The Difference Between Inconvenience and Sacrifice

On an almost daily basis I challenge myself.  Sometimes it is a little thing like eating squash.  I don’t object to the taste of squash or zucchini, it’s the texture. I don’t care for.  A couple of days ago L tried a new recipe, tandoori salmon with squash.  I won’t go through the recipe, but it includes garam masala, coriander, chili powder and yogurt and is very East Indian in character.  The taste helped the squash go down, and I was glad it wasn’t cooked turnips (I don’t like the texture or taste of those). 

For the year that I was in Vietnam I shaved dry at times or with cold water and soap on others.  For a year I took cold showers because there was no hot water anywhere.  Even in the tropics stepping into a shower of water that just came from a few hundred feet below the surface is bracing.

A Snapshot of the Author Someone Took in Front of the Dispensary at Dong Tam

(We Were Soldiers Once, and Young)

The water heater is out.  So, I get to relive an experience from 48 years ago.  Forty-eight?  It doesn’t seem so far in the past.  I remember from then that I would steel myself, go into something like a trance, and pretend that I didn’t feel anything.  That was a little thing.  Not much of an imposition at all.

One of our pilots was shot down in the U Minh forest, and was the first to recover following the crash.  He was hanging upside down by his harness, got free, removed the fifty-caliber machine gun from its mount along with a few rounds of ammo and ran from the helicopter headlong into an NVA soldier.  Both screamed and ran in the opposite direction.  Fortunately, despite being at the rear of the platoon, someone saw the helicopter go down and part of the formation broke loose, flew back giving fire support while another landed and rescued the crew.  No one was seriously injured.

I asked the pilot whether he had ever thought about what he would do in that situation.  He had.  On his previous tour he had been shot down over North Vietnam and had evaded for over a month – at times able to see the feet of NVA soldiers a few feet away on a trail he had just been on - and escaped.  He showed me his .38 revolver.  It held one round; for him.  Some would call that cowardice, but we know real cowardice when we see  it.

When we discovered that there was no hot water, I thought of this story and of John McCain and his capture and ordeal and the absolute craven cowardice of a man who stayed away from combat and then called a veteran who almost gave all, a loser because he was captured.

A Real hero

John McCain

Views: 108

Comment by alsoknownas on September 5, 2018 at 3:01pm

When the current POTUS made that craven statement I remember thinking it was the singular worst thing I had heard in a campaign.

Comment by Safe Bet's Amy on September 5, 2018 at 3:13pm

errrmmmggghhh...

I get such mix emotions from posts like this...

On one hand, I don't feel particularly indebted to anyone who got drafted or went into the service "for the benefits", because they wanted the "adventure", because they thought that someday it would look good on their political resume or god forbid because some judge gave them a choice between that or jail. 

On the other hand, I respect those who honestly believed that they were providing "service" to their country by going in harm's way (oddly enough, I feel the same way towards the Viet Cong who thought they were providing "service" to their country by going in harm's way.)

Back on to the first hand, I don't respect people who drop bombs from 30 thousand feet on people who have little or no idea why they are being killed and never have to see their faces as they die (same goes for modern day drone "pilots"). 

Again back to the second hand, if those "aviators" get shot down and become POWs they have my respect for enduring the hardships and abuse (I also feel that way about most of the untried and unconvicted people held captive in Gitmo).

So you can see that I'm pretty conflicted.

On one hand, McCain the bomber pilot can pretty much kiss my ass.  McCain the POW is exactly the opposite. 

For me, the telling point is what he has done since.  McCain was one of the preeminent war mongers of our time, his vote and support & total lack of regret caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians and US military people.

So no...  I respect his behavior as a POW...  but before and after?...  Nope.

Muhamed Ali was a hero because he stood up for his beliefs, went in harm's way (in his case the police and prison) in service to his fellow man.  He lived the rest of his life "serving".  That's why I consider people like HIM a hero...  McCain, not so much.

Comment by Maui Surfer on September 5, 2018 at 3:53pm

McCain was a hero within the confines of being the son of an admiral who was the son of an admiral. While I wish he would have joined us in the streets protesting, or at least had a Kerry-style epiphany on his return, one thing can be said of him: he was not a racist. He adopted a South Asian daughter, an action of pure love Shrub the Lesser used to win the election by calling her black in South Carolina (nice job Rove) and he had Larry Fitzgerald speak at his funeral where it was obvious he considered him a genuine friend, oh, and he also had a Hawaiian Eulogy. I never liked him myself, but, compared to his yellow bellied prejudiced scum brethren he was a fucking saint.

Comment by koshersalaami on September 6, 2018 at 5:12am

There are at this point two key variables I can think of by which to judge people in government. One is basic policy, what they want to do and who they want to help with it. The other is their respect for the process - why we have a Constitution, who it’s designed to protect. The awful thing about the Republicans recently is how little respect they have for the process, being willing to subvert anything for power in a way their predecessors weren’t. McCain respected and was willing to protect the process, even with his life. That’s why we will miss him, because his fellow Republicans view the process as something to be milked, not protected. That is what his funeral’s vilification of Trump was really all about. 

