This is a theme with us at VeteransTales.0rg.
When more veterans with skin in the game have checked in, this will be a running topic, and within two years, a working project on the ground. (Check our Mission statement for the longer game.)
At the heart of this inquiry is hearing from veterans about what it is in the hearts and minds that causes an American to go down and enlist when he or she don’t have to, and when more than 95% of Americans don’t.
This is no small thing.
For the most part, I’m limiting my generation, the Baby Boomers, in this conversation, for the circumstances today are not the same as they were during our youth. We can share history and a little wisdom, sort of like tribal elders, (Hoka hey) in discussing what lay ahead, but we’re starting to die off, and likely won’t be around when this project’s complete, if it is to succeed at all.
The point here is to get it off the ground.
Besides, we have done such a poor job of passing the American torch on. Looking back 30 years, while still in my 40s, and Ronald Reagan was president, I thought I was the super patriot, yet there were things right under my nose I could’ve done something about, and should’ve done something about, but didn’t. So, my batting average is only 50% with my own kids, a lot of dots I could’ve connected, but didn’t.
A short history of the Patriotic Baby Boomer:
In my town of 1000 virtually every man that wasn’t 4F had given up 3-4 years of his life to serve in World War II. Even Jim the Jehovah’s Witness volunteered to drive a truck, going down to a depot in Louisville for two years. The company let his family stay in their house all that time.
In the WWII generation not one in ten thousand thought of the military as a job, much less a career path. Whether they served out the war tending naval vessels in Norfolk, or a year in training to hit the beaches in the South Pacific or Mediterranean, there wasn’t a day they didn’t think about getting it over with and going home.
Baby Boomers were born to those men who came home, starting in late ’45 and ending, some say, around 1960. Although those births were used to calculate children born to returning veterans who had just gotten a new lease on life, with a lot of catching up to do, I’ve always disputed the cultural connection, since, being born in 1945, and actually watching Elvis on his first TV appearance on the “Ed Sullivan Show”, there was nothing I shared with kids born in 1960, and who, at the same age, watched the Fifth Dimension sing “Up, Up and Away” while I was already in college. Hell, my brother, born in 1948, just four years after me, by the time he became a teenager, had missed Doo Wop altogether, and never once watched “American Bandstand.” Culturally, all that joined us was the same dinner table at 4:30 every evening.
Obviously then, judging generations by the music is probably the wrong way to calculate a generation. While I was awaiting my commission in 1968, my brother dropped out of school, and then to avoid being called up, knocked his girl friend up, married her, only then to have his birth date come up #5 in the first draft lottery. So he enlisted. 32 years later they had to drag him out of the black-shoe Navy by his ankles, after which he spent another 15 years working for his old admiral at a navy contract site in California.
No child in America since 1975 has ever had to contort his life’s plans, not to mention his integrity, just to prove that he was a patriotic American.
Music, fashion and self-indulgence had less to do with defining my generation than most Madison Avenue marketing people thought. My younger brother proved that more than me.
So just what are those still waters that ran so much deeper?
In my town, kids who had only barely heard of Pearl Harbor or D-Day still had seen that uniform hanging in the closet. They may or may not have seen old war movies on TV. John Wayne. I watched every one I could. Looking back over 65 years, our town was like most every other town in American, in that every person living there had some skin in the game during WWII. Not just the soldiers who went away, but the families. I was born 7 months after VE Day, still, 10 years later the “wahr” was freshly remembered there, even as my mom’s two brothers marched off to South Korea. My dad never told war stories, but did let us see pictures of the bay at Naples and his unit that was stationed there. He told me of the flies and heat of Tunisia and the Arabs who took everything that wasn’t tied down. But only because I asked. He never spoke of “war”, which I learned was common for most veterans who’d actually seen its ugly side. We had 4th of July parades but no other public celebrations. Every school room began the day with the Pledge of Allegiance, and a prayer.
So how else was this love of country passed on? You may not have thought much about it, but enemies within our country have been thinking about it for at least 50 year, only I didn’t notice it until I put my kids in public schools in the 70s.
Because we didn’t think in those terms in those days, I never took note that there was only 10 years between the end of the Korean War and the beginning of the war in Vietnam. That’s not much more than two tours of Obama. Those ten years felt more like a century to a teenager, for they were the best years of my life. It was a long period of peace for a kid who entered it playing shortstop in Little League and ended it chasing girls with a fake ID in between studying American History.
My town was twenty miles from the nearest recruiting station, yet there was always a recruiting poster in front of our Post Office, and although there were several different pictures over the years, they all said “The Marine Corps Builds Men”.
That probably explained Buddy Dodd.
Buddy Dodd was 3 years older than me, was a helluva baseball player, and was famous in our valley as the only guy who could hit Willard Caudill’s fastball. Threw right, batted left, he loped more than ran, and graduated in 1961. Then he left and fell out of everybody’s mind. In spring of my graduation year, he showed up again in one of our ball parks in the uniform of a paratrooper, with a green Class A tunic, beret, and bloused trousers over high-polished black jump boots. He wore an ascot instead of white shirt and tie.
I’ll never forget Buddy standing there as straight as a telephone pole, as a dozen kids mobbed him like he was a movie star. Only he made a greater impression on them than Elvis. Or the Beatles. Him, they could touch. (Think about that, veterans.)
He knew me, asked about my sister in college. He had two stripes, airborne wings, which every kid wanted to touch, and a couple of service medals. Said he been an advisor somewhere in Southeast Asia.
