Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Then and Now

Then-1945 Flags of Our Fathers



Now-2006 Banners of Our Brothers

Go Army! Hooah! (I never thought those words would ever cross these old jarhead lips!)

Few things are as powerful in communicating an idea or a sentiment as imagery....music comes close, but pictures are worth the proverbial thousand words. And there are those few images that manage to speak volumes and arrive on the scene with perfect timing. Here are two.

My career in the Marines has encompassed a number of fields; infantry mortarman, bookkeeper, helicopter avionicsman and crewchief, classified materials custodian, and now combat artist. You would probably assume that being a middle-age artist running around in the thick of a fire fight with 20 year olds tops the list of challenges I've faced.....WRONG. The toughest job, bar none, ever served up by the Marines to me has been recruiting duty.

I won't regale you with war stories from the recruiting trenches.....and there are plenty. My old retired gunny buddy and I every now and again brainstorm the idea of writing a sitcom based on this unforgiving duty. In the course of an average week recruiters get exposed to and involved in situations worthy of a Greek play...Irony, Tragedy and Comedy...it's all there in spades.

By the end of my tour I was actually going through the process of legally immigrating to Canada. My wife at the time was a citizen of the Great White North and we were Nova Scotia bound. Why share this with you? Because after 3 years of working 6 and 7 day weeks from sunup to many a midnight I was completely burned out with what seasoned recruiters refer to as the greatest threat to democracy and western civilization; Moms of America. For the better part of three years I bit my tongue listening, in one form or another, to how enlisting in the military was a waste of time and talent. If elitist upper middle class condescension could kill I'd be a dead man many times over.(It was amazing to me how many parents still thought we were recruiting from the inside of judges chambers.) I recruited in the whitebread Washington, DC suburb of Fairfax County, Virginia. The attitudes that people go in the military by default and not design, and somebody elses kid should serve was rampant. During that tour I managed to be Marine Recruiter of the Year twice. I was pretty good at countering this mentality......but at the end of the day I was toast.

So, little wonder the good senator from Taxachusettes hit a raw nerve with me. He apparently apologized today. Vice-President Cheney, someone who can be funny, had a great one liner about "he was for the joke before he was against the joke". We can now add that he was against the apology before he was for it. Waffles anyone? The bottom line for me is that he voiced a prevalent and pervasive sentiment meant to play well in the ears of the Dem's constituency, a college campus crowd. His hand got caught in the cookie jar. That's the only thing he's probably genuinely sorry about.

I don't think many in the military really give a hoot one way or the other about this apology. The sentiment that joining the service is a waste is something all of us have had to deal with in one form or another, and often with those closest to us. It's a first cousin to "I support the troops but not the war" mentality.

At the end of the day we're just left feeling a little like the cavemen characters in the GEICO Insurance TV commercials....readily stereotyped, slightly forgotten and easily marginalized. Little wonder that just as there are few atheists in foxholes, there are even fewer Democrats.........and I should know, I was once both.

28 comments:

It's All Good Now said...

I thoroughly enjoy reading your blog. Your insight is enhanced by the fact that you live what you write. Keep up your great work. America can never have enough men and women like you.

Anonymous said...

The military can be a good attraction if it is NOT used for domestic political purposes. Spare me the phrase, "Making the world safe for democracy." This isn't the military's purpose. The purpose is to kill period. End of sentence. Thus it should be a final option, not a preventive one. It is an expensive option, so the cost has to be shared, and I don't mean just money. The people who join the military should be told this isn't international police, or road construction, or giving candy to babies, this is not so you can get an education on the cheap. People looking for these things can be directed to other services. The military's purpose is to kill people. If you want to kill then you have to take a battery of psychological tests. We don't worry about physical abilities compared to psychological ones. We don't want independent thinkers, questioners, advisors. The military is like a hammer, you pick it up and don't get alot of feedback on the advisability of what its going to be used for. Same should be true about the military. The military is a blunt instrument for delivering death.

Edo River rising

mdfay said...

Edo River rising, please try not to reveal in one glaring post how much you don't know about something....like today's revealatory sermonette on what military service should actually be all about, what folks in the military's psychological profile should be, and your ignorance of the multitude of political applications of military options across the length and breadth of history. However it was a good description of a military populated by cavemen...thanks for keeping that stereotype alive.

