Memorial Day Melancholy – An Annual Re-post

Two or three times a year some of us geezer types get a bit tangled up in old times. Late April and much of May include several dates that trigger memories here.

Late April because my pop was declared KIA in Korea on April 25, 1951.

Early May because years ago I was discharged on May 9, 1969 from the Navy after spending over year around Vietnam.

And then there is Memorial Day. The advertisements for sales and off topic events make the day difficult to avoid, even if I wanted to. So I repeat this post with minor updates.

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I was an Army brat the first few years of my life. I have vague memories (or memories of memories?) of several Army posts; in Georgia, in Arizona, and another place or two. Then my dad was deployed to some place called Korea sometime in 1950.

Three additional memories are a bit more vivid – the day we were notified he was Missing in Action and, sometime later, that his remains had been recovered, and finally, his funeral. I wasn’t allowed to go – I was deemed too young.

But, I have a Purple Heart.

He is buried in our home town, and there’s a small memorial in the city park there with his name inscribed. I visit both as often as I can. Even though I was only five or six at the time and will be 69 in about a month I still miss him. I have pictures and memories, and…

I have a Purple Heart.

For many others, like myself, Memorial Day has a face.

We’re past the 50 year anniversary of Vietnam and there is a wall FULL of my brothers and sisters who earned a Purple Heart

So please don’t wish me a happy Memorial Day because…

I have a Purple Heart!

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We Grieve

It has been confirmed that the USMC UH-1 transporting relief materiel and personnel in Nepal was lost.  It will not be flying out.  The onboard personnel will not be greeting their families at home.

For some reason, this loss is more difficult for me to process.  Military personnel die regularly in training, in combat, and in quite a number of other circumstances. It’s not as if we don’t face death we don’t understand quite often.

There is something particularly poignant about these Marines being lost while conducting operations which Americans do with some regularity. Not at this altitude or exactly in this manner. But, coming to the aid of people around the world who are negatively impacted by a disaster is what we do.

That these Marines died while displaying the best of America results in a strange sense of pride in them and in us. Perhaps some day that knowledge will soften the grief we feel now. Not today. Today the grief is still raw.

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Signs of Spring

Now that tax day has past, it’s time to enjoy some of the other signs of the season. The first flowers have come and gone, the second wave is blooming, and the trees are greening up nicely. Most of the neighbors have even cut their grass this week with some breaking out their weed eaters.

The homestead here found itself in need of some new chickens. We’ve talked about it for a couple of years but have failed to do anything about it. Until this morning. We have 8 baby chicks under a light bulb to keep them warm. At this stage, they all look pretty much alike and are not exactly the mix we had intended. But next week the feed store gets another delivery, so we may get a more diverse crowd so that the grown flock will look more interesting.

The rooster seems happy in anticipation of having new hens to protect. We might even let him make some pin-up posters of them.  Since this is an Air Force household, perhaps we should encourage him to think of nose art instead of pin-ups.

Sure. That’s what we need. Nose art. Of course, we would need an aircraft nose for that.

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“Brave New World” or “1984” A Twist on the Theme

Dystopia: “a society characterized by human misery, as squalor, oppression, disease, and overcrowding.”

I still lean towards Bizzaro World myself, but I HAVE spent  several days re-reading/skimming both books after the revelation I stumbled across.

“In 1949, George Orwell received a curious letter from his former high school French teacher.

Orwell had just published his groundbreaking book Nineteen Eighty-Four, which received glowing reviews from just about every corner of the English-speaking world. His French teacher, as it happens, was none other than Aldous Huxley who taught at Eton for a spell before writing Brave New World (1931), the other great 20th century dystopian novel.”

The last paragraph opens with chilling prescience:

“Within the next generation I believe that the world’s rulers will discover that infant conditioning and narco-hypnosis are more efficient, as instruments of government, than clubs and prisons, and that the lust for power can be just as completely satisfied by suggesting people into loving their servitude as by flogging and kicking them into obedience.”

I don’t really care about being thought as an odd sort of Luddite, but if you have spent any time around someone looking at their phone AND offering little, if any, connection to things going on around them perhaps you should wonder too. Toss in the notion of Texting While Driving, or this reaction to tech deprivation as discipline,  and maybe the modern day Luddite has a point.

Maybe, just maybe, Orwell and Huxley both missed, and yet sort of emphasized  a simple thing. Nobody was actually paying attention.

Why bother posting about things esoteric and a bit painful to deal with?  Most here have, at least, committed to watching the back of  their brethren. We’ve also committed by oath to defend this country. Still, when ennui becomes rampant what can we do? Yelling FIRE in crowded theater is only a crime IF there is no actual fire –  but what if no one is paying attention?

Oh well… Sitting around watching the world crumble is The Geezer Prerogative, ain’t it?

One thing that cheers me up is a song from some fellow hillbillies. YMMV:

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Happy St Patrick’s Day

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, a wee story with something of an almost Irish twist. At least for those who do not understand or appreciate the difference between Ireland and Northern Ireland, there is an Irish connection. And perhaps there is in any case.

During the summer of 1980, give or take a year or two, I was in Belfast seeing the sights and enjoying a vacation among folks whose language was the same as mine. Most of the people we were hanging with were either members of the British Army or a local police force, which gave much of our sightseeing a slightly different perspective than what the ordinary tourist sees. It was a terrific good time.

