Friday, December 15, 2006

What Did You Do When America Was Attacked?

Major Mike

Hugh Hewitt asked this question yesterday, as a by-product of a discussion that evolved during an appearance at Biola University. His point was that in 2028, for those running for public office, the answer to that question may prove pivotal to their chances of getting elected. That question splinters the conversation into a few directions…why serve?...will it make a difference in my future?...how will it separate me from my peers?...and to Hugh’s larger question…how will I be perceived if I do, or don’t, serve?

I’ll deal with the last question first.

Guy Sajer, in his excellent book, Forgotten Soldier… a recounting of a French citizen’s conscription into the German Wehmacht, because of his mother’s German heritage, interestingly opens with his observation…that upon his return to France after the war…he never met a man his age that had not served in the French Resistance. His inference was that this was a mathematical improbability, and that a large preponderance of the male population in France, were abject liars about their service to their country.

A credible recounting of the Resistance movement can be found in Raymond and Lucie Aubrac’s account…The French Resistance 1940-1944. This accounting will support Sajer’s inference that few actually served in the Resistance, thus many Frenchmen must have been lying about their participation in resisting the German occupation. Lies, that by their very nature, are intended to mislead the listener as to the bravery of the teller…his selflessness, his courage under fire, his audacity, his sense of purpose, his coolness under pressure, his service to his country or a higher good, his physical hardships endured, and the mental challenges that accompany the depravities of war. When combined, these lies are designed specifically to elevate the stature of the teller in the eyes of all.

B.G Burkett’s Stolen Valor will greatly reinforce Sajer’s simple observation, in regards to service exaggeration among our own Vietnam era veterans and, incredibly even, non-veterans. It seems that when faced with Hugh’s question…What did you do when America was attacked? Or …What did you do when your country asked for your service? Apparently there are significant numbers of people who do little or nothing, yet they feel compelled to behave as if they contributed in a meaningful way. Or more plainly put…lie about their service to this country.

I would set the standard in this way…if you will routinely visit a national cemetery. Always shake the hand, or stump, of an injured vet and thank them for their sacrifice when you seen one. And always firmly state your reason for not serving, while NEVER making an artificial excuse as to why you didn’t serve. And be able to NEVER say, imply, infer, that you did serve, when you didn’t…then not serving may be a good choice for you. For when asked, you will be able to give a credible, conscience backed answer that you can, and must, live with. Seems a lot of people can’t…(VVA article about rampant impostering…including reference to many Civil War imposters).

Just be prepared to choke on your “justification” when you stand in the middle of the Gettysburg National Battlefield. Or visit Arlington National Cemetery. Or visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. These sites and hundreds more across this land and across the globe, pay tribute to the solemnity of the sacrifices millions have made for our freedoms. Visit these sites and you will feel the gravity of that sacrifice. A sacrifice made so that a preponderance of our citizens can live free from fear and sacrifice.

Measure your choice against the enormity of that, then swallow hard.

As long as you don’t diminish the service of others; fabricate or exaggerate your contributions; and are comfortable with your decision, in light of those who have sacrificed so much; then not serving may indeed be an appropriate choice.

Why serve?

To repay this country for the freedoms it has afforded you, your ancestors, and your offspring. To share the in sacrifices that are required to keep this country free…sacrifices being made every day by others unknown to you and your family. To measure up to other men of your generation, and previous generations, who have endured hardship and sacrifice. To learn teamwork, leadership, courage, conviction, honor, camaraderie, brotherhood. To “set” your mettle early in life. To travel the world, and learn from direct experience. To do, rather than to watch.

Will it make a difference in my future?

If you think keeping a clear head in combat will help you keep a clear head in business. If you think that leadership is more valuable than management. If you think that learning to adapt, and to overcome challenges will help you in life. If you think that hard work and discipline will help in a competitive business environment. If you think that people respect selflessness more than selfishness. If you think that being responsible for others’ lives will help you be a better boss. If you think that learning to give and receive orders will help you be more successful at work. If you think that learning how to reward those who work for you for their efforts is a good thing. If you think that being a doer rather than a watcher will make a difference to an employer. If you think that respecting yourself and your accomplishments will make a difference in the rest of your life.

How will it separate me from my peers?

Your peers will have never endured the physical hardships that you will endure on a daily basis…you will be harder, and tougher. You will have seen many things first hand…the world itself; third world poverty, deprivation, and corruption; laziness and excuse making; heroic achievement and self sacrifice; excellent role models and moral examples; organization and efficiency…all things that your peers will only read about at college, or never experience at home…you will become a realist. You will come to recognize and admire qualities in other men/women that you had not previously understood. You will not be deterred by challenge. You will excel under pressure. You will become a judge of men and their character. You will immediately recognize bulls**t when you hear it…you will come to despise it. You will learn to tell the truth…always. You will have integrity and character…always. You will respect the accomplishments of quiet, modest men. You will become…indeed, an adult…many of your peers will never clear this hurdle.

I owe all of my successes to my time spent with my wonderful comrades in the Corps… ‘nuff said.

