showcased the talent of their culinary students. They instructed and helped seven students prepare 80 interactive desserts, including tarts, cakes, mousses, tiramisu & bananas foster, on 21 eight-foot tables. Yes, that is 168 feet of gastronomic delight.

The NWFSC Culinary Arts Management students 12-week-long baking and pastry class showcased various sweets and pastries for their final exam. Over 200 guests attended the event, from President Devin Stephenson to the fire department class and community members. 

There also were two butcher block bread tables with focaccia, challah, French baguettes, loaf breads, and dinner rolls on display with various flavored whipped butter spreads. Four pastry display tables, 40 feet long, filled with delicious cupcakes, cheesecakes & German chocolate cakes. There were so many different and tasty items from which to choose, and the only problem was understanding the chef's advice on keeping the right pace. What pace?

The guests enjoyed all the delicious items on the displays, while the students reportedly received A's on their final exams. The culinary management program at Northwest Florida State College fills a much-needed support element for the Emerald Coast. It prepares students for employment in the culinary and restaurant industry.

Students gain employable skills and knowledge through classroom instruction and culinary lab experience. Careers include sous chef, line cook, culinary manager, baking and pastry cook, personal chef and more.

Seagrass Restaurant at Northwest Florida State College is designed to provide NWFSC Culinary and Hospitality Management students with a hands-on learning environment while showcasing their talents to the community. Well done, and kudos to the students, the administration, and the community that came in FULL support. No pun intended. Mark your calendars for next year. 

Read the newspaper (page 17-18)