Thursday, December 22, 2016

Heavy Heart

We lost another  good one, a 94year-old veteran, just a couple of days ago.  Happening just before Christmas, it was a hard blow to his family.  I can't say we were close friends as we only talked maybe two or three times a year for the last dozen years.  And he was a generation older than I.   But it hit me hard too.  He was a good man, cordial, generous, and courteous to all - a gentleman of the old school.  Had a wonderful sense of humor, laughing at himself, not at others.

He had served on Guadalcanal 74 years ago in the same year  I was born.  He was with an artillery battery serving on the gun line.  First with 75mm pack howitzers.  Later with 105s.  Those guns provided direct support for not only Marines but for a North Dakota National Guard Infantry Regiment that he and his battery mates christened the '164th Marines'.   

His favorite story was the several weeks they had not much to eat but captured Japanese Army rice.  It was a bit moldy, and full of weevils but when he complained to the mess cooks they told him it was good protein and don't waste it, so he ate it and said it wasn't half bad.  He laughed even more about that.   Once at a gathering after being introduced as a member of the 'greatest generation', he chuckled and told everybody how great his grandsons and granddaughters were.  "Head and shoulders above me", he claimed.   When we called him a hero, he would laugh and say: Oh hell, "I was just a gun bunny."

He  was a hero to our little corner of the world.  He will be missed.


  1. One of the many things that irk me about our current enthusiastic tongue-bathing of anyone and everyone who ever wore a tree suit (not that it extends to taxing ourselves to pay for things like improving the VA or nuthin'...get a second job if you want that medicine, moocher!) is the whole "fighting for our freedom" thing.

    THIS redleg actually fought that fight; layed it on the line against a peer enemy (at least in the Solomons and in '42-43...) that could have genuinely wiped out the entire U.S. force on Guadalcanal if they'd gotten lucky and we'd been stupid.

    The rest of us were, at worst, in individual danger. That's scary and bad and fucked up for us...but if we lost and died in the process our homes and families and nation would go on just fine. This dude's battery fails to consistently get effects on target, tho...

  2. And this, in turn, reminded me of one of the best moments in Bill Wyman's 1945 flick "The Best Years of Our Lives".

    The grunt platoon sergeant has returned to his family and his job at the local bank which, since this is the pre-modern-era financial setting is painfully tight with a nickel. So here's sarge sitting at his desk having to deny penny-ante loans to fellow vets looking for a hand starting up that piece of the American Dream they fought for that the powers-that-be are now telling them was just a slogan and a gimmick.

    And the bank, thinking to "support the troops" gets sarge up in front of the annual company party to tell everyone how the bedrock American conservatism of the First National Bank made him the American hero he is.

    Sarge, just drunk enough to have no fucks left to give, tells them of the time his company commander told him to take that hill.

    "Just a minute, sir..." sarge recounts. "That's a big risk you're suggesting. What kind of collateral do you have to justify risking my platoon taking that hill?" Nothing, replies his CO, I'm giving you an order. Oh, no, sarge responds; that's not how it goes. You just don't get something for nothing. Why should I risk anything on your say-so? No collateral, no hill.

    "So we didn't take the hill..." sarge concludes, "...and we lost the war."

    The room is completely silent; the nice, well-fed, polite civilians have no idea why he's so bitter.

  3. mike,
    i send condolences and my sympathy.
    i've been silent a lot recently and the army stuff has been coming up a bit in fact and memory.
    i saw 4 other former soldiers all good men. we were cadets commissioned in 68/69 and 70 from bowling green st u. 4 0f 5 have diabetes , 3 of 5 served in combat/combat environs.three were infantry.two were retired reserve ltc' resigned his commission and retired as a em after 30 years of infy reserve duty.
    one missing man has been dead for a while. we all were friends of his. he was a 1st cav vet.
    if we count him 5 of the 6 were rif'ed when the war ended, and all were top cadets and honor grad types.
    at least your friend was welcomed home and honored.
    we sucked in a hard society. even the reserves disliked us because we had active serrvice and were not draft dodgers hiding in the system.
    please excuse my tirade, but i'm proud that at least your friend didn't get the deal that was dealt to my ungreat generation.
    i apologize if i'm ot, but i still have not processed my 15 nov meet with former soldiers.
    it brought back a lot of memory.
    i too knew a canal vet when i was a young man.
    again, my condolences.
    jim hruska

    1. Not sure that the "greatest generation" guys would agree that they got the gravy, Jim. My old man was a WW2 era vet, and he neither forgot nor really forgave how his elders - the kids of the teens and twenties) who were the bosses of the late Forties and Fifties had to be fought for all the stuff we now remember as them giving away to the vets - GI Bill and the like. A lot of those guys were told, just like your cohort from the Vietnam years, to suck it up, stop bitching and let all the nice civilians get back to shopping...

