Saturday, January 21, 2006

Thoughts of an old friend

I check out LL's blogs from time to time and one of her posts not really struck a nerve but started my thought process.

Got me thinking a little bit, which isn't always a good thing. We had many discussions when we had to shut down operations while in Kuwait due to sand storms that would pick up almost like clock work from just before noon until dinner time. Which was fine for us, gave us down time during the hottest parts of the day, although being stuck in a tent without A/C in temperatures over 120 degrees, needless to say tempers flared rather quickly. Our choice of topics didn't help matters an either, all the subjects you should avoid when wanting polite discussions ie., politics, religion etc.

One topic that we started to discuss was about burning the U.S. flag as means of protest. Nearly everyone in the tent came to the conclusion that we didn't agree with it, but some like myself didn't think that it should be outlawed. In my heart I knew that in the past men have died to protect the flag, never mind that it's but a symbol. Our section's NCO came into the conversation late but brought up a very valid point, freedom of speech protects the view points that we don't like.

While we had to concede that what we were safe guarding was freedom of speech, even for those who's view points we disagreed with, or from people who had criticize anything the military did but would never dare to put on a uniform and serve their country. I've accepted the fact that I've put my life on the line to protect these people even though they probably won't ever appreciate it, I may not like it but I can't live their lives for them.

I don't know what it is about college's that seem to be the breeding grounds for those who feel the need to force their opinion on everybody. I'm a rather happy go lucky kind of guy or was, I could care less what you do as long as you don't try to force your views on me. Still I had to put up with people who constantly protesting about our military being in one place or another, yet would turn around and demand the military be sent to some place in Africa or the Balkans to deal with another country's civil war.

It would sicken me to learn of American servicemen and women's deaths due to the limited rules of engagement placed upon them by the politicians and interest groups while sending them into volatile environments. Rather amazing how much of a second class citizen someone in uniform becomes to those with financial means. Hell, we became second class citizens financially as well, a good many of families in the military are on welfare, they have to be unless you were an officer or fairly high ranking NCO, pay being little higher then if you worked minimum wage.

To hear the comments about what happened after the fiasco in Mogadishu in 1993, really sickened me. That place seems to be bad luck for any U.S. servicemen who go there. My best friend and class mate growing up joined the Marines right after high school and became a Combat Engineer, after the U.S. pulled out of Ethiopia for good, he was part of a task force that went around to the different facilities and blew up any equipment couldn't be pulled out.

After repeated ambushes while traveling from place to place and loosing several team mates, they decided to take a pro-active stance on the next convey journey to a different compound. In the ensuing ambush that followed, there were civilian casualties. Probably not something that made the news, he told me some years later after we both moved back to Alaska.

His Lt. Who wasn't with the convoy hung him out to dry so to speak, rather then back his troops he was covering his own ass and career, shifting blame to my friend who was one of the ranking NCO's with the convoy. He was summarily relieved of rank, spent time in the brig and was booted out of the Marine Corps for conduct unbecoming a Marine. I don't hold any blame on him, if I was in his shoes I would have done the same to protect my squad mates, I'll be damned if I'd let some third world national live at the cost of a fellow soldier. What was the line from Spy Games, "If it comes down to them or you, send flowers"

I've had to ask myself why I believe what my friend's told me, well, I trust him, completely. We've grown up together, we could almost start or finish each other's sentences and we've faced death together, walking away from a car wreck that by all accounts we shouldn't have. He's always been truthful with me no matter how painful it was to admit and for that he has my utmost respect no matter how much trouble he's been in. Probably the hardest day of his life was to face a felony sentencing by my mother, who felt like she was sentencing one of her own sons. Of the party that got drunk and went on a tire slashing spree, he was the only one to fully pay his restitution and serve out his time in jail. He told me of what happened as well, made no excuses and admitting that he knew what they were doing was wrong and didn't stop the ones in the group who were doing the actual slashing.

I find it amazing how much I can forgive of one who's been honest with me.


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