Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day 2011


I knew a simple soldier boy
Who grinned at life in empty joy,

Slept soundly through the lonesome dark,
And whistled early with the lark.

In winter trenches, cowed and glum,

With crumps and lice and lack of rum,

He put a bullet through his brain.

No one spoke of him again.

You snug-faced crowds with kindling eye

Who cheer when soldier lads march by,
Sneak home and pray you'll never know
The hell where youth and laughter go

--Suicide in the Trenches, Sigfried Sassoon

I woke up this morning,

and I just hated everything!

--Lara Croft: Tomb Raider


Another Memorial Day and another big picnic and day of shopping. But everyone -- both those who carried the burden and those who didn't -- should humbly and reverentially consider what underlies the day of leisure for so many.

It is difficult to discuss Memorial Day without discussing living veterans.
Veterans Day and Memorial day are two sides of the same coin; the continuum is brief, and we the living march to death much too quickly. It is but one breath or one bullet that separates the two.

All who served, whether volunteer or inductee, made the conscious decision to go forward and do what was required. Some of us were hurt or wounded, but all dedicated precious days in our young lives to a cause larger than ourselves. All of us relinquished our individual concerns to the greater good, which we believed was our duty as responsible citizens. We recognized that the rights of a free society were insured by the obligations of harsh duties.

Soldiers were not all born in the U.S.A. When speaking of immigrants today we forget that it was they who often carried America's wars. These immigrants, tempered by war, earned their rights to be called Americans, as was the case in Ranger's family.

As 1st and 2nd generation Americans, both Ranger's father and he served in wartime uniformed service, as did several of his cousins. (Ditto for male members of Lisa's maternal family.)
However, the present generation has seen fit not to serve, as the draft has not compelled them to do so. Neither of my nephews wore a uniform, though both of their fathers did. This is a common pattern now since we are content to say we have a professional class of warriors and service can be passed by as something someone else will do.

It is our national shame that we men have also passed this obligation onto a
female class of warriorettes, calling it business as usual. Contrary to the official p.c. version, combat is no place for a woman since they are incapable of the extreme hardships of the physical reality of ground combat. We accept women because we have not fought a real war since Vietnam, and what we now call combat is naught but a shadow of the reality.

Can anyone envision women in the defense of Corregidor, or on the Bataan Death March? What about the Battle of the Bulge or storming the heights of
Pointe du Hoc? How about the retrograde from the Chosin Reservoir? So why do we persist in the fiction that we can function as a combat entity? This is nothing but an official snow job. It's Ranger-simple: Defending the U.S. in combat is a man's job, despite any Lara Croftian hype to the contrary.

Ranger is thankful his fate never took him on a death march, before a wave of human attacks or to combat in frozen countries. The courage of those that carried those actions was so daunting that it is difficult to even weigh one's more recent service against the gravity of their campaigns.

It is unimaginable the indignities and sacrifices of our former POW's or the desperation of their service in far-flung battlefields. Whether opposed to or favorable towards our present wars, we must humbly bow our heads for those that have passed before in the inexorable march of history.

The survival of the U.S. has been carried on the backs of Soldiers, Marines, Airmen and Sailors.
Hopefully some day war will be a memory of a fighterly species evolved.


[cross-posted @ RangerAgainstWar]


  1. Women can (and do) serve as combat soldiers in the Canadian Army. This includes being line infantry in Afghanistan. While relatively few women decide to join the combat arms, I have not heard any complaints about their performance or abilities.

    They have died in approximately the same proportion as their population would warrant (less than 2% of combat arms soldiers are women and 2 out of 150 KIA were women)

  2. Ranger, just out of curiosity, why do you think it's inappropriate for women to perform combat duties? So far, what I see is kind of subjective.

    Not necessarily disagreeing, you understand, but I think we've gotten beyond motherhood and apple pie in our brave new world.

  3. I think the mothering instinct most women have can be a terrible thing to face, considering the trouble and pain they have bringing in the new crop of us.

    My work-mate who I'll see today, an Atomic Veteran of the South Pacific, ( I may have mentioned this before ) lost a relative last week.


  4. Publius,
    Of course i'm being subjective, and what i've seen negates female combat participation.
    While in the 24 th Evac Hospital i noticed a lotta guys in with epiditimitis caused by filth and jungle germs. Ask yourself how a woman would deal with this constant wet and infectious environment? Would we change the rules for Rangers to include keeping your tampon as well as your powder dry?
    Would you want your daughter on a death march , or at -35 at a reservoir in NK? When did women acquire the ability to hump a 80 pd rucksack for months at a time? How about humping a 24 lb MG as well as all her gear? Not to mention ammo.
    Get real and have a reality check, which leads me to-
    Great stats and figures , except you're comparing apples to oranges.
    The LIC wars that we frolic in have NO RELATION to actual ground combat.
    LIC ain't war.