Japan is what it is today as the result of the brutal application of force, your blunt hammer, followed by more nuanced domestic massaging. General Douglas MacArthur literally wrote the Japanese consitution, which last time anyone looked seems to functioning fairly well.

Who, pray tell, will make the world safe for democracy, since the military would only be trotted out as a last option? Hey isn't that why we have nuclear weapons? So let me see if I understand you correctly, let's identify a core group of rabid easily manipulated mindless killers (jails and judges chambers might be a good place to start), no independent thinkers, questioners and advisors allowed, and make that our military. How long til we have military coup d'etat under your system? Not long I suspect....and you wonder how America's military protects democracy....oh wait, that's right, you have no clue.

GunnNutt said...

Thank God you didn't immigrate to Canada, eh? You're much too valuable to America and I'm VERY glad you decided (for what ever reason) to stay here.

Hey ERr, when was the last time our military was used for "domestic political purposes"? I think it may have been around the turn of the 18th century, if ever. Do yourself a favor and check a few history books out of the library and read them - if your socialist neighborhood hasn't yet burned them.

Anonymous said...

Your post reminds me of Frank Schaeffer's book Faith of Our Sons - when this upper-class elitist is faced with the fact that his son has enlisted in the Marines, he comes to terms with it, only to be faced with the condolences of his friends.

As for Kerry, he can't help himself - it is who he is. But, he did start a discussion about the educational levels of the military exceeding the general population. In fact, studies show that it is a snap-shot of America on the upper part of the curve... in others words - the best and the brightest! The elitists are sure the studies are wrong, since they don't conform to what they want to believe.

My personal experience with the military is foreign to Edo's comments. I would bet he's never known any troops!

countrygirl said...

I'm a mom (and I guess that’s "of America"), but I'm also a daughter and granddaughter and niece, of patriots.
When the recruiters came to visit our home when my sons joined up, both times I was surprised at how defensive they seemed. Since my boys had approached them in the first place, and I wasn’t hostile, I didn't understand it. Then I started hearing from some of my friends how they had "told off" the recruiters for daring to try to contact their sons (after their sons had shown an interest), and I started to understand. They seemed to think that they were somehow superior to me, because they’d managed to get rid of the recruiters, like some pesky door-to-door salesman of questionable honesty, and I wasn’t clever enough to see through the sales pitch and save my sons.
So many of my peers have forgotten what their parents and grandparents (not to mention those distant ancestors) sacrificed for them. With the liberal elite in this country setting the agenda for what passes as “history” in the school textbooks and for “newsworthy” and “relevant” in the media, they aren’t reminded either. In fact, the constant liberal guilt we’re bombarded with has resulted in them being embarrassed to get too sentimental about a relative’s service, or to be proud of their heritage when they do happen to remember it, much less be willing to send their sons to follow in those footsteps. And any and every military “horror” story anybody ever tells becomes representative and they believe that “it was noble when Grandpa did it but it’s different now.”
My boys will gladly tell you all the faults and failings of the military – sometimes they can’t contain their frustration (don’t tell me the military doesn’t have “independent thinkers, questioners,” or would-be “advisors”!), but they will also tell you that there has never been a time when it’s been perfect, and we can’t wait until it is to protect and defend ourselves. And they ARE protecting and defending us, and our way of life. But somehow we’ve come to the point in our collective thinking that if we don’t do everything perfectly, blamelessly, we can’t do it. Certainly can’t defend our doing it. But our enemies love that insecurity, and capitalize on it.
Thankfully, there are still realists and patriots among us, and sons who will join the service even though their moms don’t want them to.
I look forward to a time when they get more press time than Jon Carry!

Herb said...

Excellent post.

Bytor and the Snow Dog said...

I was recruiting out of Oakland California, 20 years ago. (Not exactly that office, keeping that a secret!)

Your description of the PTSD that a recruiter suffers, is spot on.

Most of my applicants were minorities. They were looking for a way out of the violence and crime that had infected their home neighborhoods. So my toughest obstacle was getting these nice folks to pass the *&^%$ ASVAB! The selling was easy, both with parent (s) and with the youngsters. Once past the testing, there were the endless waivers... Finally, having jumped all those hoops, there was the problem of the nice contract Physicians at MEPS Oakland. These were usually Anti-Military, antiwar activists, looking to disqualify an applicant for the most inane reasons. Like the "Rock back on your feet from a kneeling position BS test". Oh yeah, and scabies. Really lost an applicant for that little malady, June 1986.

