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The Unknown Hero ~ Memorial Day Dedication

To a Dearest Friend Killed in Action – VietNam; he died not heroically, but died nevertheless, a hero.

Preface

I have never served in the military; never been a soldier; never been in a war. I write this with two spirits in mind. The one particular was my best boyhood friend. He was a year older than me; held back a year; and now in my class. He was thought not bright but those who thought so were wrong. I had both a real personal sense of his intelligence and empirical evidence of it. Having that year’s advantage on me, he served as mentor of sorts; clued me in about girls; taught me to smoke properly. When I’d nestled a lit cigarette between two splayed fingers he laughed wildly and admonished, “What’re you, Bette Davis?” He well set me on the road to being a guy.

The other spirit to which I’d alluded is the general spirit – that of the human male, man. How many millennia have passed, year by year, each one containing some record, hint, or history, of men marching off to be intimate with, to play with, death? It is no small venture. And the dead, though they had not been heroic, nevertheless had been heroes. A man is measured a man not by what he overcomes but what he will face – come what may.


The Knight plays a game of chess with Death, for his life.
“The Seventh Seal”

It’s a rather simple equation and you need know nothing of Sun Tzu or Clausewitz to understand it. Simply, if a man runs away, runs to Canada, say, to avoid serving and deployment, he is considered a coward. By logical extension then, if he answers the roll call to both then he must be a hero. There is no call to condemn the one if you will not praise the other.

Heroes And Heroism

Hero and heroism are two distinct features of the same concept. They are not the same thing but are far from strangers. The hero answers the call. Heroism acts in ways beyond the expectations we assign to male human nature.

Male human nature is survival. It DEMANDS risk taking ONLY in the pursuit of survival. When the man abjures the very essence of this nature, his human nature to survive, he is the hero. There will be neither ribbons, nor medals, nor ceremony; nevertheless there is the hero.

Testimony

In a journal, the last entries of a low nobleman are recorded at a military encampment on the night before a battle in medieval England. It was not as great a battle as most of that time, but men, a good many were about to die, more to be maimed or mutilated. I wish I remembered his name, but it’s as well, perhaps, I don’t. For he now stands in for all such men, who’d been assigned to wars only to fall as unknown heroes.

The nobleman did not sleep that night. The army of his side was the smaller, the less prepared. Barring miracles this, his side would lose the day. He had neither premonitions of surviving intact or dying but he knew the likelihoods. He attended to the last hours he could reliably depend on to put his life to order. He wrote entries; perhaps letters also. He took care to make keen his sword, polished his armor, washed himself and shaved. Then he took special care of his steed; its life would also be precariously exposed to harm’s ways.

There is no record of the nobleman’s heroism. He’d been killed in the battle – that’s the full extent of it, but it was enough to call him hero. He was not recognized as such – no one would call him such – but if he was not heroic, neither did he did shirk, nor run. He answered the muster, and, just as each of the men who’d done as much and died that day, he, as they all, were heroes.

Natural Born Heroes

Men, ordinary, men train 3 months in military procedures, weapons, military etiquette, then are shipped off to somewhere nearer mortal danger. There, more training in combat, assault, defense, discipline etc. Finally, there comes the theater and staging of war.

Thinks anyone this training had made the ordinary man a warrior? No, warriors are rare and more rarely created – except by GOD.

Thinks anyone that training will quicken a man’s heart to assault the ancient phalanx?

Thinks anyone this training had made the ordinary man willing to go ‘over the top’, charging by barbed wire, into withering machine gun fire with bayoneted rifle?

Thinks anyone that it was the training that had made the ordinary man willing to leave the relative safety of a landing craft to jump into the ocean chest high, holding his rifle over his head to wade to a beach under withering enemy fire?

Imagine just some more of the myriad dangerous situations the ordinary soldier faces. Imagine him accepting his death as imminent at any of his next moments… and yet continuing to persevere, engage, fight.

Salute

My friend, I salute you this day by name; honor you with my thoughts, my remembrances, my prayers, and my welled eyes. To every other soldier whoever fought and died in whatever battle, I salute you all, collectively, in same manner.