  5. I think you’re shoving two different qualities together here, jim.

    The first is physical strength. And there you’re absolutely right. Few women – and by “few” I mean a tiny, tiny minority, probably less than a percent – have the physical strength to master infantry tasks, and that includes the basic infantry skills ALL soldiers need, simple stuff like climbing, lifting, and lifting heavy loads. In a hand-to-hand fight a woman will get beat 4 out of 5 times by a man of roughly equal size and skill level.
    But the places and events you mentioned; the Death March, the freezing winter along the Yalu…the sort of qualities that those demand are less about physical strength and more about endurance; the mental and physical ability to withstand and survive prolonged suffering. And I’ve never seen evidence that those qualities are gender-specific. Infections? Dirt? Disease? Men get 'em, too. And I can tell you that a tough ol' country girl is just as likely to be able to walk through immersion foot as some city boy who's never worn a boot or walked rough country.

    It’s worth remembering that part of this is a product of our Western culture; we expect our women to be gentle and sweet. It ain’t always that way – the Brits back in the day could have told you hair-raising tales about the Afghan women, and I’ll bet you that any woman from a tribe of nomads could give me points on toughness and endurance. Ulrike Meinhof wasn’t sweet, and Ranavalona of Madagascar wasn’t gentle.

    The other aspect of this is what should be the responsibility of every citizen in a democracy; the protection of our liberties and our people – not that we’ve been doing much fighting for those reasons over the past thirty years or so – and that’s not gender-specific, either. How can I deny a woman the right to at least prove that she has the qualities to soldier? If I don’t, I’m denying her a fundamental right of citizenship.

    And the final part of this comes from my time on the Trail. I saw a hell of a lot of joes get pushed through Benning into line units knowing that the gomers were going to be a liability to every platoon they were assigned to. You know the deal – it was a numbers game, and we weren’t allowed to wash out the gimps and wheezers who were unfit for infantry service, the kinds of guys who just curled up and died along Philippine roads or in a Korean winter. In the SF you were living in the suburbs, militarily speaking. The people you got were at least double volunteers, for the airborne and for the SF. Out in the slums where I worked the quality of the men could get pretty appalling. I won’t argue that we needed more women – again, the chances of a woman being capable of that level of physical strength and endurance were probably single-digit-percentage low – but just that the quality of the men wasn’t exactly hardcore, either.

    So…in a better world we wouldn’t need to send anyone, man or woman, to fight for us. And I also agree that we shouldn’t be relying on a tiny cadre of self-selecting soldiers to do the job that really should be one for all citizens. But as for the women, well…my thought would be to set a single standard for basic soldier skills for ALL soldiers, male and female, and if a young woman could meet that standard and wanted to serve her country, how could I tell her as a citizen and a soldier that she couldn’t?

  6. Ranger: Canada lost 516 KIA in Korea and 156 in Afghanistan.

    Next time I'm in the mess, I'll tell my buddies that they should be grateful that they weren't in a real war.

    It turns out that very few women want to be combat arms, but the Supreme Court of Canada has declared that they can not be denied the right to have the job simply because they are women. This goes ditto for the Navy. (The dolphins were most against the move, citing privacy concerns on submarines)

    When forced by law to integrate, it turns out that it wasn't a huge deal after all.

  7. "Would you want your daughter on a death march , or at -35 at a reservoir in NK?"

    Wouldn't want my son to do it either.

    I hear you, Ranger, but as FDChief points out, this is supposedly an equal opportunity nation. The way I understand it is that all citizens are supposed to enjoy the bounty, but that they bear a certain responsibility. One of our fundamental problems as a nation these days: everybody wants the goodies, but nobody (or few) want to give anything back. If women want to give back, they deserve the opportunity to do so.

    Yeah, on the physical strength stuff, but hey, most of today's military specialities, even those that might land you at the Frozen Chosin, don't involve the serious physical demands. Fact is, the modern Army would founder immediately it tried to revert to having as many basic grunts as a percentage of the force as it was in earlier wars. War is seriously sophisticated these days. And, based on what I've seen, folks in those "non-combat" specialties get up close and personal lots of times, and many of them are inevitably going to be women.

    And, BTW, taken a hard look at young American men these days? Like what you see? Fact is women are now far better educated and better equipped with tools for survival in an increasingly complex world. Women are more productive citizens than men, hands down. And it's going to get worse, as the market for strong men who are expert at video games, but not so good at personal hygiene and other trappings of adulthood continues to dry up.

  8. Again, I think the thing we're dealing with here is a consistent, uniform standard for physical fitness. There needs to be a "base" level of endurance and strength fitness for ALL Army MOS. Given that, probably, say, 95% of men and 60% of women could make it.

    Combat MOSs would have a separate, higher level of performance; that would probably exclude about 95% of women (and, say, 30% of men).

    But the 5% that can meet the standard? What's our justification for saying no? Because they lack a swingin' dick? Because they're delicate and girly?

