Tuesday, June 28, 2005

To the Patriot

The word patriot means one who loves and supports his country. Latin in origin, it means literally father. One argues that civilization arises from writing. Though I believe writing and knowledge fundamental for civilization, civilization’s true bedrock is fatherhood, if you know your father then you are a civilized man and live in a civilized society. A patriot loves his father that love for his father manifests itself in the love of his country – the fatherland.

In war and peace, I have come to know many patriots and if I could echo those words of author James Michener in his book The Bridges of Toko-Ri “Where did we get such men?”

Consider the tales of a Montana mechanic, in the service of Brown Bess, Specialist Joshua Hope, who came to us by way of the 173rd Airborne Brigade out of Italy. Over a couple of beers last night, he told us of the demise of at least four friends of his that died in the service of our country in Iraq. 1LT Burmeister, a Citadel graduate, the Charlie company Executive Officer, 25 years old, made a reputation for himself amongst the men for attending to their material needs. 1LT Burmeister had been ambushed in the early days of the insurgency. He administered first aid to his driver, before falling over himself dead. Josh said he looked and looked for the bullet hole that entered the HUMVEE that killed 1LT Burmeister. He found that hole. It went through the air vent and hit his femoral vein. Josh had to clean all seven pints of blood of Burmiester’s blood from the HUMVEE. Another man he told us about drove a fuel truck, pushed his driver out of the truck, drove the fuel off the road, before he got out of the burning fueler – that man lost his fingers in the burns.

One such man whom I’d like to pay tribute to is my friend Staff Sergeant Robert A. Burd, former resident of Houston, Texas. I had known Rob in obscurity in the halcyon days that proceeded September 11th. We became fast friends as he had just come from the 82nd Airplane gang and I had just left 75th Ranger Regiment. The Balkans had been the hot spot back then. Rob talked about his first deployment. A wet behind the ears private with less than a few weeks at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, this teenage Texan came face to face with ethnic cleansing. He had seen the bodies stacked on top of each other, decaying and unearthed for the world’s judgment. Rob told me from time to time even after many years have passed those memories still visit him in his nightmares.

Why am I telling you all this? I am telling you this because Rob was whom I thought of when I read a recent article in VFW’s membership magazine about Veteran’s organizations springing up on campuses all across America.

The article assured its reader’s of the VFW’s commitment to the veterans of the Afghan and Iraqi wars. But the article caused me to reflect on my school daze and further ponder what affect this war will have on our society as well as what legacy had the Vietnam veterans left for us.

I don’t have a lot of respect for those who have never served. I meet them everyday. They buy drinks at the bar. They shake my hand. They tell me “Thank you.” But when I ask if they had served in Vietnam, they shrink and make excuses. Others more my age will praise my service and think themselves novel for becoming acquainted with the soldier and his exotic exploits. But these men whether they be supporters or its detractors must live with the shame that somewhere over there or over here a woman or an old man is carrying a rifle and doing their fighting for them. I can not tell you how many National Guard Specialists and Sergeants I have met with an M4 rifle slung across their chest and talk of their grandchildren while this metro sexual respective chicken hawks and treacherous cowards drink heartily from comfort’s cup. It disgusts me to see an able bodied male with long hair while in a military hospital somewhere a woman works with a physical therapist to get use to her prosthetic arm or another woman works with a counselor about how she cannot relate to her son because she could not avoid killing a boy his age on convoy.

The article cited military veteran’s discipline, cordial manner and natural leadership skills necessary for collaborative academic environments. But I wonder when will Rob get his chance to lead a discussion on nineteenth century nationalism, work through his computer science proof, or build a solar car when now he’s either coming back from or getting ready to go for his fourth tour to central Iraq?

When I think about our future impact, I think it could be good or ill, it depends on the war. Riding the Martian chariot can take you to the heights of power or into a dark age of slavery and vice. Consider that no European nation had ever been the same since the end of the First World War. Their peoples had given themselves over to the tyranny of vogue intellectual debauchery – communism and fascism. And what of us, Korea and Vietnam signaled perhaps that we were in decline, the 444 day hostage crisis – though not a war, an act of war broadcasted our debility prior to the advent of President Ronald Reagan.

If the war goes well, we will walk toward a new dawn. If we falter and listen to fork tongued demagogues who call the war a quagmire and a mistake without the benefit of military service or an honest assessment of our military operations in Iraq, then darker days loom ahead. As the Polish invited the Teutonic knights as mercenaries to defend their liberty, perhaps this all volunteer force will evolve into a military class taking a Heinlein view of citizenship and either by moral force or by coup d’etat establish a medieval order as older civilizations strive to remake a multi-polar world.

I want to honor the Vietnam veterans of my father’s generation. They are a moderating influence on the wild excesses of the now repentant Jane Fonda’s of that evil generation. They served in the most wretched circumstances undertook a noble crusade that proved thankless and vain because the people they served were not worth the blood they spilled. I always looked to the Vietnam veterans as my heroes. I want to thank my Uncle John and Uncle Douglass for their service. And I want to thank my Dad.

The national prestige of nation is measured by the quality and quantity of its patriots, the annuals of history, those annuals unrevised by recent scholarship, attest to this. We must have soldiers, soldiers and more soldiers. If our culture does not encourage the free exercise of patriotism in public life, then on the hooves of the four horses of the Apocalypse will come our last hour, our imminent Gotterdammerung.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is amazing how you can put to words the thoughts of many

- Sand Sailor