Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day.

I'm not ordinarily a fan of the New York Post, but I liked this from Cindy Adams. I encourage you to read the whole piece but for today, I pulled just the words of the people who served.

Harvey Keitel, a Marine at 16 who served in Lebanon: "Everyone should serve. I don't be lieve in a volunteer armed forces. We shouldn't leave it for the other guy to fight America's wars. It robs our young men of vital experience. They can't have an identity they can respect without being aware it's necessary to stand up and defend the liberties they cherish."
The older I get, the more I agree with Mr. Keitel. I didn't enjoy my time in the Army, not a minute of it, but it made me appreciate life more than I would have without it. The Army took a small town boy and showed him places. It taught him how to communicate in another language and gave him a new appreciation for American history, the good and the bad, by showing how the gears of power turn.

These things would not have happened without the belief that Americans have an obligation to serve. That sense of obligation was drilled into us by my father, a man of his time, a citizen soldier who lost his only brother in WWII.

That obligation seems quaint now, as we crawl from the wreckage of 30 years of Milton Friedman/Ayn Rand ideology that says you don't owe anyone anything, that self-interest is all.

But, that's a topic for another day. Let's get back to the voices of veterans.

Morgan Freeman joined the Air Force after high school: "I wanted to be a fighter pilot like those I saw in war movies. But after napalm and rockets and realizing whoever you kill is going to stay dead, I realized this is not what I want for life."

Dr. Ruth Westheimer: "As a teenager in the Israeli army, I was a lethal sniper who could hit a target farther away than anyone and was accurate with hand grenades. Even today I can load a Sten automatic rifle in one minute blindfolded. On my 20th birthday in 1948 in Jerusalem, my legs were almost ripped off from a Jordanian cannonball that threw me 20 feet. All I could think
about was would there be blood on the brand-new shoes I'd just gotten for mybirthday that morning."

Tony Curtis: "I was on a submarine in Guam and got hit at the base of my spine. Doctors thought I'd be paralyzed for life. I prayed in English, Hungarian, every language I could think of. I was terrified I'd never walk again. I was mostly afraid my penis was dead. That area was completely numb. I had a good body, handsome face, and sex was all I thought about. Then one morning I felt a tingling. As the swelling at the base of my spine lessened, my nerves came back. As did everything else. Boy, was I afraid it mightn't."

Dennis Franz, in the 101st Airborne in Vietnam, "heard bullets whizzing over my head and got as close to being shot as I care to."

Oliver Stone, who won the Bronze Star for Valor and the Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster: "I can't even walk a straight line in daytime. I've no sense of balance. I lost my hearing in Vietnam."

To all who served, to those who had the courage to go someplace they didn't know, experience things that those who stayed home couldn't imagine, and do things they weren't sure they could do, I am proud to have stood with you, however briefly and without heroics.

Enjoy the day.


Stephen Blackmoore said...

That Doctor Ruth was a badass.

Thank you sir for serving. It is no small thing.

David Terrenoire said...

Thank you, Stephen, your response is no small thing either. It's been a long road for many of us. Again, thank you.

Anonymous said...

Dave- I've been thinking the same thing lately, that it would benefit our country and our youth by having compulsory service but never would say it. I came of age after the draft ended and didn't serve so who am I to ask the young to do what I wouldn't? But now I know it would have benefitted me in so many ways and that would be of benefit for our country in the long run.

Good post...

Joe Saundercook said...

I agree, good post.

My great uncle Herman (a big, friendly guy who's nickname was "Moose"-- nobody but his sisters called him Herman -- and who used to spoil the you-know-what out of me when I was little and he was still alive) shipped out to Sicily with his younger brother Kenny in WWII. I don't know how it went with the US Army, but back then, the Canadian Army kept everybody from the same town together, so a lot of brothers served in the same units.
The story goes that every time Moose got promoted to sergeant he'd do something to get busted back down to private so he could stay close to Kenny and take care of him. Unfortunately, Moose came home alone. He spent his lifetime working on oil rigs in northern Canada (if you've ever seen "Ice Road Truckers" Moose was always on the far end of the road) and never met a stranger, just friends he didn't know, yet.
Now, Moose, he got it. Kenny got it too, even if he didn't look it in his photos -- a young kid, his hair slicked back, cigarette dangling out of the side of his mouth, trying to make sure his helmet was at just the right angle...
I don't ever want my kid to be shot at, but I do want him to get it in a way I could never explain to him.