Sunday, September 27, 2009

Heroes, or........

The ultimate pledge of allegiance

As a young soldier staggering home late one night from the NCO Club, my toe caught the edge of the curb as I stepped into the street. Tripping, I fell -- face first -- into the southbound lane of the roadway directly in front of the club. Feeling too drunk to get up, I had the presence of mind to look first to my left for oncoming traffic, then to my right for northbound vehicles before settling in for the night on the firm but cool surface of the asphalt I'd decided to make as my bed. Mind you, in New Mexico, stationed at White Sands Missile Range as I was in the mid-60's, the road in front of the NCO Club at that time of night was anything but a busy thoroughfare.

I tried not to think about the public epitaph of my demise had a vehicle passed by, unable to stop after seeing me lying there in the road. But I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have been labeled a "hero" simply because I'd died during wartime in the service to my country. Fortunately, that didn't happen for any of us to find out, thanks to another soldier afoot minutes later also on the way back to his barracks after a night at the club. Spotting me in the road, he took pause to investigate the body he'd found lying there.

"Hey, hey, Wake up! You can't sleep here.You're in the middle of the road!" were his nervous words that inspired me back from my restful roadway repose enough to remove myself from the street and resume the couple of blocks stagger back to my quarters.

I never knew him, hence, don't remember who that person was that night who may have saved me from a lot of grief, or even saved my life, but I'll never forget him, for in some small way he was a hero to me.

But he was no hero really. He was just another soldier like myself who was on his way back from the club with a belly full of booze. And like most others who would have done the same thing, he stopped to help a fellow soldier prevent possible injury to himself.

Yet today, more than forty years later, many of our fallen soldiers are being tagged heroes for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Worse, in some cases heroes are being created from stories constructed somewhere in the bowels of the Pentagon in what must be its enormous public relations division. Stories that simply aren't true grow images of heroics that never happened. All for the consumption of the folks back home.

And the ultimate irony is the way these warriors return home. As I've come to realize from my gross devaluation of the term 40 years earlier, the word hero is a relative thing. I guess "hero" is a better way to remember a lost loved one returning in a cold metal coffin adorned in the drapery of an American flag that has come to symbolize the endless state of wars we now engage. Better than the alternative tag, "Victim." Or yet, even worse, the most unthinkable label of all, "Enabler."


(Dada note: Evidence of the collective unconscious? Half way through the writing of this blog, I happened to read Wave the Flags, Again by local Las Cruces writer, Thomas Wark over on his blog, "A Bordello Pianist". I found it amusing we may have been tapping into the same source when writing these blogs. That place often visited by a young Bob Dylan when seeking inspiration -- the collective unconscious?)


Thomas Nonvino Wark said...

Indeed, sir, we were visited by the same muse. (Tit for tat, I have bookmarked YOUR blog).

Tom Wark, the Bordello Pianist

Fran said...

I can't believe how many soldier obituaries I read here in Oregon, where the family says "he joined the service to get money for college".

All I can say is recruiters prey on young kids who are poor with that promise of college money.

Even Medea of Code Pink said she thinks one of the most important things we need to be doing right now is anti recruitment campaigns.

Having had a kid go through high school recently, I could not believe the stuff that went on.

Mailers for recruitment started coming @ age 15. (even though we signed official Do Not Solicit paperwork @ the school. )

Recruiters were allowed to roam the schools freely hanging out in the cafeteria, allowed to speak to a captive audience in a classroom during class time. Using marketing techniques- giving away trinkets-- dog tags, gym bags, promo DVD's, they even had a mobile motor coach for recruitment.

We complained bitterly, and our progressive school district set new rules.... they could only recruit in the same way colleges & businesses could, no mobile units could be on school property. No free roaming in the building, and they allowed the students to set up anti recruitment tables in the school.

Some friends had recruiters calling the minor child on the home phone. His Dad happened to answer & told the Army rep he has no permission to call his minor child & to never call again.

One rural high school had National Guard soldiers collecting the Do Not Recruit paperwork!!!

They are aggressive, slick, and the PATRIOT ACT HAS A CLAUSE - in order to get federal funding, they must provide student names & contact info.

For both my sons-- the day they turned 18, the Selective Service registration form came in the mail. In case of future military conscription. Furthermore-- if you do NOT register, you are not eligible for college grant, loan or scholarship money & can be subject to a $5000 fine & or jail time.

Selective service is not the same as enlistment.... but that military hound nips at the heels of these young kids.

Dada said...

Thomas Wark (Nonvino, of course): Thank you for visiting Dada's. As I am reluctant to admit, I have yet to read ANYTHING on your blog, Bordello Pianist, I haven't agreed with. (How very, very unusal is that??!!)

I shall continue to monitor your blog and, at times, take inspiration from it.

Dada said...

Oh Fran: Open a can of worms, will you? Your comment on recruiting refers directly to that massive Pentagon "PR" division to which I referred in this blog (that we, American taxpayers, spend boodles on yearly -- at the expense of the nation's future generations).

I enjoyed your many examples of how this gov't program is carried out upon our unsuspecting youth.

As I'm sure you're aware, Mrs. Dada has been involved extensively in promoting an alternative in our local public high schools (in 7 different school districts) in what revealed itself as a very real challenging task.

Keep in mind, we are an economy heavily dependent on the military, which is currently expending over $5 billion for expansion of Ft. Bliss (and shielding us from many of the nation's economic woes).

Mrs. Dada's efforts were met with resistance at almost every turn but I can say she succeeded in the majority of school districts in at least getting materials presenting alternatives to HS kids in a majority of districts she targeted.

I dearly appreciate your experience as a mother of teenagers, and of others in your state who have experienced this. TY!

It made for an excellent read.