FOR ME, the 1967 War could just as easily refer to the war in Vietnam or The war in the Middle East. I spent most of that year in the former while I followed the latter in the pages of the Stars and Stripes, the U.S. military's news source.
Ironically, the men I served with seemed more interested in the war in the Middle East even though we were engaged in the one in Vietnam. Everyone I spoke with agreed that we would rather help the Israeli's since they appeared more willing to fight for themselves while the Vietnamese seemed servile, willing to accept almost any tyrant. Also, we fell victim to the typical American predilection to side with the underdog. I remember that the Stars and Stripes published a map of the Middle East listing the sizes of the armed forces of the participants, clearly demonstrating that the Israeli's were vastly outnumbered and outgunned.
I was among the few who predicted that Israel would win, although I was loathe to put my money where my mouth was. My confidence wasn't that high and my pay grade didn't support a gambling lifestyle. I can only dream about the odds I would have been offered had I been so rash as to predict an Israeli victory in less than a week.
Again, I watch developments in the Middle East from afar and wonder at the changes, not in the Middle East, but rather in the attitudes in my country. Why do we now revile the underdog? Why does our President call for a return to the borders existing before The 1967 Six-Day War? Doesn't he know that there were no recognized borders prior to 1967? There were lines of battle where the Israeli's stopped after driving away the Arabs who had come to annihilate them, but no recognized borders. Doesn't he know that the Arabs have never recognized the state of Israel, let alone any borders? Changing "borders" will only encourage the Arab nations to dream once again of driving the Jews into the sea.
We must excuse our President for his ignorance in these matters. Although he is, by all accounts, an extremely intelligent and well-educated man, he was just a six-year old child when the Six-Day War was fought in 1967, and it is just another dusty page in history, one of the most poorly taught subjects in our schools.
Hopefully, an America that respects its allies (it has damn few of them these days) will re-emerge before Israel is again the target of another attempt to wipe it from the face of the earth. We will need more people like Winston Churchill who understood that peace comes through strength rather than a Harold Wilson-like leader who attempts to appease his enemies. Indeed, it would be nice if our leaders could even recognize an enemy.
HAVE I MENTIONED just how dumb I really am? Seriously. Many soldiers received a Dear John from their girlfriends who were supposed to be waiting for them back home. Few were dumb enough to later marry them. I did.
Some of you may be forgiving, thinking no, that's not dumb, it's true love. Well, if you do, you're as dumb as I. How can a person who can't even maintain a relationship beyond the adversity of being separated a few weeks or a month or even a year, be expected to maintain it through a lifetime of shared trials of marriage, parenthood, and living in close proximity to the quirks and idiosyncrasies of another human being? No, it is better to accept the Dear John as a gift signifying an honest confession of a loved one's lack of commitment before you are legally bound to them.
Most were surprised by my reaction to receiving a Dear John. Simply, I didn't react. Not really. They should have recognized the simple fact that I was in denial. Had I truly accepted the break-up, and ranted and raved a little, I would have been better off. Instead, I blithely slipped back into the relationship as though nothing had happened.
What my buddies in Vietnam didn't realize was that this was the second Dear John I had received. The first arrived while I was in Officer Candidate School. There, now do you believe me?
Other heads were wiser than me. One posted his Dear John on the company bulletin board. Many burned them. Almost all cursed their feckless loves.
Alas, as my mother often said, “Love sticks where it lands, even if it's in a pile of sh*t.” (Actually, she was a very proper lady who simply had a quaint way of expressing herself at times.)
Fortunately, by divorcing me, she did me the biggest favor of my life. She gave me permission to find the real love of my life, the one I have been married to these past thirty-four years on this June 26th.
I ATTENDED A WEBINAR last week about making a blog more visible. Of course, that means that I sat in front of my computer, and watched and listened to it. I guess you could call that “attending.” I learned a couple of things about hyperlinks that seemed pretty important, and I thought I might share them with you.
Thing one is that Google looks at hyperlinks pretty closely when their agents come to evaluate your website and what they find can have a major affect on your website's “ranking.” That is, when someone uses Google to find what they're looking for, your website's position in the search results is based on several factors, one of which are hyperlinks. (Remember, listings near the top of the search results are more likely to be clicked than those that are further down, like position 107,342,938.) It seems that links that are anchored on other websites and connect to yours are worth a lot more in Google's ranking system than hyperlinks in your website that link back to your website.