When I finally finished my tour, I snuck into the office and destroyed ALL of my residual records. File folders and all. I did not want any minor administrative slip ups to come back and haunt me in my future. Sure enough, a year later I got a call from the E-8, asking where the records were. I told him they were in the file cabinets. Why are you asking me? I've been gone a year. (Also, these records going away would not affect an applicant, once they were on active duty.)

Thanks, for clearing up the old and worn out, "My Judge told me it was the Marine Corps, or jail" bs.
I had a tough time getting waivers for people who had ANY KIND OF RUN IN WITH THE LAW!!!!

Finally, I left the service a year and a half after my recruiting tour. I had nine years in and still felt the effects of that nice couple of years in a storefront. I have respect for all the folks who do the recruiting tour. It is the toughest job in the Military.

I would rather redo MCRD and SERE school, than relive those years!

P.S. I returned and did the last ten years and retired. Miss the service, but recruiting? Never.

Gunny H said...

When I read "Edo River's" Comments, I tend to ask myself, how old is he/she? What is His/her's education level? Where does he/she live? Edo, if you are out there, could you fill me in?

Carol said...

More WO Fay secrets revealed! You apparently have a closetful of hats there, sir.

Personally, I can't wait for the book.

Kerry's comment was insipid. Not all us Dems feel this way. Do you think perhaps it's us who have been mistaken for the Geico caveman?

Best always.

Bag Blog said...

You don't have to go to the judge's chambers to recruit - that is old hat. I've known many jr. and sr. high students who committed very grown-up, dangerous crimes and part of their parole was to stay in public school - sitting right along side sweet innocent children. I don't think the military would have these parolees. But public schools will keep them - every child is money from the state. Sorry, kind of got off on a different soap box.

Like Countrygirl I come from a long line of patriots, too. Men and women who serve in the military are awesome to me.

Laurie said...

One thing is obviously clear. Jon Carry does not read milblogs, or he might recognize that he is out of his league on the scale of intelligence.

EdoRiver said...

Mr. Fay,
1) How much have you read of "the way of bushi"?
2) I didn't call them "cavemen".
3) There was alot of luck and being in the right place at the right time, regarding the way WWII turned out. I have heard people refer to Japan as a model for Iraq. I trust you aren't one of those. Do you see any second coming of Douglas MacArthur? By the way, his office in Ginza area would probably raise some goose bumps, looks like he just stepped out for a few moments...spooky.

The reason I refined the job of the military is because it WON'T be a second option, but a last one. You guys got your shots in on Bosnia, about turning the military into something it isn't supposed to be. So now are you complaining that sharpening its point would make it more dangerous? Seems like you want your....C rations and eat it too. Can't have it both ways. Its an either or, not a both and.

Anonymous said...

"Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs-even
though checkered by failure than to take rank with these poor spirits
who neither enjoy much or suffer much. Be wise, they live in the gray twilight that know not of victory,
nor defeat. Nor true sorrow nor true love."

Theodore Roosevelt

Xopher said...

I took my daughter to the airport this summer for a trip with some other kids. There were some Army Recruits getting lined up to go to boot camp. One of the moms started in on the old BS that there goes their individuality. One of the things I miss most about the military is the characters. Civilians in many ways are much more conformist.

Edo River-sounds like you are raising the Samurai up on a pedestal they don't deserve. While they were indeed masters of individual combat, they were certainly not humanitarians. Read the milblogs and how our troops, our citizens have compassion for the Iraqis. Compare and contrast with the Bataan Death March or the occupation of Manchuria.

This is not to say our troops are perfect, to be human is to make errors. Errors do not invalidate what you are trying to achieve, otherwise no one would have ever used the light bulb, over 10,000 failures to get one that works. Rather look at what we are trying to achieve, and are achieving.

Warrant Fay’s criticism of your first post is spot on for the type of military you don’t want. History is fully of examples of militaries like you espouse, please study the outcome.

With respect to asking if he has read the Bushi, even if the answer is no, my answer is so what. Not only was I a Military Officer but I have been involved in the Martial Arts for about 20 years now. My bookcase is lined with many books from the Bubishi to “The Art of War” and many others. Further I like military history and read such regularly. Warrant Fay is much better read than you, and further understands what he has read and how it applies to the real world.

