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.