God will not look askance at the hero. Greater is his mercy to the man who died in battle. Death is a sacrifice HE well knows, understands, and has experienced. God bless them ALL, to their souls and through eternity.

30 Years Of Marriage: Axiomatic Observations About Life With A Woman

Situation Report: The Dog and I are locked in the “Bunker”, also known as “My Office”. Outside the door, we can hear the heavy thud of angry footsteps as my wife walks through the house, mumbling under her breath. I can’t discern what she is saying: possibly reciting prayers, asking the good Lord to “give her strength”, possibly reminding herself that she could easily bury me under the back stairs and no one would ever know.

Mood: Grim. The Dog looks up at me and through the look in his eyes seems to say, “Dude! What did you do? I spend most of my day licking my own privates, but even I wouldn’t have done that!”

What can I say? I wanted food and something to drink. She had just mopped the kitchen.

“Don’t walk on my floor!”

Does she think she married Spiderman? Does she believe I have the power to hover? Are we in some sort of weird role-play where she is the put-upon housewife and I am some sort of Mission Impossible Secret Agent that has to dangle from the ceiling to get a sandwich and a beer? Did I just say all those things to her out loud???

Yes. Yes I did.

As far as I know, the kitchen is a part of the house that BOTH of us own.

I know. I’ve checked the deed. Both of our names are on it!

Don’t get me wrong; I love my wife with every fiber of my being. She is my soulmate, and I am the luckiest man alive to have found her. However, the Dog and I are VERY hungry, our supply lines have apparently been cut off, and our reserves are dwindling rapidly.

Before I married my wife, I knew NOTHING about women. Now, thirty years later, I know NOTHING about women, but I have learned a few things about living with one of these brilliant and mystifying creatures:

Behind every angry woman stands a man who has absolutely no idea what he did wrong.

Been there, done that. Then, I went there several more times because apparently, I never learn.

Every time I talk to my wife, I have to remember that “This conversation will be recorded for training and quality purposes”.

Some things are better left unsaid, and I usually remember that right after I said them.

There is no point in my trying to understand women. Women understand women and most of the time, they hate each other.

Arguing with my wife is like reading the Software License Agreement: in the end you have to ignore everything and click “I Agree”.

Angry women can see into the future. They can remember stuff that hasn’t happened yet. Also, angry women can see into parallel universes: they can remember things that never happened in this universe.

Women always have the last word in an argument. Anything that a man adds after that is the beginning of a new argument.

A man is forced to be decisive. Right or wrong, you have to make a decision because life is paved with flat squirrels who couldn’t make a decision, and she will always answer, “I don’t know, whatever you want, honey.” Every. Single. Time.

Whenever my wife says “First of all” during an argument, I flee, because she has prepared research, charts, data, and is fully able to use all of it to destroy me.

A wise man once said: nothing.

That’s it. That is the totality of my knowledge regarding the female sex.

Always remember and never forget: Life is short. Smile while you still have teeth.

Please Don’t Sit On The Body Bags

Looking back on it, I’ve had an interesting job history. Ad agencies, clothing manufacturers, hospital, hair salons, marketing firms…and that’s not counting the jobs when I was in high school and college. Today, I’ll revisit The Hospital. (disclosure: it’s no longer in existence)

The Hospital was an inner-city hospital that after two weeks of working there, I made all those near and dear to me promise not to take me there unless I was already dead. It wasn’t the greatest job, but it was a paycheck. I worked in Corporate Purchasing, which meant I was responsible for procuring everything from radioactive isotopes for the Nuclear Medicine Department to rental cars for executives. Every purchase order had to be signed by the head of the department requesting the purchase, so this entailed a lot of running around. Including the Morgue.

Now I’m not a squeamish kind of person (except for eyes, but that’s another story) so I had no problem going to the lower level of the hospital to find Dr. Jones and have him sign off; and occasionally I had to hunt him down. I mean, the man needed his bone blades, right?

One day being in a hurry, I banged on the door where the autopsies took place and upon hearing a bellowed, “Come in!” I went in….to a man on the table, flayed open like a butterflied shrimp. Three medical students were there, and by the looks of things, one was either going to pass out or puke, whichever came first.

