Remembering the Past; lost in the Present, and hoping for a positive future.
I lost a Marine this week.I don't remember how we became acquainted, likely it was at a watering hole like our tavern on K Street, Vinton.He was a combat infantry soldier not exactly sure of his rank at least E-4maybe E-5, but know he was a least a squad leader.We shared experiences and we shared tears remembering fallen comrades.His life after service was not easy.He likely had PTSD, but that malady was not in our lexicon until much later.
He shared stories of going into Indian Territory with perhaps as many as 160 Marines and after battle walking out with 60.He also told stories of action on the Ho Chi Min Trail laying claymore mines - don't think our people were supposed to be there, but action is action.He was close enough to hear the screams of the enemy as the mines were exploded.Tough stuff, but that's what our forces were there for - kill as many as possible.On the other side, that's what their forces were also to do.
This is the tough part; he was also a "tunnel rat".I cannot imagine the courage it took to do this job.Finding a VC tunnel or NVA tunnel and ordered in to reconnoiter or kill whoever was confronted.Some took ears others as my friend took fingers - God how could we succumb to such travesty, but in war compassion is gone we can only think of carrying for the comrade beside us - damn you who kill us.
That war is behind us, and it is difficult to put oneself back in time.That is our past - but that did not prevent our leaders from ordering our forces into Iraq in '91.But that successful 100 day war gave our Army their "Mo Jo" back.We didn't lose a battle in SEA, but we still lost the war.And that is laid on President Johnson and Sec Def McNamara - suggested reading `` Dereliction of Duty" by H.R. McMaster.We had super restrictions on our ROE (rules of engagement); such as our Navy and Air Force fighter pilots could not attack SAM missiles until they were operational.In other words they may have been stacked up on roads in the North on vehicles but not on operational sites, so no ordinance until they can shoot at you.EEE GADS!That makes sense only if you are afraid the Russians who supplied the missiles would be casualties and broaden the war.
Do we today have leadership we can trust?Do they have the courage to confront?Can they stare down an adversary and make them "blink" and withdraw?Or are they these adversaries laughing at our ineptitude?
My friend Carl, I render this reluctant salute - the right arm and hand smooth so no fingers visible to two inches above the right eye and slowly returned to the seam of the trousers.Rest in peace my friend and Marine.
May God help us.