Based on this information I thought that I must be a very generous guy. I have lots of hyperlinks anchored in my website connecting to others. In fact, I have a whole section named “Blogs to Follow...” that's full of hyperlinks to other websites. Unfortunately, my website isn't very important and my hyperlinks don't count as much as those on the important websites like Huffington Post (yeah, I was also surprised to learn that they're that important). Still, my hyperlinks must count for something and it would be nice to get at least a “thank you” from those other websites I have been linking to. Better yet, it would be nice if they linked back to me.
However, thing two that I learned on this webinar really shocked me. Google not only records the hyperlinks themselves, but also the anchors (text or images) to which they are attached. That's why, if you Google “click me” you'll find some interesting results. For example, Adobe, one of the first to use the “Click Me” anchor is most often at the top of the search results. Now, if you think about that, you can see that using “click me” as an anchor isn't doing you any good at all. That's why I spent the rest of the week replacing all “click me” anchors with text and images that better related to my website and the audience I'm trying to reach. I think I still have a few hundred references to replace.
I hope that I'm not the only one who was ignorant of all this good information, and that you have cultivated lots of friends who have linked their websites to yours. Better yet, I hope that you'll find it in your hearts to link back to mine. Call it payback for sharing all this good information with you.
LET ME PHRASE THAT another way. Should James Holmes be executed or imprisoned for life without the possibility of parole? Or maybe, we should withhold judgment until we are certain that he is legally competent to form the intent needed to commit a crime? What do you think?
He looks guilty, doesn't he?
Actually, as of the day this is written, no, it is not yet proven that he is the shooter. The “facts” that we have so far consist of the following: (1) Many people were killed and wounded in a theater in Aurora, Colorado, by a gunman dressed in body armor and a gas mask; (2) The gunman exited the theater before emergency responders arrived; (3) Police found James Holmes sitting near the theater exit wearing body armor and weapons were nearby; (4) James Holmes' apartment was booby trapped with explosives that would have been detonated automatically when the front door was opened.
Now, consider what we don't know: (1) Has anyone positively identified James Holmes as the shooter? Possibly, someone has identified him, but it's unlikely inasmuch as the perpetrator would be very difficult to identify in a lineup of persons of similar stature dressed in body armor and wearing gas masks. (2) Were the weapons found near him the ones used to kill and wound the victims? I'm sure ballistic tests have been performed on the weapons to determine if they were the ones used in the attack, however, we haven't heard the results of those tests, nor have we heard that there is any evidence that James Holmes fired them.
Other interesting questions come to mind: (1) Where did James Holmes, an unemployed post graduate student dropout, obtain an estimated $20,000 needed to purchase the arms, ammunition, and armor. (2) Where did James Holmes learn to build explosives and rig a booby trap. I've been trained in those skills and I can assure you that it is not simple. Just because a person is well-educated in one area of knowledge is not proof of skills in other areas. Yes, I know that anyone can find this information on the Internet, can't they? Have you looked?
I'm sure that his defense team will wait for the evidence to be collected, and then insure that the state answers these questions adequately. They might even offer an alternate narrative of events that would fit the evidence already in hand, an alternate to create doubt in the minds of Holmes' jurors. What if, for example, someone else “did the deed” and left Holmes at the scene, incapacitated by drugs. His appearance in court the other day could be construed as evidence of a drug hangover.
Obviously, my speculations have no more merit than the ABC newscaster who “hinted” that Holmes was a member of the Tea Party. (You know what that means, don't you? – Wink, wink, nod, nod.) Of course, he wasn't "jumping the gun" (forgive the pun) anymore than those who are already rushing to judgment to blame the 2nd Amendment.
Why is it that every criminal act in America is an excuse for persons and organizations to toss their ideology into the firestorm of hysteria that is generated by heinous acts such as the shootings in Aurora. The “usual suspects” quickly gather for “photo ops” with the victims. Attorneys begin whispering the siren song of big-money lawsuits in the ears of victims and their families. Politicians are stoking up their anti-gun campaigns knowing full well that opponents will take principled stands in support of the Constitution – stands that may cost them votes in the crucial elections coming in just a few months. All of it is driven by hysteria – unthinking actions taken in response to fear-inducing events.
