Now is the time at the Castle… when we dance

Reprising a post from 2010, in the auld blogspace.

Thirty-five [Forty-six] years ago today, I was an about-to-graduate high school senior. State wrestling champ, All-state football player, with a scholarship offer from the University of Missouri. Ready to move on to the next phase.  Things were running smoothly.

I walked down the stairs to where my bedroom was, turned left, and the Auld Soldier was sitting on the couch, watching TV.  He was four months away from retiring after 27 years, two wars, a Silver Star, BSM w/v, and seven Purple Hearts.

He never noticed me.

He was watching the news.

He was watching the fall of Saigon, streaming into the family room.

I just went to the couch, sat next to him, and took his hand and we watched. I’ve only one other time seen that look on his face. The morning Mom died.  The ghosts in the room watched with us.

For many of our readers, the Vietnam War is an item from the history books. For others, like me, it’s a life event experienced at one degree of separation, others, at a greater remove.

And for a not insignificant number of us – zero degrees of separation. Callow youth became grizzled vets well before their 21st birthday.

It is that group I honor today. The ones among us who went there and have that t-shirt and polished the car with it many many times.

You did your best with what you had. The failure lies rather farther up the chain.

Perhaps as important – many of you made it your passion to insure that the newest group of grizzled vets didn’t come home from their war to the same reception you got returning from yours. And as many if not more of you have spent many long hours, days, months, years and dollars taking care of your brothers and sisters who didn’t come all the way home. Taking care of those the nation would rather have forgotten.

I’ve read Frances FitzGerald’s paean to the Viet Cong, Fire in the Lake. I still have the Auld Soldier’s copy. During the Fall of Saigon, she was interviewed for the Union College student newspaper [now-dead link removed].
FitzGerald won the Pulitzer Prize for her passionate embrace of the oppressed peasants simply striving for a better life free of imperialist hegemony, who apparently wanted nothing more than to establish a anarcho-syndicalist commune and take it upon themselves to take turns acting as a sort of executive officer for the week. She confidently predicted that the new, enlightened rulers of Vietnam would soon have free, multi-party elections.

How’d that work out for you, Ms. FitzGerald?  [In the fullness of time, the Vietnamese have clearly advanced their situation, after the predictable aftermath of a communist overthrow, and more rapidly and thoroughly I expect than most of us anticipated.  Good on them]

I’m not here to debate the ups and downs and rights and wrongs.

I’m here to honor those among who went and came back.

And, those who didn’t. The ghosts on our shoulders. I have a few ghosts from that era too. This one’s for you, too, Dad.

Now is the time at Castle Argghhh! when we dance: In Memoriam of the fallen of Vietnam.  And those who have since gone down the road to meet their buddies at Fiddler’s Green.

As a retired US soldier

…I find this amusing and accurate. Especially with the porn-‘staches popular in my 80s army. There are hygiene and gas-mask sealing issues with beards, to be sure, but it’s still funny. Just as it’s funny how panty-twisted some beardo soldiers get on the topic – Sikhs and such get a pass on their passions on the topic, as it comes from a different source.

A blast from the past…

Specifically, April 13, 2010, on the old blog.

A pen-named Sergeant gripes:

Sgt Hill: The chow hall just now opened. While I’m here and the line is already (an hour and a half long). Guess I am not eating again..

Digital Journal: Wow. Somebody should do something about that. Maybe call congress?

Sgt. Hill: Nah. Conservatives think we should just suck it up because we are in a war zone, and Liberals want us all to die anyway. Nobody gives a F***.

Over at  Digital Journal, you can catch Samantha Torrence’s thoroughly email-researched shocking exposé of the horrifying conditions our troops are expected to endure as they suffer the ravages of indifferent leadership, venal, grasping contractors, lazy fobbits and the other horrors of war inside the wire.

CHOW LINE ALONG THE MUDDY TRAIL. 128th Infantrymen en route to Oro Bay from Pongani.

Sergeant Hill has it correct regarding this conservative: I do think he should just suck it up because he’s in a war zone, and especially since he doesn’t seem to be spending a whole lot of time outside the wire (to be sure, he may well, the article isn’t clear on that subject).  Lord knows he has to sacrifice – waiting a half hour for 10 minutes on the computer, so that he can email his pet reporter (and hopefully his mother).  It is the soldier’s right to gripe, and were I in his situation I would gripe too, among my friends and fellow fobbits.  But I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t whine like a puling baby to a reporter, and I sure wouldn’t whine in front of dirty, bone-tired guys with clean weapons.  In fact, I might skip my shower that day so they’d have time (and maybe some warm water) to take a long one.

U.S. Army Sgt. Edward Westfield from Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, leads his fire team back to base after a dismounted patrol mission near Forward Operating Base Baylough in the Zabul province of Afghanistan on March 20, 2009.

In a discussion of this article with a buncha combat-patched soldiers whose patches span America’s combat adventures from the vacation in Southeast Asia to the current ones in Southwest Asia…  one comment stands out, from a senior NCO of my acquaintance:

We came to a war and garrison broke out…. but not everywhere. There are still lots of little places out there where Soldiers and Marines are actually in a counterinsurgency fight, carrying the real weight of this war. They are dealing with real Afghans, real problems and real insurgents with real bad intentions. There are lots of places where Soldiers and Marines are doing their level best under very primitive conditions and THOSE are the guys who are actually experiencing Afghanistan, not some pipsqueak “SGT” at Camp Mike Spann who takes a ride outside the wire every now and again, is in no real and immediate danger, never deals with Afghans and cries that nobody gives a fuck about him.

If “SGT Hill” wants someone to give a f*ck, I will. F*ck him. There; that should make him happy.

Heh.  In some respects, that has been the American Way of War since the Civil War –

“We came to a war and garrison broke out…”

I mean that in the manner that our logistics are generally the envy of everybody we’ve fought with or against since the Army of the Potomac built the huge depot at Belle Plains…  Even our *bad* logistics, which tend only to be bad in comparison to our *good* logistics, especially when laid against everybody else’s logistics.

It’s gonna be a good day, ‘Tater

Video by Staff Sgt. Simon McTizic
2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division Public Affairs
Soldiers from the 1-7 Field Artillery, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division show their Readiness and ability to Fight Tonight during their AT12 training at the Rodriguez Live Fire Complex, Republic of Korea.