Me: “Dr. Jones, I need you to sign these PO’s if you want your supplies by Monday.”
Him: “Come here. Do you have a pen?”
Now I know this breaks about 87 laws, but it was in the days before HIPA, and I couldn’t see the guy’s face anyway, because his scalp had been cut and pulled down over it. Lucky, right?
At this point, one of the medical students starts doing the pass-out weave, and I shoved a chair under his ass so he wouldn’t hit the floor.
Bloody gloves were snapped off, papers signed, and I went on my merry way.
The following week the head of HR asked to see me. I didn’t think I was in trouble, but with me, who knows? Turns out that Dr. Jones was impressed by my lack of squeamishness; to the point that he put in a request to see if I wanted to work in the Morgue.

It’s nice to be wanted, but I declined.
Work with those stiffs?
Hell no.

Indefaggotable!

FAGGOT! Faggot? Faggot. Faaaaa-gguuut, faggnut, faggy, faggoty, faggotry, faggolicious, faggatrocious, faggofreaky, fag-form, fagalot, foo-faggot*, FagWarning, faggyfag, flit**… and just plain fag. The iterations contain situational nuance apposite to near all contexts.

Synonym: Swish, swisher, swisheroo, swishbuckler

It hadn’t staying power. After a short while, anyone calling someone by any variation was… a fag!

Thus were the playgrounds, playing fields, and schoolyards of my youth. Peak ‘faggotry’ hit in the eighth grade.

Drop a ball, strike out with the bags loaded, miss the game-winning shot, etc. … Faggot! Trip and fall – Faggot! Arrive at school with your uniform school tie up high and snug? Faggot! Cool was anti-fag. Steve McQueen was ultra cool. Steve McQueen was no fag, despite the patronymic imputation.

A teacher complements a guy in front of the entire class. Two, three minutes time, he receives four, five, notes – all reading – FAGGOT!

Peer pressure played as great a role as adult role models and teachers in the making of ‘guys’. No one can better club a guy to the straight and narrow than a peer, a guy. Any failure to perform to expectations was tantamount to faggotry.

And The Point Is?

So, a week before the eighth year of grammar school commenced, scuttlebutt had it Sister Mary (let’s call her X) was assigned one of the two eighth grade classes. For a week I’d prayed to be spared – “please GOD, not her. I’ll never ask for anything again… ever”, I’d promised. God knows best – Sister Mary X it was – for the duration – nine long months.

Needless to say Sister Mary X and I had history, all the 6th grade long. I was her whipping boy. I was the example of what comes to the resolutely truculent – her word. Mine would have been puckish.

Oh what the hell, someone’s got to do it, but why always me? If the Sister thought no other boy was up to the billing I could disabuse her and recommend several on which I’d had dirt. But… for some reason, she really ‘liked’ me.

It wasn’t a week into the 8th academic year that Sister Mary X found something to hang me with. I must have thought it trite enough to forget what it was about. Nevertheless, that first Friday afternoon, I’d been made an example of.

When school day is done, the mates begin their departures. I’m a straggler. “George”, Sister Mary X calls for my attention, and gets it as I pass her desk. “Have a great weekend”, she says with a smile. It was, at once, like… a revelation… from an Archangel – Sister X hadn’t it in for me. I was her whipping boy solely because I could take it without taking it personal and without animus toward her. That afternoon’s encounter was tacit notification that our pas de deux would continue. The “wink-wink” was as tacit.

Denouement

Things had gone near swimmingly with Sister and me, for the most part. The ‘understanding’ was not, ever, acknowledged, but was in tact. A few incidents played out according to script – everything was copacetic. Then, late in the year… there came something with a trace of sulfur in the air.

Thirty minutes before the Friday school day would end, Sister had apparently gotten her fill of me. Whatever it was must have been seething some time. This was going to be not good.

“GEORGE! Join me in the corridor, would you?” She headed out, and I dawdled, but arrived. “What is wrong with you?”, and she excitedly recited for me a ‘riot act’ and a litany of offenses. I was certain I wasn’t to respond. She threw in some Latin – I’d taken them to be prayers, not imprecations. She charged me with being utterly blithe about my education – kinda angry, like she meant it. In a final fit of exasperation…”George, you are the most indefatigably lazy young man ever put in my charge. You had better fix yourself… or!”