Jesse Jackson arrives in Aurora, Colorado
I suggest that everyone take a deep breath, mourn the victims, and remember the words of an earlier and wiser President.
“We must reject the idea that every time a law's broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his own actions.”
- President Ronald Reagan
Meanwhile, let's recognize that those who are rushing to Colorado to stand by the victims may be more interested in personal aggrandizement and fortune, than in the pain and suffering that attracted them to the scene of the crime.
THE BOY SKIPPED along the wooded lane, the dried leaves crunching under his feet, until he spotted the old man up ahead and increased his pace. In moments he caught up, took the old man's hand, and looked up with a smile bursting across his face. The old man stopped and looked down, bewilderment clouding his expression.
“How?” he asked, but the boy's smile was his only reply.
The old man looked around as though lost. He tried to find something familiar in the landscape. The boy waited patiently at his side. Once again, he met the boy's eyes and asked, “Where?”
The boy tipped his head to one side, his smile dissolving into a mask of concern. He raised his hand and pointed in the direction from which he had come. “There,” he said.
The old man peered back along the path the boy had run to catch up with him. It was the same one he had been walking, but he didn't recognize it. Again, he looked down at the boy and asked, “Why?”
The boy shrugged with one shoulder. His other was busy, locked to the arm and hand that joined him to the old man. “They're waiting for us,” he responded.
Straining his vision in the direction the boy had previously pointed to, the old man saw shapes that might have been people milling in a crowd. A few hands seemed to rise above the others and beckon to him. “When?” he asked.
The boy's smile spread across his face anew. “Now,” he said, “it's time.”
The old man's chin dropped to his chest as he became lost deep in thought. Ideas didn't come easily to him anymore. He lived by habit and routine. Change was upsetting to him.
Several more minutes passed before he gave in to the boy's prompting, and he began to shift his weight in preparation for turning his body to follow the boy back to the others. He was about to take his first step when a new thought rose above the others. “Where's Betty?” he asked.
A new smile formed on the boy's face, one of compassion. “She's behind you,” he answered.
The old man began to turn back, but the boy stopped him by tugging gently on his hand. “No, you can't see her yet,” he explained. “She's a little ways back, but she's coming.”
The old man nodded and began following the boy's lead.
The two walked a short way in silence, holding each other's hand. The boy kept his eyes on the old man's face. The old man strained to see the people who were waiting but gave up and began looking at the forest around them. Soon the reds and golds of maples and sycamores gave way to a shower of golden leaves falling from aspen. The air was filled with the rustle of leaves brushing against each other and scurrying across the ground, driven by a gentle breeze fresh with the scent of Autumn.
Before long, the old man's legs warmed to the task and his stride became longer. The boy was forced to stretch out his pace to keep up. His eyes brightened when he saw the old man's wrinkles begin to soften and reveal a wizened smile.
“It's a beautiful day for a walk,” the old man observed as they approached a narrow brook cutting across their path.
The boy laughed and tugged more firmly at the old man's hand and, side-by-side, they jumped over the water.
Now, it was the old man's turn to laugh. It wasn't an old man's laugh. It was carefree and honest, like the boy's. It carried deep into the woods as he and the boy trotted towards the waiting crowd.
“Who?” he asked, surprised that the word came easily. He wasn't out of breath.
“You'll see,” the boy answered and led on, now running faster.
The old man was surprised when he looked towards the boy and found his eyes at the same level as his.
Betty smiled as she watched the two boys race through the woods away from her. She raised her hand to wave goodbye, but wiped the tears from her eyes instead. A sheet came between them and the nurse said, “He's gone.”
Betty touched his hand with hers and said, “I know.”
Rebels on the Mountain, is featured on today's issue of Cents-ible eReads. Please check it out.
THINK ABOUT IT. How close would you like someone to get to you with a straight razor when they might be a secret insurgent?
Ever U.S. Army unit in a combat zone, even the REMF (Rear Echelon Mother F***rs), were issued a barber kit containing the bare essentials for maintaining a “bare” head. There were no electric clippers simply because electricity was rarely available in the “boonies.” Hand clippers like those used to groom horses and small animals were used instead. We either gave ourselves haircuts or spent a few Piasters for the thrill of have "Charlie" give us a close shave.