Looking backwards 60 years, I understand what that recruiting poster was there for. The multiplier theory.
Corporal Dodd was a volunteer. And in those ten years of peace between wars, he didn’t have to be in the Army, but was..
Things changed in August 1964. It was in all the papers. I just described why my generation, in my town, was raised patriotically. But when I got to college I learned every American kid my age wasn’t raised the same way. Early in the war arguments were made that Vietnam wasn’t Pearl Harbor. We hadn’t been attacked. Vietnam was just naked aggression, they argued. Other said we were trying to force Christ down the Buddhists’ throats. Or hamburgers on vegetarians. Silly stuff.
Since I didn’t take any of those courses, I didn’t know until my senior year that college professors were behind a lot of those arguments.
Interestingly, if you’ll check regional reports for the draft (vs volunteers) in World War II you’ll find numbers suggesting that certain parts of the country, as well as certain economic sectors, weren’t any more interested in fighting the Japanese or the Nazis than they are in fighting jihadists today, or, apparently, Communists any day.
A lot of spoiled Americans looked upon World War II as much of an interruption with their plans as Bill Clinton did in ’68, not fearing being shot at, mind you, but rather having to make his own bed, having “chores” assigned every day, and having some big ugly black man with seven brass stripes on his brown campaign hat barking down his face when he didn’t do them.
Inconvenience. Only in World War II, if they protested too much, they got the snot knocked out of them. In the 60s, not so much.
In a word, my generation was spoiled. Still, the vast majority of Americans were less spoiled, and with much stronger feelings about the privilege of “being Americans”, so went ahead and “done their duty anyway”.
In the mid-1970s we went to an all-volunteer military. Only, unknown to our national planners was that the Left had a longer-termed plan, using the educational system, K-thru-graduate and law school, to insure there were less reasons to volunteer. They damn near took the America out of American History and Government, starting as early as 4th Grade.
Still, 40 years later, here we are, with people joining up who don’t have to.
What is it that makes up the core of young Americans since the late 80s, from GenX’ers (my oldest son is nearing 50) all the way into their 20s (Millennials), who would volunteer for at least one tour of duty in the military, when most of the institutional reasons for respecting the shoulders they stand on, let alone loving America, have been stripped away in virtually every state-run school system and public university, not to mention the popular culture, in America?
Is there a thin red line that exists in most every family who’s been here more than 80 years, or does it run much deeper? I’ve known some fine soldiers who came from horrible homes. Allen, our real paratrooper has known many more.
Sure, there were always those, who like Buddy Dodd, listened to the recruiters’ come-hither song about a secure jobs in an insecure civilian job market.
But money wasn’t what caused hundreds of thousands of young men and women after 9/11 to march right up and join, just like the day after Pearl Harbor.
There was something else.
Where did they get this patriotism? Surely not at school. And not in every home. Cindy Sheehan’s son embarrassed her in front of her leftie California coffee klatch by enlisting in the Marines, then when he was killed in Iraq, she went on a tear against George W Bush, and not the Islamists, at least until she became boring and the media got tired of her. Where did Casey learn it?
We rant about elites in this country but the most elite group in America are the veterans and their families, for they have wagered a thousand times more than all the rest of the country on the success of this exercise in human liberty.
Skin in the game.
Yet I go to Google and search “Veteran” and mostly I find victims, poor helpless creatures who’ve been ignored, pushed aside, in wheelchairs or emotional cripples. Hell, Texas has a governor in a wheelchair, and good enough to be president, some say.
The stories of Marcus Luttrell, Chris Kyle, our own Allen Ness, and oh, a million other veterans, give us an entirely different picture of the American veteran.
Whatever seine net the Left has set up, has so far failed.
I say “so far” because my 50% of the equation will soon be dead, reducing my remaining share, in my sons, t0 25%.
Attrition. That’s the Left’s ace-in-the-hole. Or so they think
Hence, the hurry-up.
I would love to be told on my death bed that there is something in America’s water that is impervious to all the Left’s efforts. I’d even feel better if St Michael told me himself, and not the same young priest that tried to escort Walt Kowalski in “Grand Torino” over to the other side.
In my view, veterans hold the keys to what makes America America. All we have to do is find a way to bottle it and put it on the public shelf.
I know there is something in our water that is unique to America. But I also know our enemy-within is desperately looking for it, so as to eradicate it. Mathematically attrition is on their side, unless we can come up with a grass-roots “Great Awakening” having nothing to do with Congress or the government bureaucracy. Completely bottom-up.
Those best qualified to lead is that part of the American culture that offered up itself up at Anzio, Iwo Jima, Hue and Fallujah.
We have some ideas on this account. That is what our Veterans 15:13 Foundation is designed to do; activism, not blogging. We’ll pitch a lot of those ideas right here at VT.
Imagine a half million vets, teaching, training, and inspiring students in the chalkboard math of American Exceptionalism, and the fine grass-root art of taking back our schools. “Follow me, boys”.
The generation of the Founders lasted from 1787-1824, 37 years. It will take just as long to complete this mission, so we need oath-keepers who can pass the torch.
So join the conversation, only please go to VeteransTales.org to make your comment. If you have an idea or concept write it up as a separate post. Every opinion will be heard and shared. This ain’t science, so every observation matters. Scientists may be looking in and evaluating, but veterans will be writing the book.
Recruitment Poster: Vintage Sunday (Marine Corps Builds Men) Source: USMC-Flickr
If you enlisted when this first came out …