From Full Metal Jacket:
Pogue Colonel: Marine, what is that button on your body armor?
Private Joker: A peace symbol, sir.
Pogue Colonel: Where’d you get it?
Private Joker: I don’t remember, sir.
Pogue Colonel: What is that you’ve got written on your helmet?
Private Joker: “Born to Kill”, sir.
Pogue Colonel: You write “Born to Kill” on your helmet and you wear a peace button. What’s that supposed to be, some kind of sick joke?
Private Joker: No, sir.
Pogue Colonel: You’d better get your head and your ass wired together, or I will take a giant shit on you.
Private Joker: Yes, sir.
Pogue Colonel: Now answer my question or you’ll be standing tall before the man.
Private Joker: I think I was trying to suggest something about the duality of man, sir.
Pogue Colonel: The what?
Private Joker: The duality of man. The Jungian thing, sir.
Pogue Colonel: Whose side are you on, son?
Private Joker: Our side, sir.
Pogue Colonel: Don’t you love your country?
Private Joker: Yes, sir.
Pogue Colonel: Then how about getting with the program? Why don’t you jump on the team and come on in for the big win?
Private Joker: Yes, sir.
Pogue Colonel: Son, all I’ve ever asked of my marines is that they obey my orders as they would the word of God. We are here to help the Vietnamese, because inside every gook there is an American trying to get out. It’s a hardball world, son. We’ve gotta keep our heads until this peace craze blows over.
Private Joker: Aye-aye, sir.

There are people that ask stupid things and then, there are just stupid people. Occasionally, it comes up in conversation that I served in the first Gulf War. I usually get one of two responses. The first is most common (thankfully) and it is a simple, “Thank You”. That thought often embarasses me but the people who share it mean it and I welcome it.

The second is offensive. It’s, “ah, the war where nothing happened.” I stare blankly at them. We won. People died. A lot of people. I know, I saw them. I listen to people who claim that it was a War for Oil and shrug at them. I saw the liberation of Kuwait. I saw the smiles of people who had been oppressed, murdered, not in war but in massacre by the Iraqi army. I saw that humiliation and grief returned to that army one hundred fold. I saw. You can claim that we risked our lives for oil and maybe that’s true but you can not deny the side effect. You can not claim that the lives that we lost were wasted. You can not claim that it was a senseless war.

The same applies to the current conflicts… both of them. I don’t pretend to understand all of the political drivers for the wars. I believe that the overriding goal was to engage the aggressors on their own soil. It’s a well documented tactic. If he’s engaged there he can’t attack you here. I’m all for that. I have heard people claim that our troops aren’t defending our freedoms by participating in the current conflict because the goal is oil. And yet, we haven’t had a major terrorist attack from an external aggressor in a very long time. People forget too easily what it was like to watch the towers in New York fall. It’s almost rhetoric now to present those attacks as evidence. That’s a painful fact.

People sometimes ask me what I thought of serving in a war. That’s a very hard question to answer. To be honest, I didn’t and I don’t really think that most of our troops do. I thought about why I was there. I thought about home and the things that I missed but I don’t recall ever thinking, “this is a war!”. I don’t remember fearing that a missile would fall on my head every night. We adapted to the environment and we lived. Day by day just like everybody else. It was a fact of life that someone might drop a scud missile on your tent. The same as crossing a busy intersection. You had the best protection possible in bunkers, early warning and patriot missiles so when the missiles came every night, we’d get our gear on and wait for them to stop. There wasn’t a great deal of fear. There was discomfort in the hot gear. It was just part of life. One of my most vivid memories of that time is Mark and I sitting across from one another with our Gameboy video games together via cable playing a game together. I wish I had a picture of that. It would speak volumes about what it was like to live there. Two soldiers in what most would call “chemical suits” wearing gas masks and playing with Gameboy’s while missiles streaked overhead. There were, of course, times that we were “scared” but it didn’t seem to matter much. We had a job to do and working through fear was just part of it.

Day to day life was just that. Occasionally we’d get mail from home. Occasionally we’d get mail addressed To Any Soldier. We felt obligated to read those mails and reply though never managed to respond to all of them. For those that I read and was never able to respond to. Thank you.

There is another group to remember today. There are millions of soldiers and sailors in the reserves. They give their all for our country. They train for thousands of hours. The attend the same boot camps and schools as the rest of our armed forces do and many of them serve multiple terms. They give up every summer vacation and one weekend every month… that’s nearly a month of duty every year… and yet are not counted as “veteran’s” because they haven’t served enough continuous active duty or served in a war zone but they’re always there for us.

When floods and hurricanes wipe our homes away they help to recover. They volunteer for almost no reward ( the average monthly pay is something less than $200/month) and few realize the sacrifice that they make. They risk being called to active duty and flown into a war zone to fight beside our “regular” troops. They are your neighbors… thank one. A huge number of our National Guard and Reserve have fought in every war fought by America. They are mocked in film, laughed at and called “weekend warriors” but when our nation calls they hang up the overalls and put on combat gear. They show up trained and using hand-me-down gear from the parent services. They don’t complain that their vehicles are Vietnam era cast offs. They just go and do the job. Not all of us came home from that war in 1991. Never forget that. If you do, I’ll remind you. Not everyone has come home from these two wars. Never forget that either.

For those that have been and returned. Thank you.
For those that are still there, God Speed, Stay Safe and Thank you.
For those that have stayed home and taken care of business. Thank you too. In my heart you are all Veterans.

For those that went and never came home. Thank you most of all. Your sacrifice honors all of us.

For those that are put off by my posting a protest song along with this post. I think that it speaks volumes about the difference between my perception of the war and what was experienced and published by “non-participants” (though this song is about a different war). The person that likes a war the least is the solider that has to fight it. It’s not disrespectful of those that didn’t return to say that I didn’t enjoy being there. It’s not wrong to suggest that whatever the reasons for the war, the result was a good one.

WAR! (the Duality of man)

2 thoughts on “WAR! (the Duality of man)

  • November 12, 2008 at 10:50 pm

    My version of the song:
    “War, huh, Good God Y’all!
    What is it good for?
    Population con-trol…
    Ha… Say it again y’all!”

    And I sing it at the top of my lungs every time I hear the thing.

  • November 12, 2008 at 10:52 pm

    Ha! Now that’ll be stuck in my head every time that I hear it. Thanks for that. 🙂


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