      I think every GI since Hammurabi has gotten a similar deal...

    2. Jim -

      Good to hear from you! Where have you been hiding. Hope our election differences did not keep you away.

      The guys I served with in Nam had similar experiences to your friends. But they sucked it up and went to work, raised families and ignored the trash talk. Most of them anyway.

  4. Tho in honesty I should exempt my generation of troops. The late Seventies to Nineties guys...we had it soft. No wars except for comical PR stuff like Grenajda and Panama and Gulf War 2. Nothing but good TV and lots of medals for everybody! (except for the poor BLT in Beirut; thanks, Ronnie!)

    But before '72 and after '03...the "thanks of a grateful nation"? Only until you actually needed something...

  5. Mike,
    i just felt it best to sit out the election.
    i think i predicted T's victory here on milpub BECAUSE in my world the people generally HATE the clintons. btw thats the word that always popped up when their names were mentioned.
    i've written a little piece on voting and hope to pub it soon.
    i have several essays that i've written months ago.
    i just couldn't touch the election because i couldn't swallow either candidate.
    no matter who won a draft dodger would be in the white house. i really don't hate DD's, but i do heavily dislike ass holes who wouldn't serve but want to be c in c .
    as for our differences of opinion , nothing that we say or do has disrespected the others pov.
    best wishes to all, and a merry christmas.
    i hear we're having a tet cease fire.
    jim hruska

    1. Sadly, Jim, I overestimated my fellow citizens. Hate or no, given the choice between a boring corporate neoliberal and an obviously unmoored mendacious conman seemed a pretty obvious choice. To elect the conman seemed WAY too much like writing the entire country into an episode of Jackass. And so here we are, heading towards the Gilded Age cliff in a rocket-propelled flaming shopping cart instead of Clinton's boring Chevy Vega.

      What will happen when Ryan and McConnell send their "It's 1929 Again!" agenda to the new president to sign will be engrossing to watch.

    2. Jim -

      Not as much as I hate the Trump.

      Merry Christmas. Hope yours is bright and cheerful.

  6. mike,
    hatred is not a soldierly emotion.

    1. Seriously, Jim? "Make the other sonofabitch die for HIS country" "Kil Japs, kill Japs, kill more Japs!"

      While I agree that "hate" in the sense of pig-stupid blind rage is not a combat multiplier, I defy anyone who's ever been shot at not to hate and fear the people shooting at them, take every opportunity to kill those people deader'n a rat and take great satisfaction from that killing.

      Sherman's fundamental point about war being Hell was that the worst part of war is that it often inspires merciless hatred in those who fight it.

  7. Jim -

    Sorry to disappoint you. I have never been a Soldier. That was my father. He was a much better man than I, but even he had some intense hostility and animosity: for Herbert Hoover, for General Mark Clark and the 5th Army Staff, for a petty city official in our home town.

  8. mike,
    i'm just curious- do u teach your children or gran' chilrens to hate ?
    jim hruska

    1. In re: hate...our President-elect has shown himself to be a thin-skinned ignoramus who fronts a party that intends to undo as much of the New Deal as they can and the tangerine-faced conman shows no interest in stopping them. If that happens we're going to a place none of US has been since 1932, when dire poverty included 25% of our people and before the widespread prosperity and relative equality of the mid-20th-Century. I'd argue that NOT hating and fearing that is foolishly blind to history.

      Drumpf is a monumental insult to self-government and one a minority of we the People inflicted on the rest of us. As a human being he is, indeed, deplorable. As the leader of the Party that intends to undo the New Deal and return our nation to as close to the rapacious society of 1929 as possible he is a dangerous fool.

      It's perfectly rational to hate someone who threatens and injures you. I still hate and despise Dubya and Cheney for what they did in Iraq and will until one of us dies...

