13 November 2009

The most wonderful time of the year

I woke up yesterday very early and very nearly leaped out of the rack.  Tossed a duffel and a dog and some boots in the Jeep and hit the road.

We made Michigan around 2300 and crashed Mom's place.  That's 930 miles, so it was good work.

Why the sudden urgency?  Well, Sunday is the beginning of what Mom always called the "high holy days," that is, deer season.  I'll move my base camp down to Dad's this afternoon, make sure my shotgun still works (I have the confused idea that the rear sight on something - either my slug gun or my 30/30 - got dorked up, so I need to check it), then sit and dream of the 30-point buck until Sunday morning.

I'm not a real high-intensity hunter (more of a sit-under-a-tree-and-nap sort, really), but I can't not get excited about Opening Day.  It's a weekend (in Michigan, it's always Nov 15 - regardless of whether that's a Saturday or a Tuesday), the weather is not off-putting, and you can't drive down a road here without playing a white-knuckle version of deer pong, so I should see deer.  Whether or not I see anything to shoot at is a different question, but not a very important one.

11 November 2009

Veteran's Day

We could, of course, post something thoughtful and somber. But you know what, let's not. We've got plenty of other days for that.

Veteran's Day is great because it celebrates all our vets, whether you were one of the guys who served in Godawful Somalia in the early 90s or whether you served as a Navy Yeoman in the late 80s who never left shore.

Peacetime, wartime, in combat or just in the constant state of confusion and paperwork flux that defines military service, this day celebrates everybody who's ever put on a uniform and said, "do with me what you will."

If you've ever been forced to care about the length of a $3 belt in relation to your belt-loops, this is your day. If you've ever spent an hour painting the little eyelets on a cartidge belt black, if you've ever received 37 hepatitis shots in two weeks because of lost paperwork, if you've ever walked 15 or 20 miles and then found the promised trucks or helicopters weren't coming and turned around and walked back...this is your day.

If at one point or another you rode a bus to a training center in the middle of the night and, as you saw someone with abnormally good posture waiting in the darkness, thought, maybe this was a really bad idea... If you've ever folded your underwear and t-shirt into squares and watched someone take a ruler to those squares... If you've ever had to find a helmet to move a vehicle across a parking lot, learned to carry 45 bags in your left hand to retain the ability to salute, been told by angry sweating cook that "gravy" is the main course...this is your day.

If you've used your boots as a pillow while waiting on a plane that may or may not show up, if you've ever thanked the taxpayers out loud over a pitcher of beer, if you've ever dragged your buddy out of an Asian tattoo parlor to make it back to the ship on time...it's your day.

Oftentimes, veterans are modest to a fault. The vast majority of us were not among the Rangers who took the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc, and realizing there are real heroes among us, tend to not want to brag on our own, minor achievements and experiences.  This is an honorable impulse, but once in a while we need to celebrate all our service, even the most pedestrian.

So corner a family member, a loved one, or a friend.  Best of all if you can corner a child or teenager.  Insist they listen to your stories, don't be afraid to embellish a little.  If you were once forced to process leave forms on a Friday afternoon, make it into a mountain of leave forms (just for storytelling purposes).  If you changed tires on five-ton trucks at Fort Polk, make it into a lot of five-ton trucks, in July, with water mocassins. Don't be afraid to start a story with There I was...in the Camp Kinser postal facility a week before ChristmasCelebrate the time nobody had told you smoke grenades get hot, or to watch your thumb with that Garand, or that chock blocks go on the downhill side of the tires.

(Suggest if you're telling stories to spouses or children, you don't tell any that start out There I was...on Pattaya Beach on liberty...)

It's Veteran's Day.  Be proud of your services, and share your experiences with those close to you. 

10 November 2009

Fort Hood Memorial Service

I watched the service today on CNN.  It was nicely done, and the TV folks even resisted the urge to chatter during the ceremony.  I saw an estimate of 15,000 attending.  I was struck, beforehand, by the some of the never-changing aspects of life in the military.  There wasn't enough seating, and so Joe - the generic and undistinguished generic American Soldier - was standing behind the chairs.  And sitting up against vehicles, and against shipping containers, and on the ground.  Sitting back-to-back with other Soldiers and standing, arms crossed, in bits of shadow. 

These ceremonies are something that, although nobody wants to attend, nobody wants to not attend, either.  It's the exact same ceremony, with some minor differences in scale, that is held periodically on FOBS and camps and COPs all around the theater of operations.  Same program of events, same music (although one usually gets Amazing Grace on tape, rather than by a talented master sergeant, in the desert), same boots-helmet-and-rifle.  The Soldiers (and Mr. Cahill, although retired, was certainly a Soldier) who were killed at Fort Hood got the same sendoff from the Army we provide to each one who falls downrange.

Maybe that's why there was such impressive attendance from the Soldiers of Fort Hood.  These ceremonies are as much for the comrades of the fallen as for anyone else.  They're important, they help us acknowledge loss, and reassure us that if we should go down, we'll be acknowledged.  You go to a memorial ceremony because you want every seat to be full, you want to be a part of a demonstration that a fallen comrade won't be forgotten, and is being honored not by a commander and a couple of others, but by the entire community of warriors.

I'm glad it was packed.  It was a fine farewell.

09 November 2009

We believe in the right to arm bears

And I think they do have black bears here in Georgia.  However, none of them seem to live with me, so I had to do the next best thing and arm a Big Black Dog.

In addition to just being generally irritated that, in a coffee-induced late-night spasm of weirdness, I decided to make him wear my holster, Jack is irritated he didn't get a 1911.  Those have a thumb safety, I explained, and well, you don't have thumbs.