Monday, August 5, 2013

Over the years I have met a few sons that had to live under big shadows.

What brought this to mind was someone recently mentioned Chesty Puller, the Marine general that was a hero in both WW2 and Korea. Puller's heroic history goes back to the Banana Wars where he was decorated for going above and beyond.

Chesty had a son that joined the Corps and promptly got badly torn up in Vietnam and later became a suicide. His father must have been a horrible shadow to live under.

I went through basic training with the son of an Air Force general officer and it was interesting. While the father had been a Tuskegee airman during WW2 and a hotshot piot of some sort in early Vietnam, the son was just taking a break between high school and college and had the common sense to join a different branch of the service than his father.

He was lucky to serve in somewhat relative obscurity although likely his records jacket was stamped VIP, meaning that he was the son of someone of clout.

Still, the average soldier probably didn't know who his father was which likely made the kid's service career tolorable.

Later on in my career I met the son of a man that had retired as a brigadier general and he was fairly quiet about it. WHile I suppose his father was pretty sharp, the kid wasn't a shining star. He was pretty unremarkable, but wasn't a dud. 

One of the most interesting people I briefly met was at Camp Perry and he was the son of none other than Carlos Hathcock, a legendary Marine sniper that had pioneered the present day Marine sniper under Major Jim Land.

Hathcock's son was a pretty good Marine in his own right, but had been smart enough not to be in Marine ground forces. He was an Air Wing Marine as he likely knew and wanted to avoid the shadow as much as possible.

I actually checked him out before I met him, wondering what kind of guy he was and the Marines I talked to gave him a pretty good report card.

When we met I told him I had already checked him out and told him that everyone I spoke to had regarded him as a pretty good Marine in his own right and his face lit up. He was a nice guy and he liked fishing.

Like his father, he had earned his Distinguished Rifleman badge but had made his career as a Marine working with aircraft. He was on detached duty when I met him, having been assigned to the the Marine rifle team for a season.

I would imagine that if I were in his shoes I would have gone in as a payroll specialist or something along those lines.

We chatted about a few things here and there, none of which  I will post here and he was interesting.

While a lot of the sons of heroes often tend to enlist in different services than their fathers, Marines are different. It is a service where sons tend to follow fathers. A Gunny once pointed out a lance corporal to me and told me he was a 5th generation Marine, with family service history dating back to the Spanish American war. This explained Carlo's Hathcock's son. He was simply another generational Marine.

People sometimes are not very kind to the sons of heroes. If the son doesn't become a hero they sometimes grumble that he isn't like his Old Man which isn't fair.

Another thing about the heroes is that there is also a lot of coincidence in the actions that made them into one. A simple paper assignment could have put the man a continent away from where he performed his epic deeds.

These people were in the right place at the right time to perform the deeds that thrust them into the public eye.

For example, had the Korean War started a year or two later, Chesty Puller might have just been another retired Marine colonel at home in the States instead of leading Marines in Korea. When Korea broke out Puller was in Hawaii on his twilight tour. He would have likely retired after his tour there ended.

Instead, when war broke out he was sent to Korea where he was awarded his fifth Navy Cross and added a number of epic deeds to his already well known legend.

When I see a hero I see a man that was in the right place at the right time and acted in an extraordinary manner. It's not fair to his children to expect it to happen to them or even act like his father did. There are too many variables.

It's hardly fair to expect the children of heroes to become heroes themselves simply because circummstances are different for one, and for another the kids are entirely different people. Just let them live their lives in their own right and judge them on the same scale one uses for everyone else.

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1 comment:

  1. Generational is true. My Uncle served in WWII, bronze start and purple heart, I served at the end of Vietnam, stateside only, My son served in Iraq and my oldest grandson was a admin clerk. The next grandson down the list (he's 10) as already told us he wants to be a Marine like his older brother.

    My Dad and his older brother were both in the Navy during WWII. Not hero's, except in my eyes.