Wednesday, April 25, 2012



In the movie, "A Few Good Men" Jack Nicholson is being skewered by Tom Cruise on the witness stand of a Court Martial hearing.  Cruise is trying to get Nicholson to admit he ordered a Code Red on a Marine who was allegedly "not getting with the program".  In my mind this was one of the finest scenes ever staged in a movie.  Why?  Because, with both characters advocating for opposite points of views, the audience senses that both sides in the conflict are right.  In the end, the only "loser" are those who take no position at all!

While Cruise represents the smooth talking lawyer, adept at all the social niceties, schooled in the absolute rule of law, he is painfully naive about the real life consequences, and the necessary "modus operandi" that the American soldier must employ to execute the orders given him by his political leadership.

In that mesmerizing scene we see Nicholson tell Cruise in the most basic terms what it means to "Stand the Wall".  What Nicholson is telling us is that war isn't pretty, a soldier's life is more than the glorifying ideals that Americans wish them to be.  War is confusion.  War is ugly.  War is a hell-fire that is never "extinguished", even when war has ended.  And the participants in war, the soldier, will never be the same.

We also hear Nicholson say that the clever cynics like Cruise find it easy to speak glibly about the military mind, and hostile conflict at cocktail parties, while having the luxury of not knowing of the mechanistic horror of war.

And Nicholson is right!  Now that Americans are no longer compelled, with the ending of the military draft, to participate in the fighting, we find a significant contingent of the American people who see the military as a "necessary evil".  Unlike World War II, Americans are not asked to ration foods and material, are not asked to maintain air raid shelters, and are certainly not asked to enlist themselves in the fight.

And politicians, ever eager to commit our troops in ever-expanding world conflicts, find it easy to ignore the hardships of the soldier, and are uncaring about the effects those wars have on the minds and bodies of our military.  Thus, George Bush and Barack Obama can opt to spend $3 trillion dollars of our treasury and commit our soldiers to four or five combat tours toward an idiotic effort to democratize 300 million Muslims.

Now, after ten years of war, we find breaches in the idealistic image of the American soldier.  We find that a few of our troops who have gone off the deep end and savaged innocents in the combat area.  We find that some soldiers are found to have urinated on the enemy dead.  And we find photos of some soldiers hanging the carcasses of suicide bombers in total disrespect for those enemy dead.

Guess what America!  Take that five percent of American men and women who volunteered to serve their country, put that five percent into a culture that savages men, women and children, give them experiences where they walk into a school and see 30 dead children, killed for the crime of wanting to learn and think, then ask, if that were you, whether it would have an effect on you!

Arm that five percent, outfit them with body armor, put a 60 pound pack on their back, ask them to endure 130 degree summers and 30 degree winters,  force them to see their friends and teammates killed in firefights and IED's, and try to contemplate if those experiences might have an adverse effect on their psyche!

Nicholson is right!  Americans want us on that wall!  Sadly, you don't want to hear what happens to us while up there!  After three tours in Vietnam I came back to face the verbal onslaught of 'baby killer' and having Americans spitting in our faces.  Thank God our troops today don't have to face that.  But what they do face today is American apathy; apathy about what one goes through in war.

Whether it is the cop patrolling in Watts, or taking down a meth-induced crazy,  whether it is those Border Patrol troops guarding our border, or whether it is a soldier "Standing The Wall" in foreign lands, they are serving America!  You want all of them "on the wall" just don't want to hear the nasty details.

So, the next time you hear of a breach of discipline in the military, the next time you hear that an illegal immigrant got beat up, or the next time you read that a cop over-reacted in a pressure-charged criminal incident, have some degree of empathy and sympathy....or go stand the damn wall yourself!



Ken said...

That should now be considered the "Best of Lost in America" or at least one the best! I was going to bitch and moan a bit but I thought I would tell you a short story from my recent past.
My nephew just joined the Marines. We are all so proud of him but I can't tell you how frightening it is to think of him defending this nation under a commander in chief who up until the last three years openly expressed his disdain for our Military, a man who is busy looking for ways to gut resources needed by the Pentagon to do their job effectively, oh I could go on here as well, instead I will proceed with my story.
My nephew, Robert asked that we all attend his graduation from boot camp in San Diego and of course we could not say no to that. We spent a wonderful day with Robert; up until now a somewhat shy goofy kid who, miraculously in a few short weeks turned into a very proud man who took us all on a very enlightening tour around the Marine Corp. Recruiting Depot in San Diego. In his short time there he had become an expert in the history of our country and the role the Marines played in making that possible. I was just amazed at the transformation in this kid. We were walking to our car at the end of the day, a beautiful San Diego sunset, when Taps began to play over the loudspeakers all across the base, Robert was pushing his 85 year old grandmother in her wheel chair. He stopped and told her, "Grandma I have to do this", and turned her to the flag in that huge parade ground, he then stood at attention and saluted the flag. I was so moved, but then I looked around to see that every car in the lot had stopped, all the Marine graduates had gotten out of cars or stopped whatever they were doing to salute the flag, all were joined by us civilians in attendance. I can't speak for everybody but I know many of the people around me were wiping tears from there eyes, as was I. A truly patriotically spiritual experience if there ever was one.
Over the last ten or fifteen years I have become very cynical with regard to the future of this country, but I gotta tell ya, that experience really restored my faith in the United States of America. I wish everyone could experience that event.