GI Field Barber Kit
Luckily, we had a lieutenant, Bobby Tillman, who had worked his way through college barbering, and a somewhat reliable source of electricity in our division base camp. He had his wife ship his kit to him and charged us 25¢ for a standard Army haircut; whitewalls on the sides and a fringe on top that created the illusion of a “flattop.” Civilian-style haircuts were a bit more. Most of us went with the “bare” essentials, but one lieutenant kept the highly styled look of JKF. Indeed, he looked like he sprang from the same gene-pool.
When Bobby DEROS'd (returned state-side), we were left with a problem. Our solution was to check out the company barber kit and give ourselves our own haircut. Recognizing the peril of this adventure, we agreed (over numerous beers) that we would take to the chair in a round robin, each taking a turn as a barber. No one was allowed to give a haircut to the person from whom they had received theirs. The result was comical. Flat tops were tipped at a jaunty angle, like a Parisian beret, or the fringe failed to circumnavigate the head. No two sideburns were equal. Mohawks transected skulls at odd angles. Fortunately, no one lost any body parts though some were injured.
The second solution to follow shortly thereafter was to solicit a Vietnamese barber to set up shop in the officer's club. This worked well until the Tet Offensive of 1968 and no civilian personnel were allowed access to our base camp for several weeks. When he returned, we learned that our barber had lost his home in the fighting. An empty 5-gallon water bottle was placed near his chair and it was soon filled with loose piasters that financed the building of a new one.
On rare occasions, I had the pleasure of slipping into Saigon and took those opportunities to get the full treatment; a facial and a massage as well as a shave and a haircut for the equivalent of $1.25 American. You spent about an hour in the chair and often had trouble walking when they were done.
Most Saigon barbers were women or, more specifically, girls in their late teens or early twenties, and very attractive. Many provided other “services” right there in the chair (or so I've been told).
I've missed the Saigon barbers since I left Vietnam. I had similar experiences in Okinawa and once in Hawaii. No mainland barber ever came close to providing “full services.”
THERE IS NOTHING more heart breaking than a soldier receiving a letter from a special girl back home who decided not to wait. It is extremely rare for a soldier to send a Dear Jane because he found someone else to love while serving in a combat zone, but it did happen. I know of at least one case.
I'm not writing about geographical bachelors -- those who cheat on their wives because they are away from home. That happens all too frequently. Many married officers of my acquaintance openly bragged of conquests while on R&R. Some could not wait for their scheduled week in some exotic locale - Bangkok, Hong Kong, Australia - where their spouses could not join them, and sought the beds of local whores.
No, this tale involves an unmarried enlisted man under my command who was an honest bachelor. He fell in love in Thailand. But, wait. Let me back up a little. He had a girlfriend back home. She seemed inclined to take the relationship to the next level, even sending him a picture she had taken of herself, bare-breasted, in the bathroom, with a Polaroid camera. By the expression on her face, she wasn't too sure of what she was doing, and reaching across to the sink where she had propped up her camera to trip the shutter caused her breasts to sag unflatteringly. Still, her intentions were good, I suppose. He kept the picture on his desk where our division chief, a major spotted it as he wandered through looking for a snack. Picking the photo off his desk, he held it at every angle and proclaimed it to be an interesting study in feminine anatomy.
Still, the young man remained captive to her allure until he visited Bangkok, Thailand on R&R (Rest and Recuperation). There he fell under the spell of a professional. This young lady had one thing that the girl back home had lacked; a night in bed with our hero. It was his first.
I don't remember his name, and that's probably for the best. I can't imagine he would be happy being reminded of the consequences of his experience.
He returned to the command in Vietnam with dreams of returning to Thailand after completing his enlistment in the Army. He kept up a steady stream of correspondence with his new paramour, and she replied in kind, signing her letters, not with her name, but rather, with her “license number.” I remember overhearing one of his friends kidding him; “3895?” Imagine if you introduce her to your family and your father says, “Ah yes, I know your mother well. 827.”
The ribbing continued for several weeks until another enlisted man in my command took R&R in Bangkok. He carried the prostitutes “number” with him. She had written our hero to have his friends “look her up” and she would see that they enjoyed themselves in Thailand. Well, this friend returned to report having a most excellent time – with her! That broke his heart.