I spent a lot of time on the impostering aspect of this question for one simple reason…when having served seems to become admired and respected, and possibly a ticket to some future endeavor…the imposters will come out of the woodwork. So to those who choose not to serve…don’t dare claim that you have. Live with your decision, but always respect the sacrifices made by those that have. Don’t claim their golry for your own.

15 comments:

Mr.Atos said...

Excellent piece Mike, to which I can contribute nothing. Suffice it to say, added to the list of required readings on the subject, I would add, Heilein's Starship Troopers and Ayn Rand's 1974 Commencement address to the graduating class of West Point. (http://mysandmen.blogspot.com/2006/11/veteranswho-needs-them.html)

...Both of which and the existence of David Allen White make me wish I had persisted with my applications to Annapolis.

Major Mike said...

It is perhaps the saddest part of life...missing oportunities that that cannot be regained, or re-experienced.

I would have loved to hear DAW read Shakepeare...I am butchering Julius Caesar with my daughter now. arrgggg!!! MM

dueler88 said...

Remorse for past actions and Regret for lost opportunities plague us all. But focusing on them only detracts and distracts from making the person you *are* and *will be*.

That being said, I will always be the Marine Corps officer that never was. So instead of focusing on the was (or was not), I hope that I'm doing an adequate job of focusing on the "am" and "will be."

I visited Washington DC for the first time in the summer of 1996. The three landmarks that had the most effect on me were the Jefferson Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, and above all, Arlington National Cemetery.

The Jefferson Memorial impressed upon me the importance, and extreme profundity, of Individual Liberty.

The Lincoln Memorial reminded me that Individual Liberty does not come without courage and sacrifice.

But Arlington humbled me in a way that I could not have anticipated. The countless rows of tombstones have a certain repetitious abstraction that makes them anonymous. But as you look at each one more closely, it has the Name and Rank of an individual person, many of them who gave the ultimate sacrifice to their country in battle.

That country is not just a homeland, but an Ideal. It lies no further than the simultaneous depth and simplicity of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution - that the Individual should be undeterred from living their own life as they see fit, and protecting that same right in everyone around them.

As the bulk of humanity now marches either toward nihilistic mediocrity or hopeless oppression, I wonder if we will have the continued courage to sustain the ideals set out in those two documents. Time will tell.

The opportunity for me to be a "Military Man" passed some time ago. But I will always consider myself a Militia Man. My family - past, present and future - deserve nothing less.

Marc D. said...

Wow, I'm seriously humbled by this piece. I am 39 years old and missed --no--avoided the opportunity to directly serve during my younger years.

I must admit that I didn't think about it when I was in my late teens and early twenties. Our country was in a different place at the time and setting aside a career and family to serve my country did not enter my mind.

Only now am I really beginning to appreciate the sacrifice that has been made for me and my generation --it all seems so clear now.

I have two boys that are just entering their teen years and I can't imagine loosing them to war. But I also can't imagine sacrificing their future to the evils that we now face.

I am certain that one of the hardest things I will ever do is steer my boys towards the Service. But I know that it is what I must do. Your words helped me 'get' this and I appreciate that.

Major Mike said...

Marc D. Thanks for such a heartfelt comment. It will be hard, and the risks are grave...even in training, but it will be parents such as you, with sons like yours, that will keep our nation free. If we all abdicate, and rely on others, we may truly arrive at a day where there are none standing shoulder to shoulder to honor our freedoms by participating in their impassioned defense.

I leave you with this...popularized by its inclusion in "Saving Private Ryan"

"EXECUTIVE MANSION, WASHINGTON, Nov. 2I, 1864. " To MRS. BIXBY, BOSTON, MASS.

" Dear Madam—I have been shown, in the files of the War Department, a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle.

" I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which shall attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save.

" I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.

" Yours very sincerely and respectfully, A. LINCOLN."

Mark C said...

Major Mike,

Great piece! I served right out of college and am now at Harvard Business School. You'd be suprised how interested my classmates are in hearing about the expereinces of those who have served. In a school whose mission is to produce leaders, I think many of them will struggle with the your question: "what did you do?"

James Fletcher Baxter said...

That human institution which is structured on the
principle, "...all men are endowed by their Creator with
...Liberty...," is a system with its roots in the natural
Order of the universe. The opponents of such a system are
necessarily engaged in a losing contest with nature and
nature's God. Biblical principles are still today the
foundation under Western Civilization and the American
way of life. To the advent of a new season we commend the
present generation and the "multitudes in the valley of
decision."

Let us proclaim it. Behold!
The Season of Generation-Choicemaker Joel 3:14 KJV

"Man cannot make or invent or contrive principles. He
can only discover them and he ought to look through the
discovery to the Author." -- Thomas Paine 1797

"Got Criteria?" See Psalm 119:1-176

semper fidelis
Jim Baxter
Sgt. USMC
WWII & Korean War

Teacher, 5th Grade - 30 years

MERRY CHRISTMAS December 25, 2006 AD

Note: As my precedent ancestors did for my generation, and attested in my behalf, always know: You are worthy! JFB

Anonymous said...

