Sunday, October 23, 2016

An open letter to an old classmate


You have a son that graduated from VMI and recently commissioned. If I am not mistaken he is headed into Army Aviation. Aviation Inherently risky business because unlike the sea there are no rafts and lifeboats.

You apparently have done a great job raising him and giving him a good education. You should rightly be proud of him. 

You may or may not be completely aware of what he did when he accepted his commission. He in effect signed a check payable to the Unites States Government for up to and including his life. I signed a similar check many years ago and have the receipt in the form of a discharge paper to prove it.

This is nothing to be taken lightly. I thought long and hard when I signed my check. My father didn't want me to. There was a heroin smuggling operation that had been busted a while beforehand. They were using the caskets of dead GIs to smuggle heroin. He said he didn't want me to come home in a box with a bag of heroin up my ass and be handed a folded American flag. 

As you might imagine, I take American casualties very seriously. Very seriously. These are the very lives of our children.

Ronald Reagan once commented that when your neighbor loses his job, it is a recession. When YOU lose YOUR job it's a depression.

The same hold true for military casualties. When it is the kid down the street that gets killed, it's a shame. People drop a casserole off at the house of the parents, tell them what a nice boy he was and then make sure to get home in time for American Idol.

When it is YOU child it is a devastation. Many times the family doesn't survive the loss. No matter what, the entire family will never be the same. Fifty years later as old men and women the surviving siblings will remember the loss of their brother or sister.

I visit an old woman that is now in a home. She was a neighbor. On her bookshelf is a faded picture of her brother in a Navy uniform. He was killed in a submarine during the Second World War.

When she was still my neighbor we had a long talk about how that effected her family. It tore them up.

I have in my room now an old faded picture of a relative that was killed in the fighting at Iwo Jima. I investigated his demise back in '09 and through the miracle of the Internet was able to contact one of the survivors. I drove 12 hours one way to talk to him. Finally after all these year he was willing to open up. It wasn't a pretty story.

When a death in a company occurs the commanding officer generally send home a letter to the family telling them what a great guy their son was and how he was killed instantly and didn't suffer. Often times the family realizes this may not be true and will often write one of his buddies and try and get the inside story of what really happened.

It's a waste of a stamp. Generally the recipient of such a letter will go straight to the CO and ask him what he said. The buddy will then repeat the CO's little white lie. This is common practice as an attempted act of kindness to the bereaved.It is not an attempt at a cover up. It is an act of kindness.

I was loaned an old family scrapbook and sure enough the letter from the CO was there along with a couple of letters from his buddies and they all said the same thing. He died instantly and there was no suffering.

Sixty four years later I learned differently when I spent an afternoon with one of his buddies that was with him when he was killed. It was rather unpleasant.

Also his official Marine Corps casualty card had a conflicting report, but I digress.

I'm not going to get into the morbid details here except to say he did not die fast like they do in the movies. It was a sad, tragic painful demise.

Where am I going with all of this? Keep reading. I'll get there.

After his death was reported the family pretty much collapsed. There is the mystery of where the $10,000 GI insurance payment disappeared along with anger and bitterness between siblings that lasts to this day. 

An entire family was destroyed. It was completely and totally destroyed and never recovered. The last time it was together at the funeral back in 1948 when the good sergeant's remains were recovered and repatriated. He had been buried in Iwo Jima during the fighting after he had laid out in the sun for several days.

So why am I telling you all of this?

People normally don't treat each other that way. There likely were not too many people on Sulphur Island that really wanted to be there. None of them wanted to die. They wanted to be back home, get married and raise babies and be left alone.

Was the war from our point of view justified? I believe it was. We were outright attacked.

Since then I seriously wonder how much of the fighting has really been done for worthwhile causes. Making money for defense contractors is not a worthwhile cause.

Maybe Korea was. Vietnam, not so much. Incidentally one Claudia Johnson owned a pretty hefty chunk of Bell Helicopter stock You know her as 'Lady Bird'. Tell you something?

I do believe we were right in freeing Kuwait. Incidentally, and this plays into my point, Although I hate the Bushes, I will have to give senior Bush credit. He understood and knew the human cost. He actually had the decency to sit down and hand write letters to all of the 146 families that lost sons during Desert Storm. At least he respected the troops. That's a lot more than present leadership does.

People don't make wars. Governments make wars. So long as we have a choice in government we have a responsibility to our children to elect government officials that at least keep wars to an absolute minimum. 

We don't go to war to make someone rich. We don't go to war to let politicians get kickbacks from defense contractors. We don't go to war because we're having economic problems. We settle those ourselves. We don't go to war for fruit companies like we did during the banana wars.

We only go to war to defend our rights and borders. Our children's lives are too precious to be wasted for no good reason.

I have personally  met a couple of people that served in the Bill Clinton White House and every single one of them have nothing decent to say about Hillary Clinton. She made it clear that she had nothing but disdain for both the troops and the Secret Service. The truth is she thinks they are simply there to be used to further her agenda. The words 'miserable c**t' seemed to be the most common term I heard to describe her.

She also seems pretty willing to get us into a stupid and useless war with Russia. Expect heavy casualties.

You might think about that on November 8th. Whatever. It's your son. 

For what it is worth, every day when I wake up I look up and see a picture of my long dead cousin and whisper a prayer for the guys overseas. Every single day. There is also a small inset in the frame of my cousin. It is a small picture of the late Captain Erik Foster, KIA, Afghanistan. He used to live up the street a ways. I meet his father every once in a while and he give me a sad smile. He's a very changed man these past nine years. His son was killed instantly in '07 in a helicopter crash when the bird was shot down.

I know one of the men that served with Captain Foster and he's now retired and living in North Carolina. He gave me the details and I passed them on to his father who was grateful. For what it's worth, Erik died instantly. In that respect he was fortunate.

If you want to send me a small picture of your son I'll slip it into the corner of another frame, not the one with Captain Foster and my cousin. They're both dead.

Instead I'll put in in the corner of a photo shopped WW2 poster I see every morning. It's been there for years and still makes me grin. Google images for 'Loose tits sink ships'. It's an old National Lampoon poster. I'll grin at him every morning while I whisper my prayer for the troops.


I have been spending my vacations at Camp Perry for well over 20 years. I generally drop in on the Marine team because they stay on post. The Army unit generally live off post.

Three or four years after 9-11 I was playing "who do you know?'' with a group of Marines. I learned that there were three guys I didn't know any more and another three that had been torn up pretty badly. The news left me in a mean funk for months.

We have been at war of one sort of another for over fifteen years now. I'm getting sick and tired of it.

If we are going to go after ISIS then do it, get it done and get it over with. Stop playing games with out kid's lives.

Quite frankly I would love nothing more than to tell the defense contractors to hunker down for a while because they are going to have to face a nasty outbreak of peace. 

To find out why the blog is pink just cut and paste this: NO ANIMALS WERE HARMED IN THE WRITING OF TODAY'S ESSAY

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