Archive for July, 2008

GREEN AND PEACENIKS-UNKEMPT

MY WIFE AND I FOLLOWED OUR NEWEST 4TH OF JULY TRADITION OF ATTENDING THE PARADE IN BATH, MAINE. THIS BEING AN ELECTION YEAR, BOTH NATIONAL PARTIES WERE WELL REPRESENTED. IT WAS AMUSING TO HEAR THE ONLOOKERS HECKLING THE REPUBLICANS WITH COMMENTS LIKE “GOOD LUCK IN NOVEMBER” AND SUCH. OF NOTE, THE REPUBLICANS WERE GENERALLY BETTER GROOMED THAN THE DEMOCRATS.

WE WERE SITTING NEXT TO A YOUNG COUPLE AND IN PASSING CONVERSATION WE FOUND THAT THE HUSBAND WAS PERMANENT CADRE IN THE MAINE NATIONAL GUARD. HIS COMMISSION WAS FIELD ARTILLERY (INFERIOR TO AN INFANTRY MOS) BUT TO HIS CREDIT HE HAD ATTENDED JUMP SCHOOL AT FORT BENNING AND BEING A PARATROOPER MADE HIM IN MY EYES.

WHILE WE PROBABLY WERE AT OPPOSITE ENDS OF THE SPECTRUM RELATIVE TO OUR CURRENT WAR, WE WERE BOTH STRUCK BY TWO OF THE GROUPS MARCHING (AND I USE THE WORD LOOSELY). THE FIRST WAS A  LARGE GROUP OF NAVAL AVIATORS UNDOUBTEDLY FROM THE BRUNSWICK NAVAL AIR STATION. WHILE LOOKING SHARP IN THEIR UNIFORMS, THEY MEANDERED UP THE STREET IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER. WE BOTH COMMENTED THAT WE JUDGED SUCH GROUPS BY THEIR ABILITY TO MARCH IN STEP.

FOLLOWING SEVERAL GROUPS BEHIND WAS A MID SIZED GROUP CARRYING SIGNS SUPPORTING ALL THINGS GREEN AND FOR THE BETTERMENT OF THE ENVIRONMENT. INTERSPERSED IN THIS GROUP WERE MEMBERS CARRYING ANTI-WAR SIGNS,BAN THE BOMB ETC. THE NATIONAL GUARD OFFICER AND I BOTH COMMENTED ON THE ’60’S LIKE LOOK OF THIS GROUP. LONG HAIR, BEARDS AND THE GENERAL LOOK OF A DISHEVELED MOB. THE COMMENTS OF THE ONLOOKERS WERE MILDLY CAUSTIC. 

WHY IS IT THAT SUCH IMPORTANT ISSUES AS OUR ENVIRONMENT AND THE IRAQ WAR PROTESTS ATTRACT PEOPLE WHO SEEM TO BE ON THE FRINGE. WHERE ARE THE LAWYERS AND BUSINESS PEOPLE IN THEIR SUITS? OR ARE WE JUST TOO AFRAID OR TOO LAZY TO MARCH AND TO SHOW OUR TRUE FEELINGS?

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Reflections on Viet Nam versus Iraq

On June 14th, I was asked to host the breakfast at the American Stock Exchange celebrating Flag Day and the 233rd Birthday of the United States Army.  I was once again surprised by how few of my generation had served. There are only roughly 15 veterans of any of the services in an exchange population of almost 1000.

During the course of the breakfast and the roughly two hour visit, I was struck by the fact that there was a tremendous difference between how the current members of the Army and other services are being treated compared to my service time in the late sixties. As the Army representatives walked around the floor, they were cheered and thanked profusely for their service. Many members of the Exchange stopped trading in order to shake hands with the Army contingent. When I mentioned the warm response to the Lieutenant Colonel and the Command Sergeant Major, they both commented that the same thing happens in airports and even on the streets> While both were warmed by the welcome, they both expressed some embarassment. The command Sergeant Major had joined at the end of the Viet Nam Conflict and remembered how different those times were.

I related my experience returning home in 1969. Upon release from the Army in late May, I caught a plane from Seattle Tacoma Airport to Boston. My wife was about to graduate from Mt Holyoke College where she had finished her senior year while I was overseas. I was dressed in uniform with the bloused boots and Overseas Cap(known by another name) typical of US Army Airborne. Upon arrival on the Mount Holyoke Campus, I found my wife’s dorm. Walking up the front steps I encountered two young ladies. They proceeded to spit on me and call me a pig.

Whether one agrees with either the Viet Nam War or the present War in Iraq (and I don’t particularly agree with either), I am more than pleased that the bulk of the American population are supportive of those who serve. During the Viet  Nam Era a large portion of those who served were conscripted. While I volunteered, those who were drafted didn’t deserve the abuse they took. They were simply doing their duty. The present military are mostly volunteers (the National Guard might be seen as reluctant volunteers ) and deserve our unqualified support.

Thank you to all who serve and thank you the American public who support them openly regardless of you view of the Iraq War. We are better for your support.