Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Boot Camp

Forty-two years ago, a young man arrived at Parris Island on a greyhound bus. The bus was crowded and he had to stand up most of the way from Atlanta. The driver only made one comment 'You are about to meet the nicest man you ever met'. Shame on him. Smokey Bear hollered in his face for the next eight weeks. Yellow footprints were his friend for the first week. New names were assigned to him, many cannot be repeated. One name was house-mouse which meant he cleaned the drill instructors 'hut' (room). Lady, hog, mama's boy, ... you get the general idea. Those drill instructors looked alike to the young man for a long time, then their individual personalities emerged. None could hear good. They kept saying "I can't hear you." The senior DI, the meanest, was a black belt and featherweight boxer and a war hero for swimming a river and dragging his lieutenant with him. Both of them were wounded. The shortest seemed to always have a red face and always hollered at the top of his voice. The biggest was a little on the fat-belly side and liked coffee. The fourth seemed to think he was a little too dignified for the job. That one slapped the young man after he stepped forward to claim his Bible that went missing on the first day. The whole platoon leaned toward the incident and struggled to stay at attention. You could punch a guy all day and it was alright but slap a man for having a Bible crossed the line. The kid/man shot expert the first day on the range and won a little respect from DIs and jealousy from the squad leaders. The house-mouse left after graduation with the keys to the DIs hut in his pocket. Sweet revenge!

People say the young man changed after serving overseas and in various rather high profile jobs for an enlisted man, i.e. well places. How can war not change a person? What makes an old man still want to hit the dirt when the neighbor shots a gun? Why does he still lay awake at night, when everyone else sleeps, recounting and hoping and yes praying? Why does he fight back a tear when he sees the country he served change so much for the worse and people can't see the difference? Why is it so important that we stay who we are? The answer is our children and grandchildren deserve to see and enjoy the nation we had in our lifetime. Our men and women who serve, know, and hope (I think)that the country they serve to protect will be the same country they return to, to live out their lives.

We are in a time when it is 'what's in it for me'. We hear everyday how men have cheated the nation, citizens and each other. A building that has been eaten by termites from the inside is not a building that can stand much of a storm. We have to cut out the dead wood, repair damage and prevent future damage. Wrong is not right even in high circles of society.

It is not disrespect for our nation to question when it heads down the wrong road. It is love.

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