Yesterday, Jonn posted an article about yet another wannabee that apparently had an entire phony Marine career depicted in decals on the back window of his pickup. Numerous commenters noted that they display little to absolutely nothing on their vehicles or persons with some going so far as to express some degree of contempt for those who do. I’d like to offer a bit of a different perspective on the topic.
My tour in Vietnam with the 101st Airborne was in ’65-’66. Back stateside, I spent six months with the 82d Airborne and then left the Army to go back to West Texas, get married and return to college on the newly-extended G.I. Bill. Anti-military bias on campus in those days was ran very high and while I didn’t advertise my service with decals or bumper stickers, I didn’t try to hide it either, frequently getting into heated arguments and almost coming to blows with know-nothing little squirts who vociferously opposed the war and despised our military.
Upon obtaining my degree, I went to work selling pharmaceuticals and because of my military background I soon was promoted into government sales. At that point, I learned quickly that it was good for business to make my clients aware that I had been one of them, could speak their language and understood their limitations in making procurement decisions. To that end, I usually wore a miniature set of jump wings or a miniature division patch as a tie tack or lapel pin. Did I take advantage? Of course I did, but then, when you think about it, not nearly to the extent of using my service to obtain a government job, a perfectly legitimate resume enhancer.
It was sometime in the early ‘80’s that I began wearing military ball caps when at leisure and putting service connected décor on my vehicles and I did it for a specific reason. I was sick and damned tired of hearing the liberal media depict all Vietnam veterans as drug addicted losers and dropouts who couldn’t cut it in mainstream America. Damn it all, I was a Vietnam veteran and while I might have taken a toke now and then I wasn’t a damned drug addicted loser. I’d worked hard to get a degree and a good job which enabled me to buy a nice home, nice cars and even an ill-advised sailboat; I was a Vietnam veteran who was an American success story and tired of being constantly and wrongly maligned. And there were millions of others out there just like me. So by damned, it was time to wear the colors proudly, and I have done so ever since with 101st, and 82d patches and jump wings caps on my head and veterans’ license plates and frames on my vehicles. Do I flaunt it? Bet your ass, troop, but for what I see as damned good reason.
And if you think those attitudes towards Vietnam vets don’t continue to exist, you’re dead wrong. Just a five years ago, forty years on, while sitting at a table at the country club, a woman across from me asked the folks at the table, “Oh, did any of you see that poor Vietnam veteran outside the supermarket this afternoon; the one with the sign, who was begging for money?” A couple of others nodded or murmured that they had and she then said, “They’re all like that, you know, just a bunch of pathetic drug addicts who never got over losing.” I’d seen the guy as well and he wasn’t nearly old enough to have served in Vietnam but because he was scruffy, long-haired and wearing a filthy old field jacket, he fit the media-created image that this woman and tens of millions like her believed accurate. Looking across the table, I fixed her with a hard stare and said, “I’m a Vietnam veteran sitting here in your damned country club; you think I’m a pathetic loser?” That shut her smug mouth and presumably taught her a lesson.
Another thought: All you veterans of our recent wars should give thought to letting your fellow citizens know that you are among them, a part of the fabric of their daily lives. It is all too easy for the American people to forget that there are those of you out there risking it all on their behalf with your families making the accompanying sacrifices. Sure, the TV commercials for wounded veterans appeals to your fellow citizens’ patriotism and generosity, but they also need to know that those who defend them also walk among them and work and play beside them. Screw being invisible and anonymous, allow your presence and contribution to be recognized. Most Americans truly respect your service and are pleased to know that you are just like them, so make them happy to know you are there in their communities, warriors now neighbors, solid anchors to the safety and viability of the environment where their children are being nurtured.
Look, if you’ve been there, you know that real heroes don’t brag. Those who have fought and had the honor to fight with those warriors who achieved that true hero status, in our eyes, not those of clueless civilians in the media, but honestly judged heroes by their fellow warriors, know that post-battle, the brave don’t boast of their accomplishments. My MoH roommate at Ft. Bragg threatened to kick my ass if I didn’t knock off the questions about how he’d earned the award. I believed him fully capable and shut it down. So, the point is, don’t look at it as bragging but rather as a show of solidarity with your former comrades in arms and a demonstration of pride in your honorable service.
And you’ll never believe how many conversations your military ball cap will lead to that go something like this, ”Uh, yeah, I wanted to join up, but…”