Comment by Steel Breeze on September 6, 2018 at 5:33am

avoiding the political......the shower deal,heh-heh.....the first 6 mos in country the only shower i got was when it rained.....nuthin like seein storm clouds comin,strippin nakid,soapin down with the first drops.......and the rain quits.....we used to stand watch and scrape curls of crud off us with a Ka-Bar,lol.....

Comment by Rodney Roe on September 6, 2018 at 5:56am

Amy, I understand your distress. 

War itself is just the ultimate and least preferable way to settle conflict.  It could be argued that all conflict is about theft.  One older Jewish non-theologian made the observation that all of the 10 commandments are about stealing (G-d's thunder, your neighbor's wife, someone else's life etc.) and we are either trying to hang onto something someone else wants - land, wealth, means to wealth - or we are trying to steal something from them.

Furthermore, none of us can really claim the high ground because either we took it, or it was given by someone who ultimately took it.

The people who end up fighting the wars are usually not the people who have the stuff that someone else wants.  We may benefit from their wealth, or they use some pretext like religion as the thing being fought over.  As an historical example, the Lairds of the Clans in Scotland claimed a certain piece of land.  They allowed crofters to live there rent free as long as they were loyal to the Clan chief and fought for him.  Those crofters thought of themselves as part of Clan Mac Gregor or Buchanan, but as soon as it became more profitable to raise sheep on the land than whatever they were doing before, they kicked the crofters off or sent them to northern Ireland to work in mills making cloth from the wool they were now shearing.  The loyalty was one sided.  Of course, I'm generalizing, but you get the point.

All of us who fought in Southeast Asia in the '60s and '70s were fighting for a cause, to "stop the dominoes from falling", "to keep America safe for Democracy", to "stem the Red Tide".  That was all bullshit.  What we were fighting for was to keep the world safe for international business concerns.  The proponents of the war appealed to religion (we were fighting Godless Communists), or patriotism when they were really talking about nationalism.

So, did I realize all of this when I went?  Was I duped?  Somewhat on both counts.  My wife was much more aware than I and tried to get me to go to Canada or jail.  I, erroneously, thought that if I went to Canada I would never see my family again.  So, I went and tried to act honorably so that I might come home and get on with my life.  For ten years I never mentioned the fact that I was a veteran.  Only people who knew me when I went knew. 

What I found in Vietnam was that everyone there had come to understand that they had been scammed.  Except for a few "lifers" we were just getting through it.  Furthermore, although the officer's ranks looked like America, the enlisted ranks looked like inner city slums.  They were disproportionately black and Hispanic.  Especially black, and angry and rebellious.  About a quarter, black and white, by my estimate, of enlisted were using heroine, and almost all of those were in non-critical jobs like, cook, motor pool, or quartermaster areas.  Everyone was biding time, hoping that they would get out alive and in one piece.

I was fortunate in that respect, but "in one piece" did not include my brain.  I could not unsee all that I had seen.

I view all veterans to be damaged in that way, and because I believe that armed conflict is ultimately the worst choice for resolving conflicts I don't view any veteran as a hero for fighting for their country.  I view them as heroes for the way they conducted themselves in the protection of their fellow soldiers.

And, Amy and Maui Surfer, I think that agrees with both of your views.  I will say, Amy, that the only difference I see between a bomber pilot and an infantryman is the fact that you can or cannot see the face of the people you kill.  I'm not sure that that's a moral point of deflection.  It does make the nightmares worse, though for those who could see the carnage.

Comment by Rodney Roe on September 6, 2018 at 6:15am

And, as for the person who cannot be named, he only acted in his own selfish interests as he has in all of his life.  He is like the red tide in the Gulf, living opportunistically, killing everything around it.

Comment by Steel Breeze on September 6, 2018 at 6:18am

Rodney, i too never mentioned my veteran status for many years, led to too many fights back then....but i'll tellya why i JOINED the Marines,to the surprise of most i've told.....i was livin on the streets of Chi-town,lost my job,apartment,car,drivers license,and facing a court date....went into a phone booth,dialed the free operator,asked where was nearest recruiter from the corner i was on,she said Marines,two blocks down.....walked down and joined......charges dropped....

Comment by Rodney Roe on September 6, 2018 at 6:32am

Steel Breeze inconvenience is relative :-)  The image of someone scraping soaped up grime off with a k-Bar is pretty graphic. 

I watched the movie, "Adrift" yesterday.  In a capsule it is a true story of a young woman on a yacht who has survived a hurricane but lost her boyfriend, masts and sails and who makes her way by innovation, grit, and a sextant to survive.  At one point, after days of blazing sun and wind it rains.  When she should be caching rainwater for drinking she falls backwards on the deck, spread eagle, and laughs as the rain comes down. 

I recommend the movie because the actress did a really good job.  I read the book years ago which was written by the woman this happened to, and wasn't well done.  I'm glad they put it on film.

The water from the well where we showered immediately turned red, stained everything red, and was declared "Number 10" by the Vietnamese who didn't understand why we didn't use water from the Mekong like they did. (We were right on the river).  No one had explained the germ theory to them.

Comment by Rodney Roe on September 6, 2018 at 6:37am

That's well thought out, kosh. I agree.

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