So that the rest of us don't have to do so
Here I go again....On the subject of perception, Militarybrat is right, it isn’t ALL about perception, but it starts with it. We are powerful, but let ourselves be seen as weak, for various reasons, some not all bad. Our first inclination, in the 20th century at least, has not been to invade, attack, colonize, or otherwise destroy some one else’s status quo. We seemed to enjoy the gentle giant image we saw ourselves with, not realizing that others saw it as weakness, out of ignorance or delusion. This benign neutrality stance has cost the lives of countless millions who are not like “us�?, meaning don’t live here, don’t look like us, whatever. WWII, as fought, had a lot to do with a perception of weakness compounded by real military deficiency in the late 1930’s.
What the enemies of humanity on two sides of the world missed was our character and resources. Korean War again revealed an apparent soft underbelly, plus an amazing misconception of our own about China and the character of China...in particular China’s historic millennium old paranoia about conflict near or crossing its borders. IMO...had we not crossed the Yalu, had we left 50 miles south of the Yalu River of buffer for the beaten and retreated North Koreans, they would have starved, China would not have felt threatened because that War would have been over. Even great Generals make mistakes, besides crossing the Yalu, splitting an Army in two unconnected bodies on two sides of a rugged mountain chain wasn’t brilliant. Add in the presumption that nobody could sneak down your flank up in those mountains, and you have the recipe for disaster. About 300,000 Chinese troops did just that, then enveloping from the heights took us by surprise. The Allies, in general messed up S.E. Asia by restoring colonialism. The French just before their last battle at Dien Bien Phu presumed no little dinky people could get artillery up the mountains surrounding the plain. The little dinky people took the cannons apart, strapped the pieces to their backs and to bicycles and dragged them to the tops, assembled them and the battle began, with French strong points on a plain under plunging artillery fire from the hill tops. The rest is painful history, and to the credit of the troops there, most fought bravely until 10,000 were captured. Among the bravest was the 6th BCP (Battalion, Colonial Parachute), as noted by their enemy, who did respect bravery. We then began our painful time there. By then the news world had advanced video graphically into our living rooms, we no longer got our news huddled around shortwave radios or in news reels between movies at the local cinema (yeah, I am that old to remember both). It made a difference we took a long time to recognize.
When I enlisted in 1968 we could “witness�? about 500 body bags a week coming home. Like all mothers, mine too was crying as I got on the bus for the airport and trip to Fort Knox with the rest of the FNG’s. I live 5 minutes from Windsor, Canada, I had a choice, and chance to escape. No one I know ever suggested I take it. Never occurred to me. Fact is, we were young men, and we thought we might be able to do something good, as young men do. Now I am an old man, and I know we can. Tet had occurred, and failed, however, we were unprepared for the political response to the carnage, joined at the time by the largest civil rights revolution we had seen for 100 years. We again turned inward, the vocal minority, on the expanded publicity stage, even calling our troops cowards, the 101st, the 1st Cav, the 82nd, the 173 Abn Bde, the 1st ID, the 4th ID, 25th ID, the 9th MID, 3rd Marines, 1st Marines, 2nd Bde ROK Marines, 5th SF Grp, et al cowards? No one who served near them would ever say that. I did not see much of Vietnam, but I saw enough of it to know that those infantry troops were never cowards. I was never in infantry, got no special awards, and didn’t deserve them, but those men got too few. Again today, we see that the “Queen of Battle�? is still the infantry, just as in the game of Chess. Machines mow, men clean up. Combined Arms is the means to victory, “grunts�? are the means to establish the peace. I worked on tanks and combat tracked vehicles, the infantry and cavalry fought in them. It took all of us.
Today, we are in a new age, we are now pre-emptive, we act in the interest of others, which is our interest, instead of waiting. Make no mistake, it is a new policy for us. We risk trying to be too efficient, to carry out the new policy, we must remain strong, and politically capable of grasping that when we ignored the plight of others, we soon risked it for ourselves. No one here wants to die, and no one over there does either, with the exception of fanatics, mostly who convince others to die for them, for their selfish status quo. When OBL et al straps a C4 vest on and explodes himself will be the same day snow cones are served in hell. In the meantime, how much are we willing to sacrifice in mundane terms? My parents had to have little ration stamps in a booklet to buy butter, or cheese, or meat, or gasoline, and since they could not buy tires for their cars, those that had them mostly put them on blocks until 1946. I still have their last booklets from 1945-46. I still have my great grandfather’s wife’s diary from the Civil War, listing the tribulations of that time...a time when wives actually followed a few miles behind their husbands in the Army, hers in the 15th New York Cavalry. She was almost with him, but not quite, heard about three of his horses killed under him, worried about it, and celebrated at Appomattox. His saber hangs over this desk. I know that what comfort I have today was paid for dearly by those before me. All causes require sacrifice, do we have to guts now to stay this course. The cause is global humanity. The big sacrifices are sometimes those made at home. Those young men and women who serve us bear the battle, but cannot if we don’t bear the burden in support. When they return, say Welcome Home, and Thank you. Just walk up, smile and and say it. It can make a difference. When I came home I took off the uniform at Fort Lewis, and flew home in a Hong Kong suit. We were not welcome and I knew it. I hope fervently that we can and do better now.
We hear about anti-American sentiments, granted, but then explain my 90% Iraqi neighborhood...are they here because it was good over there? Vote was meaningless?....all that I know here had purple fingers, what does that say? Even Ward Churchill is safe to be an idiot here, where he’d not be elsewhere, even in France. Hell, he even gets $96,000 a year from a public University to be one. Go figure. What we have is worth defending, we have always known that. Now it is our time to share it and do it up front. No more Dunkirks. There are only three “war movies�? I think worth the time to watch. One is Hamburger Hill, the others are the HBO TV movies series, Band of Brothers, and the Hisotry Channel TV Movie Gettysburg. The wasn’t much difference between Col Chamberlain and his troops at Little Round Top and Capt Winters and the 506th/101st. at Normandy and beyond, or the g-d forsaken 101st Abn infantrymen who assaulted Hill 539 in 1969. They all bitched and moaned, and then did their jobs. With all their differences, they hung together, and did their jobs. I wonder if we can do ours now? I think we can, if we will. It is my hope for you who will live to see it. And...Tip your hats to the Military Brats and their families, who live like gypsies for 30 years, frequently suffering losses....so that the rest of us don't have to do so.
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