    I suspect that a woman that could pass a truly tough, combat-oriented physical standard - none of this running around in trainers and doing pushups but a timed ruck march, o-course, and EIB-type tasks - would be either delicate or girly.

  9. AEL,
    I mean no disrespect or to minimize the suffering inherent in the pwot, but factually it ain't war.
    Hell Washington DC and a lot of our cities have that higher yearly murder rates- does that make DC a war zone? We lost 58,000 in rvn and the official Mem Day services from DC kept calling it a conflict.
    I do understand your position.
    Chief and Publius,
    I understand your points, but i'll defend in place, non mobile.
    Words become meaningless when the command to fix bayonets is given.

  10. jim: I'm not saying your arguments don't have merit, and I think you're right to defend them. It's just that this may be one place - and I say MAY be - where the needs of a citizen soldiery - conflict with the purely military needs of combat.

    Like you, I'm from the generation that automatically thinks of women in a "protect and defend" sort of way. Like Publius, I wouldn't want EITHER my son or my daughter to have marched to Bataan or to have died in a North Korean prison. But when I think of the special horrors that war visits on women I think of my little girl in an entirely different way than I do my son.

    But that's emotion rather than logic. And thinking as a soldier and a citizen, if my daughter asked me why I forbid her from fighting in defense of her land and her family, how could I answer her?

    Mind you, I remind my kiddos every time was see our guys on TV that what we're doing is NOT "defending our land and family" but fighting wars as imperial as any in history. They don't get it now, but I'm sowing seeds...

  11. Chief,
    I FORCED my daughter to join the alng.She was an MP, and shortly after she terminated her unit went to GW 1.
    I forced this action, and fortunately she avoided the medical problems that plague her comrades that deployed.
    So much for me being against female service. Did any of those espousing female duty FORCE their daughters to enlist?? I put my daughter where my mouth is. How many liberals /conservatives can say the same? So remember this when commenting.
    I did this b/c i knew she'd never be thrown in over her head in what we called the female infantry, which was the mp corps.
    yes this is an emotional topic b/c it's too much to think of seeing splattered female bodies. The memory of dead men is bad enuf.
    Back to AEL,
    Dead is dead whether war or drive by shooting.

  12. jim: I understand that Canada hasn't had a high intensity war since WWII. Maybe we are done with them, maybe not. I hope so.

    Still, Canada has been chasing the Taliban in southern Afghanistan (a fairly rugged place) for almost 10 years. Women in the combat arms have worked shoulder to shoulder with their male peers during that time. These women have carried their share of the burden doing exactly the same job as their peers. Furthermore, to those that I have talked to, it is entirely unremarkable that some people carrying the load happened to be women.

    Perhaps, when we eventually hit a real war, the women will fold up and blow away like thistle fluff. Given our experience in Afghanistan, I think it unlikely.

  13. jim: Not sure where you're going with this. In your original post you said without hesitation that "(d)efending the U.S. in combat is a man's job." But...are you saying that your decision to get your daughter to enlist was the right one? Or to go inactive reserve (ARNG) so she avoided active service in Gulf War II was the right one? The first sounds like it contradicts what you said in your post, the second supports it.

    But in general I don't see how dead women are worse than dead men.

    I mean, I know I FEEL that way, but that's just me, the product of the "protect the women" ideas I grew up with. But how is it any better to rip a man apart with steel or incinerate him with fire than a woman? Will his mother shed fewer tears for him than for her? Will his children miss him any less, or more?

    I guess I'm just a callous sonofabitch.

  14. Chief,
    The MP corps is not a combat branch. IMO.
    In 1987 the decision was correct, but I'D NEVER DO THE SAME TODAY.
    The GW1 started AFTER she hung it up.
    My point is that this was more than simple words on a blog that supports women in the combat branches. Everything we say doesn't have to have a point- i'm just saying!!That's why you built this milpub around a pub. I can blabber.
    I agree that a dead body is the same whether male or female. If our society doesn't care then why the fuck should i? I reckon it's best to send lower social strata females than to expend our upper class males. It's the exact opposite of noblesse oblige. Fuck it - it's ok with me.
    Were the Canadian infy units in AFGH light infy or mechanized? What was the longest operation in which they humped a ruck/boonies??

  15. jim: At the beginning they were mostly light infantry, as time went by they got more and heavier vehicles (because of the IED threat). We even have a squadron of tanks there now.
    The roads (or lack thereof) limit the scope of vehicle operations.

    I have no idea what the longest ruck humping operation was. I do know that Canadians are traditionally aggressive patrollers. From what I have heard, this tradition carried on into Afghanistan.

    Ten years gives a lot of scope for all sorts of activities.

  16. AEL,
    Aggressive patrolling should be the hall mark of any infantry unit. This is essential to gaining and maintaining contact with any type of opposition forces. This is a weakness in the pwot.
    We should put the Canadians in charge of operations.
    Thanks for the reply.