I can't say for sure, but I don't think he ever went back...
Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun...
NOEL COWARD PURPORTEDLY wrote that song while on the road from Hanoi to Saigon while Vietnam was secure in the arms of the French colonial empire. I ran there almost every day in the midday sun while the country was locked in the grips of war.
Camp Bearcat, where I was stationed with the 9th Infantry Division during my tour of duty in Vietnam, was circled by a road along its perimeter, just inside the berm, and laced with a grid of streets. All were paved in compacted laterite, a reddish clay-like substance that was slicker than ice when wet. The grid was interrupted in the center of the camp by an airfield that stretched the full width encompassed by the perimeter road. I generally ran along the perimeter road, about 4 miles, in the cool of the night. I circled the airfield, about one and a half miles during the noon time break when more sensible people were having lunch and keeping in the shade. I never had a running-mate last more than a day or two.
When asked why I ran so much, I explained that if I ever had to run, I wanted to be able to run, far and fast. I was half-joking, but actually, that was a pretty good reason.
Most people were content simply to sit and shake their heads at my behavior while others made comments out of earshot. Remember, the temperature was well above 100 most of the time and the humidity made the air feel as though I was running through a thoroughly soaked sponge. The guards at the bunkers that I passed on my nightly runs along the perimeter road sometimes challenged me and I would laugh in response. If a lone insurgent had made it inside the camp and was running in a white tee-shirt and U.S. Army issue fatigue pants and combat boots, they had my permission to shoot him on sight.
One night I decided to cut across the camp using the street that delineated one edge of the airfield, and a group of mechanics working on a Huey nearby decided to encourage me on my way by tossing rocks in my direction – at me, actually. I reversed direction without hesitation and ran back to them, all in the spirit of good fellowship, of course, and they scattered. When I found their commanding officer in a hangar nearby, he seemed annoyed that I should disturb his rest with such a petty matter. (He definitely was one who put the “MF” in REMF (Rear Echelon Mother F***r.) So, I waited by the helicopter until the vagrants returned and explained the nature of their transgression. Although I was not wearing any insignia of rank, the .45 caliber on my hip might have given away the fact that I was an officer. Not too many enlisted men had them -- although from what I have seen in the news, almost all Army personnel carry sidearms these days.
I never insisted on my men maintaining any kind of physical training nor did their company commander ever make such an effort. For REMF, duties continued 12 hours or more each day, 7 days each week. There was no break such as combat soldiers might enjoy between patrols. (Note that the use of “enjoy” there is somewhat sarcastic.)There were only church services on Sunday morning for those who chose to attend and then back to work. They would never know the fun they were missing had I not written of it here.
IMAGINE IF BETTY GRABLE had goose-stepped before newsreel cameras that brought World War II to movies theaters across America. Or, if Gweneth Paltrow appeared in a burqa to proclaim the virtues of Jihad.
Everyone has the right to dissent, even celebrities. But, when a beloved icon goes beyond dissent and offers aid and comfort to an enemy during wartime, the act carries a special degree of hurt. The men who fight for their country feel a deeper sense of betrayal. These are, after all, the women many fantasize they are fighting for.
Jane Fonda as Barbarella (click to enlarge)
Many of those who fought in Vietnam hold Jane Fonda in special contempt because of her very public dissent of that war, going so far as to travel to Hanoi during that time to encourage them in their fight to kill Americans.
Yes, we fantasized over her. Those of you of a younger generation who know her only as an aging actress may not understand. However, anyone who fantasizes over Paris Hilton has no room to talk. Jane was a beauty in her day. Just look at her in Barbarella. Paris with the goofy look pales by comparison.
Hanoi Jane, as she came to be known, may be a revered actress in a community that expresses self-hate to garner popularity in foreign markets as well as among progressives at home, but she is the reviled icon of betrayal for my fellow veterans. Unfortunately, that derision has given rise to false stories of Jane's time in the enemy camp. Yes, she was there and up to no good. But no, she did not take any direct action that resulted in the death of torture of American inmates of the Hanoi Hilton; the infamous North Vietnamese prison camp where so many U.S. soldiers, sailors, and airmen were treated inhumanely. No, her statements and actions attempted to give legitimacy to the illegitimate acts of barbarians, but no one suffered directly at her hand.