Realist said...

Oh try being a little less hypocritical. Whatever Kerry's intentions were, his comment would have to go quite a ways to compare with Bush's heartless statement that in the history books all the death and destruction in Iraq (including American troops killed) will amount to "just a comma". Where was the outrage from the REpubliTARDS and from the uniformed military about this? Hmmmm? All i heard was the sound of crickets chirping.

Mark said...

Warrent Officer Fay,

I recalled an NPR story about a New England Prep school senior who, following graduation, opted to enlist in the Marines a few years ago, with at most, the relucant support of his parents. The reaction of his parents' friends was to suggest an investigation to determine 'what went wrong'.

The father went on to say the trip to Parris Island for the son's graduation from Basic Training was an eye opening experience, as parent were gathering (from all social-economic groups) some arriving by bus, to attend the proud event.

Later, the father felt he had more in common with the mechanic who fixed his car, than with "friends" he had known for 20 years.
When the mechanic would ask how the son was doing, the father could sense a genuine interest, an interest not present with his former "friends".

the artist's wife said...

I've come to realize that no matter how much we try, we will not change the opinions of the "liberals" who like to stir us up with their comments on "conservative" blogs like this one. And likewise, they will not change our opinions or our patriotism!

Donna, Los Osos, CA said...

"I was once both".

You are a treasure! Thank you for all you have, and will in the future, put up with, to keep my family and America safe.

Semper gratus.

Anonymous said...

Edo River rising again,
Ok, I have come to believe that the purpose of the military is to fight period.
We shouldn't make the military into something it isn't. Maybe I got a little carried away with it in my first comment. But as I have lived here and dabbled in reading the popular Bushido writings that are all translated into English because of the demand from the US, probably. I have come to appreciate the refinement of the philosophy of the warrior that took HUNDREDS of years. It didn't happen with a volunteer army, the bushi were professionals in the most complimentary sense of the word IF YOU LIMIT IT TO military affairs.
I know the tradition in the US, with a civilian commander in chief, and I think that's enough. The forces should be elite mulitpurpose forces that each one of the branches cultivates.
Mr. Fay says I am revealing my ignorance because I make it sound like cave men. No, As I reviewed my post, I may have exaggerated a bit, I don't mean criminals, but the bottom line is killing. or supporting the killing. Let's not fool ourselves. Mr. Fay didn't tell me the purpose as I described it is untrue, he appears to object to the type of person who would be attracted to my description of the military. I don't want to deceive anyone. Tell the up front they are learning foremost to kill.

Mr. Fay said that the blunt hammer as I describe it did a pretty good job in Japan. Well, I didn't say that a hammer couldn't do a good job if handled properly.

Mr. Fay might suspect I am being sarcastic and insincere because he has read previousl some of my political inclinations. I am not trying to mislead, I am a 1)registered independent,
2)) I am a teacher. (elem. and then jr high math, writing training for the US Navy and worked with NPRDC in La Jolla, CA. and then wrote technical materials and training manuals for new engineers at Northrop Corp, and now teaching English writing in Japan.
3) I am a trying to be a good member of the Bahai Faith.
4) I am in favor of capital punishment under certain conditions.

Probably the bottom line is that Mr. Fay is worried if I had my way, then there wouldn't be enough to serve and protect the US interests. And he is probably right. I am not interested in having a military that supports only US interests. If we had an elite smaller much smaller force like I envision, we couldn't invade Iraq by ourselves, or even with the minimum suppport of "the willing". Unless we had the support of a majority of countries, we just flat couldn't have gone in. In other words if others don't buy our arguement, then maybe our arguement has some flaws. Using the excuse of WMD, we would have had to sell others beside the President's sidekick in Great Britian. If people believed the CIA and not the President, there must have been better support for the CIA's data. If the Commander in Chief still wants to waste a few hundred lives on a steath mission, that's his choice, at least he couldn't drag in all the people that Iraq has sucked up.

No, I see nothing wrong with following the bushi code, along with other training. And I would make it so that once someone was able to get in, and trained, he or she wouldn't want to leave because of an absence of skill development, or money, or challenges. ALSO he or she would be admired and respected as a professional. If it is truly a last resort, it will have the support of people across all areas, much like the initial support that the President had and then wasted.

Anonymous said...