JustCommonSense said...

Robert, thanks for a wonderful story. First, with regard to your nephew, give him my best. I too am proud of him, and of the grand tradition that the military instills in its members.
As to Taps, which signals the end of the duty day on base, I have participated in thousands of those and each time I stopped and turned toward the music or the flag, and saluted, I always sent a prayer upward to those who gave their lives to that I was free to do this very thing.
Taps is a rich military tradition..and I'm frankly so pleased to know it had an effect on the civilians in attendance.
I've always said that serving in the military was an honor; my country gave me so much and so did my service. It taught me discipline, pride in country, teamwork, it educated me through their support of my college education....but most of all, the service assigned me to remote locations around the world, where I learned just how special America is. Each time I came home from a foreign land I stepped off that plane and could always smell "freedom" in the air. That is hard for folks who haven't "been there" to understand that..but it's true.
Thanks again, Ken!

JustCommonSense said...

Just wanted to add, Ken; you might want to read another blog of mine called "Fighting for Pie". It relates what service means on a more personal level.

Ken said...

Mr. Sense,
I could never imagine an eighteen month tour in that Vietnamese jungle, having to bear the many atrocities, etc., to be told to remove your uniform before entering the airport. I am sorry for you and all the other 'Nam Vets who shared this egregious assault by your own countrymen. I am sorry.
I was very fortunate to have missed that war. When I registered for the draft I was classified 1-H a new classification that basically insured I would not be getting the "Greetings" letter you all got. I was too young anyway, turning 18 in '74. (your the old guy here).
I am wondering a bit why you suggested that particular article to me. I was of course sad at our country's treatment of you and your fellow soldiers, I know I felt then, just as I feel now that the people who would do such a thing should be treated as criminals. Therefore I surmise you are a much stronger man than I, as I don't think I could tolerate the way that knumbskull was talking to you. Like someone else said, "they probably never carried a weapon into combat". Your response to the man,patiently explaing how your actions now afford him the pleasure of spouting off just like one more Cal Berkeley spoiled brat intellectual idiot. On the other hand....
I would be very curious to know what you think of what he had to say. When I was young I had a blind love, faith and trust in my country. I was very passionate about it. Over the years, a lot of reading, not too much education but a great deal of experience I have become quite cynical. The passion is gone (with regard for this country anyway) and I find myself agreeing with several of that Berkeley idiot's talking points. I didn't agree with our attacking Iraq, I don't think Prez Bush perpetrated 9/11, I want to know why our military isn't on our border and why politicians on both sides of the aisle for years have been ignoring this monumental catastrophe of illegal immigration. I was sad to find myself in agreement with your suggestion of renouncing citizenship, I think those here illegally should be made to return to their home, I should not be forced to leave mine.
That's enough from me. Thank you for patiently reading my rants and always your courteous replies.

JustCommonSense said...

Ken, I never had a problem with any American opposing any war (just as I oppose our involvement in the Middle East). What hurt was these protestors were cruel; they took their abuse out on us because we were there for them to do it.
They should have directed their anger at someone who was pulling the strings.
Thanks for your comments.

grenadavet said...

HOOAAH!!! Well spoken as usual, Just! Unfortunately, even some in our military miss the point. In an after action debrief, I was asked if I felt that I had experienced "significant psychological change" due to deaths involved in the op. I replied "No, I am a natural born killer." My God, you'd have thought the major was going to have an apopolectic fit. I then pointed out that the U.S. Army had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars "forging me into a fine instrument of warfare","a professional killer begging to go to battle" etc,etc,. (Qoutes of my drill sergeants in Basic,jump school et al. The average civilian cannot begin to comprehend these tings.

JustCommonSense said...

Hey, Grendavet; nice to hear from you again. I was afraid you were ill or something worse. Yes, it doesn't matter how well we tired to explain how things really are...until folks go through it, they cannot hope to understand it.

I think America has lost something by not having the draft anymore. When the draft was in effect folks served time in the military, then got out and joined America's mainstream. As a result, many more Americans knew what it was like to serve and had some concept about what the military endure. We've lost that knowledge base, to our detriment.

grenadavet said...

Well,Just, I have said that a draft was a sign of tyranny,however, I do advocate citizen responsibility for national defense ala Switzerland and Israel. That is not a draft per se, (especially of the type Lincoln instituted) but a mandatory term of service to the nation, not even neccessarily military. A civil term (Border patrol,Peace Corps, etc) could be instituted. Remember, there was no draft during the War for Independence. I feel that the draft created more resentment and schism than it developed national unity.