  9. A fellow VFW member just informed me that he won't be able to attend the memorial for our local Guadalcanal veteran, as a Pearl Harbor vet from downstate just passed on and he will be attending those services. Sad! They are fading fast. Meanwhile the mainstream media is going 24/7 with coverage of the deaths of two who were said to be former drug abusers. Or worse, they are getting their news from twitter.

  10. Jim -

    I will leave the teaching of hate to the Trump supporters. LtGen Michael Flynn, Trump's pick as National Security Adviser is a great case in your point that hatred should not be "a soldierly emotion". But then I don't think Flynn was ever a true Soldier. He is more of a dilettante, like the fictional General Courtney Massengale. Flynn puts hatred and his own self-interest ahead of duty and honor.

  11. to all,
    i find it wildly humorous, that in a self described christian nation, we can always find a justification for hatred. since we r talking of Flynn, i'd put him in the same category as Boykin. i'd also lump McChrystal and the whole crew as being sub par as historical soldiers go.
    imo hatred will reduce ones life span and i try to do with out it. when i used to wear crossed rifles on my collar , i taught my young daughter not to use the term.
    i think u guys might be just a touch chicken little before there is a case for doing so.
    if things are as dire as you all bitch, then it's pretty clear that YOU don't believe in the democratic process.
    i prob won't be at a computer til after the new year,
    SO, best wishes to all, and a HNY.
    the time sure do pass us by.

    1. Chicken Little? C'mon, Jim. You know as well as I do that when the Leader says something, believe it. Drumpf has said he'll build Hadrian's Wall along the Rio, start a trade war w China AND war-up over Taiwan, and add more nukes. Are you saying that you're jake w that? Paul Ryan wants to undo the New Deal. Do you agree that we shouldn't worry about going Back to the 1929 Future? That going from a soft plutocracy to a hard plutocracy will be a good thing? Or do you think that people like Kudlow and Flynn and the Breitbart Commandos will suddenly become FDR's Cabinet on 1/20?

      You're making strawman arguments about "believing in the democratic process", too. Mike and I understand all to well how the "democratic process" screws US proles. It brought US the original Gilded Age, right? It elected nimrods like Warren Fucking Harding who was as corrupt as Trump will be. And guess what? Those times, and those people, sucked for grunts like me.

      So pardon me and Mike if us chickens ain't thrilled that our fellow dumb clucks just voted the Fox boss of the henhouse. But don't kid yourself that you're the rational one believing that he's not the predatory sonofabitch he himself says he is.

  12. Jim -

    You were the one that brought up the word 'hate' in your comment above at December 24, 2016 at 9:50 AM. And you even spelled it in all caps.

    What was that about? So you are saying it is OK for Trump voters to hate Mrs Clinton? But shame, shame on the other side if they dare to have the same?

  13. Mike,
    indeed i used the word hate, but i wasn't saying that i hated anything, or anyone.
    i was describing the hatred around us in our daily lives.

  14. You are correct that hate is out there. On all sides. Unfortunate that you and I turned this post, about the death of a hero, into a food-fight over who is the biggest hater.

    My friend who just passed was not a hater. And he was not political. Kept his opinions on politics to himself except in the voting booth. Something we all could learn from. After the Solomons and a sojourn in a naval hospital he participated in the liberation of Guam and the Battle of Okinawa. Later again he was given a Bronze Star for his service in Korea.

    Then he chucked it in and joined pacifist church. Saw too much hate I guess.

  15. And here's a reminder of why I still hate, loathe, and despise Tricky Dick Nixon, another Republican sonofabitch:

    1. And even the Christ scourged the moneylenders from the Temple.

      So if fearing, and fighting against, someone or something that intends to to you harm is "hate", well...I'm a Proud Hater, then.

  16. FDChief -

    Why am I not surprised? Reagan did the same to Carter in 1980, and you-know-who did it to Clinton just last month. When will we learn to ignore these October treasons?

  17. Chief,
    i think that you are on to something here.
    why don't you start a new branch of christianity ?
    you can call it -THE FIRST CHURCH OF JESUS CHRISTIAN HATRED.the 1st tenet will be- never turn the other cheek.

  18. Jim -

    One has to wonder why you are on this hatred meme like a fly on shit Let it go, ranger!

  19. mike,
    it's my NY present to you.