I have never been in the Military, so you can run the cheap shots about ignorance. However, it is possible to know some things from the outside. The Military absorbs almost 2/3 of a trillion dollars from the economy, salutes, and does its best to deliver on whatever ill concieved notion the White House may be holding today. Sure I support the Military, who are not stupid but not asked and thus rendered dumb in both senses, but not the current war. And, I see incosistency therein.

EdoRiver said...

Congratulations to all Americans on a peaceful election. No car bombs. No rioting. No death threats. A noble tradition for other countries to emulate continues.

We do have a myth of noble intentions. The problem is that we have to use the art of debate and reason and setting an example to persuade people's hearts. Force and money are not effective over the long term.

countrygirl said...

Edo, you've explained some things: "I am not interested in having a military that supports only US interests. If we had an elite smaller much smaller force like I envision, we couldn't invade Iraq by ourselves, or even with the minimum suppport of "the willing". Unless we had the support of a majority of countries, we just flat couldn't have gone in. In other words if others don't buy our arguement, then maybe our arguement has some flaws."
I come at it from a totally different belief. I want to be friendly with all our neighbors, sort of the "as much as lieth in you be at peace with all men" philosophy, but I don't want to be dependant on any other nation for either their approval or their protection. ("As much as lieth in you" doesn't mean "always"!)
A small force? They have to "buy our argument" before we can act?
I happen to believe that our founders were right in spite of the opinions of the other nations of their day, and that this country has a noble heritage with noble intentions. Laugh if you want to, but there's a reason that this nation has given its best and brightest so many times to rescue and liberate those who had not the slightest chance for that without it, not to mention to protect us from those who would destroy us. We have some "flaws," no doubt about it. But does that mean we should give up our sovereignty?
What other nation is it that has done things so well that ours should look up to it? That ours should trust to protect us?
I happen to believe that in a very messed up world, we've actually been a beacon, of light and hope. I'm not ashamed to say that I believe that we are the "shining city on a hill."
Who should we surrender that to?

Anonymous said...

HAPPY BIRTHDAY USMC!
Semper Fi!

MissBirdlegs in AL said...

Always enjoy what you have to say, WOFay. Right on, Countrygirl!!

Happy Birthday tomorrow, Marines, with love and gratitude from this old lady!

Grimmy said...

Marine Corps!

UUHRAA UUHRAA UUHRAA

Semper Fi!


Happy Birthday, Sir!

AnonymousOpinion said...

Happy Birthday USMC!

Hope you get to bring your daughter to the ball.

Anonymous said...

Country girl, I hear you.
"so many times to rescue and liberate those who had not the slightest chance for that without it,"

I would say that all of those times were based on self interest, a la Kissinger's pragmatism. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing. But it is so easy to see that "What's good for the USA must in itself be good for the rest of the world" Don't you see what a dangerous ethnocyntric trap that is.

Is anyone old enough here to remember the discussion about CARE programs, where our volunteers went in and built "schools"(according to what we thought was cost-effective and efficient) in the woods and brought in surplus Agricultural products, and other condensed and powdered food stuffs and set them in the storage rooms. We then dusted off our hands, and said to ourselves "Thank you very much." And we left, kind of Lone Ranger style for the next country in the sunset. And what happened, the conservatives said the liberals were wasting money again. When Reagan came in Congress eventually cut the funding down and down it declined... Well, there was a reason. The results showed that the people didn't buy into our generosity. We came in and told them to be grateful for what we did and treated them at best like children. We were saying in a sense, "Here eat this; use this, it will make you healthy; don't ask questions, TRUST ME, I know what's good for you."
And so what adult or local politician, with an ounce of self pride, wants to accept things under those conditions???? You know as I write this, I think this could be said of Iraq too, maybe. CARE was not getting good value for the dollar at that time by almost any evaluation, except the marked effect it had on American youth who served in those countries and learned what it was like to walk in the other person's.....bare feet, mostly ;-)

America is a special place. A God given special place in a way just like the Jews were a special people, but that didn't stop God from testing the Jews with the coming of Christ, the same, I think can be said about the US, we are unique, but that won't stop God from testing us, and if we fail, there are others. We hope we are not the last of the Mohicans. There are others whom God could easily choose. There is nothing innate in our humanity. It is what we do with our resources and talent that is the criteria for whether we pass or fail, IMHO
Edo River