Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Semper Fi Springs Eternal

Tonight Larwyn sent around a post from American Thinker that brought back old memories…places and times from my youth. They are tarnished with the years and overlaid with later, harsher memories, but when I clean them up, spit shine the nicer ones, they are pleasant to contemplate.

First, my tale, and then Mr. Vaughn’s neologism for today’s military. These guys don’t have PTSD he says (though I think a solid minority do indeed suffer from it. An inevitable by-product of all wars); rather they have Chronic Warrior Syndrome. He does not mean that pejoratively.

Both our tales are predictable in their way. Easy sentiment for the old days. But in the end, that's what I want: something easy and uncomplicated. Youth is way too complex and uncertain to endure again.

When I was twenty I married a Marine. We were both much too young so it was not fated to go well, but that is beside the point here.

What I want to mention instead are my own particular memories and feelings that Vaughn’s essay brought to mind. They came back in a rush, a whole gestalt of what it meant to be a Marine wife, and how much I liked it.

We were very poor. In fact, one time my E-4 husband “liberated” some C-rations from the flight line and they stretched our budget that month. I felt guilty at the time and eventually mentioned it to the chaplain. He looked at me and laughed and then said something I have used over and over through the years. He said, “Girl, your husband did nothing wrong and neither did you in eating those blasted things. The first law of moral theology is that an owner has to act like an owner. So if Uncle wanted to secure that food he should have set up a guard detail. Forget it.”

So I didn’t trouble myself about it anymore.. But I never forgot that priest’s "First Law of Moral Theology.” In fact, I have used it to comfort other people when appropriate. It cuts the guilt of the overly-scrupulous right to the quick. A painless operation, in fact.

My favorite task was spit-shining boots. Yeah, I’m weird. I like to polish silverware, too. Man, I could really get those boots looking fine. And do any Marines recall the trick of putting empty milk cartons in your field pack when you had a day of marching ahead of you, cadenced in the hot southern sun?…

The marriage is gone, but my love for the Marine Corps remains. Yes, I do indeed remember the old adage, “if the Marine Corps wanted you to have a wife, they would have issued you one.” Fortunately, a lot of jarheads ignored that one. I liked the Marine Corps Wives’ group; it was fun exchanging stories…

I guess my own favorite tale was the time we had a minor fire in the kitchen...
- - - - - - - - -
(hot oil had spilled on the stove) and my husband had to use his government-issued blanket, which got scorched in the process of putting out the flames. He brought it in to exchange for a new one, and had to fill out - in triplicate - the explanation for having “damaged government property.”

Not long ago, I heard from one of the other wives from those times. Her husband did his twenty years and now they live in the Smokey Mountains. We laughed about the old, young times…and then Russ Vaughn’s essay came along tonight and brought it all back again, right down to the smell of that black shoe polish and the tall pines of North Carolina...

Here is Mr. Vaughn:

One of the things I’ve come to love about writing for the Internet is the new friends I make whose perception sometimes make me smack my forehead in wonder that in all my years some insight they easily offer up had so completely eluded me until now. One such is a jarhead, and believe me, as an old paratrooper, I use that term with respect and brotherly affection. Old Leatherneck, Troy Watson, introduced me to the concept of Chronic Marine Syndrome, which as best I can determine is the inspiration of retired Marine Corps Brigadier General, Mike Mulqueen.

Reading the list of symptoms associated with Chronic Marine Syndrome, I realized quickly that the New York Times and other mainstream media organizations have been right all along that those who serve their country, and especially those who have actually fought in their country’s service have most likely developed a syndrome which, considering the moral fiber of the mainstream media and the nation of sheep they seek to form and lead, could accurately be categorized by them as pathological.

Pardon me Marines in general, and General Mulqueen, specifically, but I think CMS extends beyond the Corps and infects past, present, and surely the future ranks of all American military services. Consider, if you will, but a few of the symptoms General Mulqueen has defined as markers of this unique infliction, as well as some others I have added:

  • First and foremost, having confidence in who they are
  • Possessing pride in oneself, one’s organization and the country they serve
  • Being knowledgeable of and comfortable with the terms honor, courage and commitment
  • Determined to see the mission, regardless of temporary setbacks, accomplished
  • Often either respected or despised by others, due to their unique abilities and talents
  • Internally and essentially immune to organizational political correctness
  • Able to meet you with a firm handshake and look you in the eye
  • When not a warrior, a first responder, cop, fireman, nurse, doctor, EMT, etc.
  • If he/she says “Hang on, I’m coming for you,” you can bet your life, they’re coming for you
  • Shares the tremendous pride and the undying respect of his or her family
  • Shares the tremendous pride and the undying respect of his or her buddies, military and civilian
  • Shares rations, water and candy bars with the unfortunate children of war
  • Shares, unfortunately, the gratitude of only some of us in this nation he or she protects

Yes, I’m beginning to see where the media can make a sensational case that these people, these soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen that we send out in harm’s way to defend us, somehow possess a demonstrable set of symptoms that clearly differentiate them from far too many in America today, especially these selfsame parasites in the mainstream media who greedily suck at the nation’s wounds and feast on the world’s offal.

Since these symptoms seem to apply solely to a unique minority of volunteers who place selflessness above all other virtues, a condition of some rarity in this age of “me first,” I can now understand how those staunch, courageous patriots at the New York Times and their fellow travelers at the broadcast networks see our returning warriors as unwell in some way.

Yep, I simply can question their judgment no longer; our troops returning from the Mideast wars are indeed afflicted and it’s time to give that affliction a catchy name like the one the media loves for my generation of warriors: PTSD. However, considering the group of symptoms described above, I think we should call this current problem, CWS: Chronic Warrior Syndrome.

Long may our young warriors be afflicted. HOOOAHH!

Russ Vaughn
Vietnam 65-66

“Chronic Warrior Syndrome” is posted at American Thinker and Old War Dogs. I tried to find Russ Vaughn’s poem, but no luck. If anyone has a copy, send it along


dienw said...

I was never in the military; yet, your story about the C-rations and the milk cartons makes me curious: I can only assume that the sargeants and other officers who rose through the ranks know these stories. I wonder if these are not unspoken survival tests. At the least, they sound like tests for native intelligence separating the sheep from potential leaders.

PapaBear said...

njartist: I have no doubt that demonstrating an ability to go over, under, and around the official rules in order to get things done, in such a way as to evade getting into official trouble, is a looked-for leadership characteristic.

dienw said...

So let's take this a step further: let's move this into the civilian sphere. Let's also assumee that the civilian leadership understands this quality of would be leaders: how do you see them reacting to such skills?

But don't go overboard. New Jersey is full of scoff-laws but they are really sheep.

Kollarrow said...

Clint Eastwood in "Heartbreak Ridge" said...

"Adapt, improvise, overcome"

David M said...

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 02/19/2008 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.