I was a Marine Corps helicopter pilot. I served from 1979 to 1985. No one ever shot at me, and the closest I ever came to getting shot at was flying near the DMZ in Korea. As a Marine, I always knew that the need might arise to go into harm's way. Yet since I wasn't shot at, I know that I wasn't tested the way that today's soldiers and Marines have been and will continue to be tested. I am humbled by your article because today's soldiers and Marines are under no illusion that they will remain out of harm's way. Indeed, they pretty much know that they will be shot at, and they specifically choose to serve anyway. Their service is extraordinarily noble, and they will indeed reap the benefits of character that your article discusses. I have complete confidence that they will carry on the rich traditions as United States soldiers and Marines. I will sleep well tonight. Semper Fi.

Boghie said...

Well said MM...

Even though I will never have the honor of wearing the EGA, I have been honored by working with those that do.

If you ever visit MCRD San Diego give me a holler. I work in the computer center.

RDB

Mr.Atos said...

I have never been to DC myself, Dueler. But, if there is an antithesis to the solemn gratitude and naked valour that is Arlington, it would be the tragic sobriety and overwhelming regret contained in Vicksburg's Memorial... a place through which I have strolled countless times. It is a momument to a nation torn; ripped to shreds by division, brought to its knees in a manner vaguely and disturbingly similar to the condition of this Nation today. Fortunately for us, we had no mortal foreign enemy in 1861 to capitalize on our collective insanity. Fearfully I say, it is not the state of this union today. And given our present course, to Vicksburg we may soon add a similar tragic monument...

... to be reflected on, with a similar sense of solemn gratitude by children silenced by fear, and women strolling yards behind veiled in resolved shame.

michael i said...

Can't help but notice that all of the "why didn't you serve" finger-waggling is aimed at men. The other sex has long been among the most chicken of chickenhawks; case in point New York's junior senator. Why are girls getting a pass in this post-feminist age?

Immolate said...

michael i,

I won't encourage my daughters to serve in the military unless they express a desire to do so. I have three girls. The eldest has been in AFJROTC in highschool for two years. She has my full support.

I also have one son, fourteen years old. I will encourage him. I have two adult stepsons, the eldest of whom is in Djibouti going through Marine Counter-Terrorism training. The younger was rejected by the military because of a medical disqualification.

Perhaps I am sexist, but where I see a duty for a man to serve, I don't think the same about a woman. It goes beyond simple preservation of the species. Women can and do make competant warriors, but I have always felt a desire to protect them from violence rather than thrust them into it. When I envision a world that seeks gender-neutrality, I don't like what I see. Women are the glue that bonds civilization together, and while it may be possible to suppress or condition that instinctive behavior out of them, I can't see the benefit.

But to Hugh's point, and yours, the political hopefuls of 2028 will definitely benefit from military service. I think that women who served will have an advantage over women who did not, and a greater advantage over men who did not. But realisitically, women from Clinton's generation rarely joined the military and seldom were assigned duty that intentionally put them in danger. You can't measure today's forty-plus-age women by 2028's yardstick.

Sue said...

Oddly enough, I don't think people realize how many women have served or are serving - a female won a Silver Star in Iraq for bravery when her Army supply convoy was attacked. It was the first Silver Star awarded to a woman since WWII. I still haven't seen anything about that except on a blog or two. (Shocker!)

I, a female, was Active Duty USN from '81 - '86 and then reserves until '91. I just spent Thanksgiving dinner where there were 3 females from 45 - 65 years of age who had all served in the US military but only one of the men had military experience (80+ years old).

I also think that service can be service to others. My military service was a positive, life transforming event. However, time in the American Corps, Peace Corps., managing a shelter should also seen as service. I'd even count time on your city planning board or city council.

Oddly enough, I don't believe the junior senator from NY (my home state) qualifies for the expanded definition either. Shocker!

Anonymous said...

From Lonejack Mountain in Idaho.
MM, I served in the Air Force from 62 to 66. I didn't do anything that would have had me break a nail little lone feel threatened. I would have been glad to have served if asked.
I did get to travel to Greece for one assignment where I did combat with a rock cliff. I lost. That is the some total of my combat.
I do have one daughter that served in the Navy, under Clinton, as a nurse. I can tell you that I wished I was younger so I could contribute more than cards and letters to service people.
My time in the Air Force did teach me the value of serving. I now serve as a missionary to Haiti. I guess it is what I saw in Greece that leads me here.

Mary in LA said...

I, too, never served, and should have. My father, my mother, both grandfathers, uncle, aunt, and two cousins all served in WWI, WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. Among them, they represent all five branches of the armed services. If, when I was in my 20s, I had had a better sense of myself in the future, I would have joined. But I didn't, and I didn't, and now I am too old (and was too old on September 11).

However, I have served the U.S. Air Force for the last thirteen years as an IT support contractor. I like to think that I am contributing to the defense of my country somehow, by helping these fine men and women do their jobs. It's not the same as wearing the uniform, but I hope it helps.