Soooo… you know what I’m thinkin’… that moment? I’m thinkin’… fix myself… what?… … …WAIT! Did Sister Mary X just call me a faggot? WTF?!

Made my way to my seat, took out my pocket dictionary and started hunting for “i-n-d-e-f-a-g-g-o-t-a-b-l-e. Nothing! Ten minutes left to the bell. The seating chart was a matter of the intervention of fate. Girls surrounded me. Now girls are not smarter than guys they’re just more – girly – fully on board with doing as told – always paying attention, always ain’t misbehavin’. If any guy had been that good, they’d be a… …you know.

I asked around. One, Patricia, had never heard of indefaggotable but was sure of ‘indefatigable’ – “as in ‘fatigue” – she’d helpfully added. Five minutes left. Looked it up. It was a Eureka moment – ‘tirelessly lazy.’ What a union! ‘Energetically lazy’! ‘Vigorously lazy’! ‘Dynamically lazy’! The enlightenment had begun, and I was hooked.

Next year, it was to be Will Shakespeare – wizard with words. Knew how to write; dressed like a faggot.

NB:

* Foo faggot: see ‘foo fighter’ – UFO (unidentifed flying objects)

** Flit – see “Catcher In The Rye” – flitty = outrageously faggoty.

A Mother’s Love

On #2 son’s 15th birthday I was working 60+ hours a week and had no time to bake, so I went to the grocery store and bought a nice sheet cake with no sentiment.  I thought I’d just get one of those funky cake decorating thingies in a can and write Happy Birthday on it.

The temptation was too great. I just couldn’t help myself. I tried to hold myself back, but somehow just having Happy Birthday on that beautiful cake wasn’t enough.

Once the candles were in place and lighted, I presented the cake to him. His face was all aglow in anticipation of his annual chocolate cake with the sickeningly sweet icing. Just imagine the expression he wore when he saw “Bon Voyage from Ray & Jolene.”

I explained to him that it was the only cake left in the bakery department, and that I’d got it at a bargain. He quickly pointed out to me that this was far worse than his 5th birthday, when I’d used candles that wouldn’t blow out.

Now he’s 37, and for his last birthday I baked his usual chocolate cake; with the loving hands of a Mother.

The sentiment? “Your Daddy’s Really The UPS Guy”.

Random Thoughts From Inside The Bunker

The dog and I are locked up in my office aka “The Bunker”. The wife is upset with me…again…something about not listening to her, or something. I didn’t hear her.

Situations like this give me time to contemplate bettering myself: I thought I was just in a bad mood, but it’s been a few years now, so I guess this is who I am now: A complete and total jackass.

Good. Now that’s over, I have time to think about really important things:

Rhinos are really chubby unicorns, and giraffes are sky camels.
It’s dangerous to make plans. The word
“premeditated” comes up a lot in courtrooms.

I don’t like camping. Me in a sleeping bag is like me being essentially a soft taco in the bear world.
Sawdust is man glitter.
My last words on this earth will probably be: “Are you fucking kidding me?”

Being an adult is like riding a bike, except the bike is on fire. Everything is on fire. You are in hell, with bills.

How soon after waking up is it OK to take a nap?

EVERYONE is crazy, so I need to relax and remember: it’s not a competition.

I am not anti-social. I’m selectively social. There is a difference.

Have you ever met a person and immediately felt sorry for their dog? I have.

When, exactly, is “old enough to know better” supposed to kick in?

Up to now, as far as I can tell, I’m immortal.

My plan B is always my plan A with more alcohol.

Spilling your beer is the equivalent of letting go of a balloon.

Sarcasm is better than aggravated assault.

A quiet man is a thinking man. A quiet woman is furious.

Dear Spell-check: I am never trying to type the word “ducking”.

And then Satan said: “Put letters in math” and he called it algebra.

There are people who need a pat on the back and then there are people who need a push down the stairs.

These days, common sense is a superpower.

That’s enough for now. My brain hurts, and the dog and I are hungry.

We have a plan to get us past enemy fire and through to our supplies: he is going to pretend he doesn’t speak English and I am going to pretend I’m deaf.

THIS WILL WORK!