The IRA was very active that summer. One of our hosts’ watering holes was firebombed while we were there. Quite a few public buildings were not open to the local population much less to tourists. The central business district of Belfast was secured by fencing with access extremely limited and tightly controlled. Armored vehicles were everywhere and heavily armed police officers conducted very efficient searches of anyone wishing to enter the central city. Continue reading

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8 Years Ago Today…

A thing happened on this day 8 years ago.  Any number of reference sources are available on-line if yer Google-Fu is good.

Some ‘Nam vets decided to stand up and be counted. ANSWER was gonna do some protesting at The Wall in DC. A coupla geezers decided to organize a counter effort. Captain Bailey and Colonel Riley managed to get the word out and The Gathering of Eagles was born.

I hope I can be forgiven for personalizing this post rather than dealing with the event in more generic terms. The latter has been done by many, and arguably better than I might offer.

The event marked my first trip to The Wall and my second trip to DC.

I, somehow, wound up being in charge of on-site communications. There were folks doing “security” that needed to be able to talk to each other and Captain Bailey made me his commo Petty Officer so I bought encrypted walkies-talkies and some (then) cheap cell phones as back-up. The day before the event we scouted the site and I picked the highest point for my headquarters.  While technically the right thing to do, it had one significant downside. It snowed and the temps dropped. We were ready technically, but not so ready for the weather. We were “under’ a canopy on poles that both threatened to blow away AND periodically dumped snow on us.

Still… it was the first time I’d felt proud to be a ‘Nam Vet. I could see The Wall from my spot, and the thousands who had joined us. Needless to say… ANSWER didn’t get close to The Wall.

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Just A Squid

In THE OLDEN DAYS… The other branches called us, generically, Squids – But I recall terms we used in The Navy to refer to our fellow sailors. NOT PC.

I’m gonna share the ones I can remember:

Airdale: Someone  who plays with aircraft and inhales jet exhaust with a smile.

Bubblehead: A submariner – NEVER a sub mariner.

Radarman: Scope dope.

Gunners Mate:  Gun Bunny.

Them that kept us moving and kept the lights on, etc.: Snipes.

Pond Scum: Surface sailors collectively – according to the Bubbleheads.

Kinda wonder how the other branches referred to themselves.

So with no acronyms and/or numbers, please, offer the friendly terms you all used  to refer to your fellow service members. Keep in mind that I’m including The Navy here. I certainly don’t remember them all… anyway the ones I DO remember are from near 50 years ago.

The Marines and Army types were collectively “Grunts” to most of us, as I recall, so now you can set the record straight.

One I DO recall is “Redlegs” for artillery – There is some historical basis for that one.

Anyway, fill in the blanks…

 

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Sunday Silly – NOT Quite

I’ve been scanning my usual news sources when I can this weekend. Can’t seem to find stuff that makes me smile.

Long aside: Snow storm knocked out our satellite internet AND we were without power for a time. Even didn’t have DirecTV, etc. My back-up generator did the self test on Wednesday just fine, but decided NOT to run when our power failed. Did get it running, and the snow on the dishes slid off, etc.  We do have battery powered laptops and a cell based Hotspot, but we only used those for weather and tracking power outages. A point worthy of note only because I reckon those events soured my attitude some.

Subsequent to all that I still haven’t been able find much that makes me grin out there in the rest of the world. So I’m gonna ask YOU lot for links to the silly I know is out there.

The only rule is that it has to be safe for work. Kinky does NOT equal silly.

Should add also, that the snow is melting, and our world is just fine.  Living on a remote ridge in WV, even with yer own gas well, does have some downsides at times .

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Just A Sailor

Preface: Title blatantly stolen from Steve Waterman’s book “Just A Sailor”. We met once and I have a signed copy.  Kinda happy to give him a nod here.

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This post may seem a bit of a whine, perhaps, but it is primarily just a sort of journal entry. It was suggested I post some Navy stuff and that process has been ‘interesting,’ and perhaps a bit painful at times.

I consider myself a Vietnam vet. Says so on my DD-214 as well. Still, the only VN mud I got on me was during a single trip to a bar in Da Nang. I can document being shot at by shore batteries and firing back. I can document helping to pick up downed aircrew in the Gulf of Tonkin. There is more similar, but I did my job well enough. Thing is… I was Just A sailor.

Of course there were sailors in the thick of things, from Corpsmen to SEALS, and others like Steve Waterman. I wasn’t one of them. I was Just A Sailor.

Came back to CONUS in May 1969. Arrived via SFO, in uniform, and was spit at and called a “Baby Killer.” But I was Just A Sailor.

Certain veterans groups said I didn’t qualify for membership back then. I was Just A Sailor.

Those last two items serve to highlight the one common area each and every Vet with a Vietnam Service Medal in their records share, the way we were dealt with when we came back and how we coped with that.  I was painted with THAT brush as broadly as any other. Even tho’ I was Just A Sailor.

No two human beings standing side-by-side will experience even the simplest of things identically. That one saving grace, at least, makes me feel okay to call myself a ‘Nam Vet… even if I was Just A Sailor.

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Twenty-Two per Day?

It seems that “twenty-two veteran suicides occur per day” has become common knowledge. At that rate, there are 8,030 each year and 80,300 in a decade. That certainly is quite a significant number. If those numbers only represent veterans, including suicides among active military members and reserve forces would raise the number even higher for all military related suicides.

Is that figure real? Upon what exactly is it based? Does it even matter?

Being reasonably good at doing research, it seemed like it shouldn’t take me very long to find the actual statistics and the methodology used to compile them. News stories link to assorted VA data which just isn’t there. Some news stories link to Congress critters using the figures that they read in various news stories. Other stories quote each other, none leading to any real sources. And everyone is wringing their hands about the problem, and blaming each other for it. Continue reading

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