Military

Heroes

This week I have largely been focused on the men and women who have served their country, whether under fire, or in times when war threatened but did not fall. There is some sentiment that veterans are not heroes, which is nothing new, but it rears its vile head about this time every year, and I’m going to take a little time to crush that head under my heel today. Soldiers are not heroic for the uniform they wear, but for their willingness to lay down their life in the service.

They swear an oath, which the Old NFO posted on his blog recently (the blog is a good one, I recommend you check it out if you’re interested in things military and humor).

“I, (State Your Name), do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”

So if you yellow-bellied scumsuckers who keep shrilling about veterans not being worthy of the honors we pay them have a problem with war, you see right there who you need to apply that vitriol to. Not the men who pledged. Nor should we punish them, as has been proposed in certain transnational circles that wear smurf hats. Tom Kratman, a scholar, a gentleman, a really good author, and a veteran, wrote this (and I recommend reading the whole thing when you have time).

This is because of the very nature of war itself. There is nothing a court can do that, in terms of punishment that deters, even begins to approach the horror men inflict on each other in war, routinely, in the course of normal and legal operations. There is nothing any court can do that can even hope to catch the interest of tired men, hungry men, men fighting for victory and their lives. No sensible court would even try.

The soldiers who fought, or who waited to fight, never knowing when the call would come to mount up and ride into the inferno of battle, they have paid. They bought our freedom with their own blood, the blood of their brothers. With their peace of mind, coming home a shell of the man who left, filled up with something inexplicable to those who could not understand what had become of that previous incarnation. Gold passed through the crucible no longer looks the same as before.

Without words, a welcome home from one generation to another, an unspoken understanding. There is a connection, and perhaps the way for those who served to reconnect is to do so with the help of their brothers and sisters in arms. My grandmother commented about this when I did the Veteran’s Edition book bomb earlier this week, and what I’d like to ask is for you, my readers, to share titles of memoirs or blogs where like minds can find that mutual understanding, in the comments below. (Also, to update the book bomb, you can now find the ebook version of The Galileo Syndrome here).

dusk at tikritI’ll start with one I’ve been reading. L.A. Behm’s Dusk at Tikrit is a collection of poems and vignettes that capture a lot of emotion, and some of the boredom, minutiae, and awfulness of being in a country far from home, loved ones, and… well, I suggest that it’s good, and my readers will not like it, so much as find a resonance with the words in it.

And I’ll end with the immortal words of Kipling, the man who understood perhaps better than any who have come since (you can find the full text here).

Yes, makin' mock o' uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an' they're starvation cheap;
An' hustlin' drunken soldiers when they're goin' large a bit
Is five times better business than paradin' in full kit.
    Then it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, 'ow's yer soul?"
    But it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll,
    The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
    O it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll.
 
We aren't no thin red 'eroes, nor we aren't no blackguards too,
But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;
An' if sometimes our conduck isn't all your fancy paints,
Why, single men in barricks don't grow into plaster saints;
    While it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, fall be'ind",
    But it's "Please to walk in front, sir", when there's trouble in the wind,
    There's trouble in the wind, my boys, there's trouble in the wind,
    O it's "Please to walk in front, sir", when there's trouble in the wind.
 
You talk o' better food for us, an' schools, an' fires, an' all:
We'll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
Don't mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
The Widow's Uniform is not the soldier-man's disgrace.
    For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Chuck him out, the brute!"
    But it's "Saviour of 'is country" when the guns begin to shoot;
    An' it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' anything you please;
    An' Tommy ain't a bloomin' fool -- you bet that Tommy sees!
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10 thoughts on “Heroes

  1. Thanks for the link Cedar. We (the Vietnam vets) WON’T let the folks coming back today be ‘crapped’ on like we were. Meeting them at the airports, shaking their hands, and talking to them is what we try to do. It’s not a lot, but the folks seem to appreciate it.

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  2. I started writing by contributing to a mil-blog, as a veteran myself, in 2002. The blog still has an extensive archive. although most of the very early stuff is now, alas, lost.
    http://www.ncobrief.com – I still post to it now and again.
    Another good milblog – kept up by fans of the Navy flier veteran who was killed in a test flight crash a couple of years ago, much to the grief of his fans and family is The Lexicans – here http://thelexicans.wordpress.com/
    And finally – another veteran and mil-blog – Blackfive at http://www.blackfive.net/main/

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  3. I’d like to suggest “The Last Parallel” by Martin Russ. Narrative history of a marine automatic rifleman in Korea, ca. 1952. Amazon lists a Kindle edition, and there seems to be a reprinted paperback also available..

    Now, then, I’m a veteran. I spent eight years wearing Uncle’s green suit, including a year in the Republic of Viet Nam, and hold a Combat Infantry Badge and a Meritorious Service Bronze Star. I am _not_ — I say again, NOT — a hero. I don’t want to _be_ a hero. A “hero” is someone who does something particularly stupid when just the right people are watching. ‘Sides, many of the heroes didn’t make it back, other than as a name engraved on a granite slab in Washington, DC.

    Benjamin W. Hartley
    formerly Captain, Regular army
    Vietnam 1963-1964

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