I am strident in my assertions because I fear that those who help circulate false claims tend to denigrate the valid ones.
Also, I tend to be a little more forgiving of her stupidity. What else can you call it? By all accounts she was virtually abandoned by her father and easily influenced by men who recognized her vulnerability. A much older Roger Vadim directed her in movies that capitalized on her sensuality and Tom Hayden, a man with decidedly socialist tendencies, directed her political activism. There is little evidence that she had an ego or an original thought until much later in her life, long after she had been used by the anti-war activists of the 1960s. Indeed, Jane did not appear to develop any self-will until she married Ted Turner and apparently cajoled him to finance a documentary extolling the virtues of Communism. One can only wonder why a man who had been afforded so many benefits through the auspices of capitalism, would back this venture. One can only assume that he was either senile or bewitched by his wife's charms (and some might argue that senility made him subject to them).
Jane Fonda "emoting" great love for North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun crew
In any event, the sweetest irony of this period of her life was that Jane once proclaimed
“It's my fondest wish, that some day, every American will get down on their knees and pray to God that some day they will have the opportunity to live in a Communist Society.”
In which church do you suppose, would Jane and the communists wish us to utter that prayer? (Do I have to remind anyone that communism espouses atheism?)
Also, being a man, I tend to forgive Jane somewhat because I spent so many years fantasizing over her myself. Forgive me. I can still watch those movies she made before she married Hayden, and even then somewhat later realizing that she was merely a dupe. After all, I wasn't fantasizing about discussing philosophy or any other subject with her.
Most importantly, I wish to reaffirm that I am not opposed to dissent. I have quoted Dwight D. Eisenhower many times on this subject.
"Here in America we are descended in blood and in spirit from revolutionists and rebels -- men and women who dare to dissent from accepted doctrine. As their heirs, we may never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion."
Anyone who knows me can safely vouch that I have often objected vociferously when I disagree with my government and even the majority of my fellow citizens. My novel, Rebels on the Mountain, indicts America's government for their poor handling of relations with Cuba. My coming novel will indict it further for its gross mishandling of Korea.
However, I would never knowingly advocate anything that would injure my country or imperil its Constitution. I would never give aid or comfort to my nation's enemies, nor would I travel beyond the shores of my country to encourage its enemies. That is my limit and Jane Fonda exceeded that limit by many thousands of miles.
That being said, let's turn to the question of treason. Did Jane Fonda go beyond mere dissent?
The framers of the Constitution intentionally limited the definition of treason so that it could not be used by the United States as it had been used by tyrants throughout the ages. Many “nobles” used treason to remove anyone who threatened their rule or simply displeased them. Think of Henry VIII declaring it treasonous to disclaim his right to divorce and remarry at will.
In Ms Fonda’s case, North Vietnamese leaders have openly acknowledged that they were on the verge of conceding the war and accepting a separate state to the south. Richard Nixon's willingness to attack NVA bases at home and pursue their lines of communication and supply in neighboring nations had brought them to their knees. North Vietnamese leaders also have openly acknowledge that they were encouraged to persevere by the extraordinary extent of dissent in America. This is the message that Jane Fonda effectively delivered when she visited North Vietnam during the war. She did not deliver arms or weapons to the enemy. She did not deliver secrets relating to American strategy or tactics. She did not take up arms against her fellow citizens. However, she did provide “comfort and aid” that significantly helped them maintain the will of their people to fight. Thus, it is reasonable to argue that she betrayed the trust we have a right to expect in our fellow citizens. It is reasonable to argue that there was at least an indirect causality between her actions and the resulting events in Southeast Asia. Although she did not take any action that might result in the overthrow of our government or our Constitution, she did provide aid and comfort to an enemy in a time of war.
Does all this amount to treason? If we are to remain true to our heritage, we must say no. We must presume innocence until guilt is proven and declared in a court of law. If we have any cause for anger, it must be directed at officials who have failed to bring this question to a competent legal authority.
Now, let's focus on the real question. Is Jane Fonda merely the focus of our anger for the fact that we believe that we Vietnam Veterans are still reviled? Despite recent protestations otherwise, does political will still remain firmly in the camp of the dissenter? If we were truly respected, would our officials take Ms Fonda's case before a grand jury?