Memorial Day Thoughts

Discussion in 'The Locker Room Bar & Grill' started by wingchun100, May 27, 2014.

  1. wingchun100

    wingchun100 Senior Master

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    When I was a teenager, I was a pacifist, your typical "make love not war" type of person who opposed the armed forces, holding up my two fingers for the peace symbol. At the time I didn't realize even soldiers want peace. They would rather be home with their families instead of facing death in some foreign country. Now it seems like a "duh" kind of thing, but back then I was under the impression that only alpha male tough guy bullies got into the armed forces. In one aspect I was right: they ARE tough guys. You have to be in order to endure that lifestyle.

    In any event, my grandfather was a WWII vet, reaching the rank of Sergeant. My uncle went to Vietnam, and he was a POW. My uncle represented to me everything I could not stand about the military: not just the fact that he was strict, but that he seemed narrow-minded. There is nothing wrong with being disciplined, but I didn't see why it meant he had to look down his nose at me simply because I was into things that he didn't understand.

    My grandfather died when I was in seventh grade. My uncle is still around, but he lives nowhere near me. He came back to New York when my grandmother died. And before he went back home, this tough guy...this upright, disciplined, moral compass military man, saw the look of sadness in my eyes and said, "It'll get better, bud." And he actually HUGGED me good bye. (Months later I mentioned this to his daughter, my cousin, and she said, "Yeah, he has softened in his old age.")

    Now I see things with this new perspective, as I said above. I'm sure there are a few maniacs in the armed forces who joined because they are bloodthirsty. All we can hope is that the military psych tests weed them out! It's too late for me to ask either my grandfather or my uncle what they experienced, not in a sick "gimme all the gory details way," but in an attempt to understand what they went through...even though I'm pretty sure the only way to understand would be to have done it myself.

    They don't WANT to go overseas and kill people, but they sign up for it because it's the right thing to do. Like Demi Moore said in A FEW GOOD MEN, "...they stand on a wall, and they say, 'No one's going to hurt you tonight, not on MY watch.'"

    I wish my grandfather were still here for me to talk to. I wish this attitude had come along when I was younger. It didn't, and there is nothing I can do about that...except go to his grave and salute him. As for my uncle...well, sometimes there are things you don't need to verbalize. That one gesture of his changed our entire relationship, for the better. I salute him, and everyone who has served.
     
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  2. Steve

    Steve Mostly Harmless

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    The military isn't for everyone. I'm glad, though, that you can appreciate the service of others. IMO, it's important to have a sense that you belong to something larger than yourself, and to take a little less for granted the rights and privileges we enjoy as citizens of the USA, rights and privileges that people have fought and died for.

    I'm proud of my family's long tradition of military service. Just about every man and several women in my family has served in the military, all the way back to the American Revolution.
     
  3. ks - learning to fly

    ks - learning to fly Senior Master

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    thought you might like to see this... :)
     
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  4. oftheherd1

    oftheherd1 Senior Master

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    That's the attitude should prevail in the USA. Thanks for posting that.
     
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  5. oftheherd1

    oftheherd1 Senior Master

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    wingchun100,

    Glad to see your thoughts. I suspect that your grandfather, although perhaps a little disappointed, nonetheless loved you and supported you both as his grandson, and as a citizen how had rights to your thoughts. It would have been nice to have been able to talk to him about what he went through, but I really doubt he would have told you too much. My experience is that veterans quite often find it difficult to impossible to talk to non-veterans, or even those who never got close to combat. It gets very difficult to discuss things that others haven't experienced, and therefor can't understand actions that veterans might otherwise like to talk about.

    Probably the same with your uncle. But it wouldn't hurt to try, or at least develop some conversations with him. Especially as a product of the Vietnam war, he may have been abused by many young people when he returned. He might like to know you understand his service and attitudes, even if they aren't for you.
     
  6. wingchun100

    wingchun100 Senior Master

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    You are right: I wouldn't expect him to go into details, although he did sometimes. I remember him telling a story (I overheard him telling others...didn't ask him myself) about seeing a jeep score a direct hit and killing several of his friends. As for my uncle, aside from the POW experience, he was standing right next to a guy who got shot in the head. For a long time he had survivor's guilt over that.

    All I know is those people share an experience more intense than most people will share, and the bond they form are more solid. After all, you help each other to NOT get killed. I find myself surrounded these days by people who will stab me in the back for even the slightest chance to gain something over me, even for the tiniest, most insignificant prize.

    It makes me sad....makes me wish I HAD joined the military so I could be surrounded by people who understood what loyalty was. Instead, most people in my life think such a bond is a joke. It makes me feel like they are laughing at the expense of those who gave up their lives, who HAD that solidarity. With the way some people waste their freedom on petty nonsense, it's almost like they died for nothing. If I could speak to my grandfather, I wonder how he would feel about the way people use their freedom, the complete lack of loyalty they have to anyone (whether it is family or friends).

    Honestly, it angers me to no end, but what can I do...other than set the example, and not be that way?
     
  7. oftheherd1

    oftheherd1 Senior Master

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    I hope you can come to understand and establish a relationship with your uncle. POW's in Vietnam suffered incredible hardships. Have you considered whether he could have survived that without the discipline instilled in him by the military?
     
  8. wingchun100

    wingchun100 Senior Master

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    I didn't even know he was a POW until recently...only knew he was in Vietnam. Plus you have to understand something: I was raised by his sister, who wasn't that strict of a parent. So take a kid who doesn't have that much discipline or rules and then mix him in with someone like my uncle, and you've got a classic case of oil and water. LOL But the whole reason behind the original post was to express how I DO understand him now.
     
  9. Rumy73

    Rumy73 Black Belt

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    People join the military for a variety of reasons. Some are looking for war, just like some cops are into dangerous assignments.
     
  10. wingchun100

    wingchun100 Senior Master

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    I know that now, but I was young at the time that I made that judgement. Sometimes people do that: judge a whole group based on a representative few...or, in this case, one. It's funny because I didn't think of my GRANDFATHER as the typical super strict disciplined hard-assed military man...only my uncle. Maybe that had to do with what war they were in. I mean, I don't know if you can measure which "war" would be tougher to be in than another; they all suck. But my uncle went through something my grandfather did NOT: being a POW. I'm sure that experience made him a different person than he was before he went over there.
     
  11. Rumy73

    Rumy73 Black Belt

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    I understand your point. People can have trouble dealing with nuances and contradictions, which is really what life is about, and default to black and white views that simplify reality. Yet that latter approach is really a distortion.123
     

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