An Introspective Analysis & Thesis on Military Designations

Afghanistan-US-soldier-holding-dead-baby Public Domain Via Wikimedia
Public Domain Via Wikimedia

by John Donnelly…

Special Soldier Designations Are Often Insignificant–When Compared To Ground Warriors.

Although this article is lengthy, I ask that you read it in its entirety before formulating an opinion. I’ve been troubled with how to best publish my thoughts. For clarity’s sake, I’ve presented my ideas on a continuum, consolidating them into an expression that I hope will be illuminating and informative.
It’s not without many nightmarish moments, that my story comes to you.
I’ve never cared for snipers. Whether they were shooting at us or firing from behind at targets over our heads. Although there were times when danger dogged their every step, snipers were basically concealed from the action at lengthy distances, sometimes as much as 1,000 yards ( 10 football fields). Removed from the fight at a relatively secure position, we knew that they were incapable of precisely detailing the quick pace, speed, variability and abrupt action, which epitomizes the behavior of combatants fighting in close quarters. We were uneasy about anyone second guessing our decisions or anticipating our next move. Snipers were paid no accord. For the most part they were considered to be irrelevant and inconsequential.
Recently, I viewed ‘several panels of snipers’ from the Iraqi and Afghanistan Wars extolling the praises of their handiwork on popular cable networks. Focusing and concentrating on their discussion, I detected an emptiness  and restlessness embodied within the boiler plated  euphemisms they passed off as justification, for the staggering number of assassinations executed under their hand.

VIETNAM-25-SOLDIERS REST public domain via wikimedia
VIETNAM-25-SOLDIERS REST public domain via wikimedia
Frolicsome and affectionate exchanges between the panelists and television emcees, belied the loathing these veterans appropriated towards the  human beings they killed. I didn’t like their omnipotent assuredness, as the arbitrators of life and death, purporting to be anointed judge, jury and executioner.
My strong aversion to this cast of characters triggered a serendipitous awakening, forcing me to acknowledge my kinship with these killers. These contemptuous and crippled individuals, longed to justify and make some sense of their battlefield experiences.  
Twenty-two veterans commit suicide each day. It’s the leading cause of death among active duty soldiers.
Perhaps I was witnessing the pre-requisite plausibility and denial (conflict) often written into the scripts of combat veterans, as they evolve towards an ‘instinctive awareness’ that their voluminous killings, in wars of questionable legitimacy, may have crossed the line.
The government’s standard play book and narrative concerning its righteousness and effectiveness in fighting the war on terror, has lost much of its flair and panache. Particularly, when viewed through the multifaceted prisms examining the carnage, barbarism, futility and ineffectiveness of such action.  

US_Army_soldiers_in_a_firefight_near_Al_Doura,_Baghdad public domain via Wikimedia
US_Army_soldiers_in_a_firefight_near_Al_Doura,_Baghdad public domain via Wikimedia
One measure of a societies’ collective consciousness can be appraised via the manner in which it respects the rights of  its citizens. Another standard of cultural advancement assesses the  value and worth that said society places on human life. Are our citizen/soldiers being trained and indoctrinated to become heartless, highly skilled and mind numbed mechanical entities? Did we not have that problem in Nazi Germany; soldiers just following and obeying orders?
Please allow me to take you back to those ‘sniper panels’. Prompted by their witty TV hosts and moderators these snipers triumphantly regaled in their self-aggrandizement, as they described the extraordinary successes they had in killing hundreds of human beings.
During their cocky and presumptuous ‘slaying rhetoric’, quick interludes were taken by the moderator to promote their books and upcoming movies. The absurdity of their discussion was beyond the pale. They gloated and preened with the TV luminaries as the boasted, bragged and glorified the lives that were exterminated at their hand. I dare say, during the unpredictability of combat mistakes are often made, particularly when civilian populations are intermingled within combat zones. Innocent children and citizens are invariably liquidated.   

US-Army-troops-taking-break-while-on-patrol-in-Vietnam-War Public Domain via Wikimedia
US-Army-troops-taking-break-while-on-patrol-in-Vietnam-War Public Domain via Wikimedia
The magnitude and depth of their destruction was applauded and encouraged by the cable hosts. They had me convinced. I wouldn’t doubt for one moment that they were prolific terminators of life.
This raises a question as to what type of training goes into developing the mindset of a conscienceless automaton? Developing killers of this caliber, with their terminal uniqueness, devoid of the requisite bearing to engage humanity appropriately, will perpetuate the creation of our enemies, while keeping us in a chronic state of war. ‘Peace’ will become a bygone notion, a novel idea; a brief interlude between painful conflicts, only to be read about on our tablets. The engines of our ‘war time economy’ have been primed for perpetuity. What manner of ‘Power’ can redirect this manic pursuit of self-destruction?
To me, the demeanor and method by which these snipers on the dais presented themselves, along with the jubilant and twisted logic they applied in sanctioning their killings, established an incongruent relationship with the ‘true nature and spirit of a warrior’. I was disappointed, embarrassed and ashamed by their performance on the world stage.
Rarely, will I ever publicly critique the conduct of a ‘Brother In Arms’. The sanctity of sacrifices made on the battlefield should remain there. However, these snipers ‘violated a prime directive’. They broadcasted battlefield intimacies into the homes of families across the world. With ease, comfort  and exuberance they made it appear as though their violence and destructiveness were an upgraded version of the latest video game. In so doing, they’ve opened themselves to the scrutiny of their audience. These veterans advertised a condescending attitude, which reflected degrees of  ruthlessness and barbarity best suited for an assassin, not an American soldier.    
I do not place all snipers into the category represented by those taken to the airwaves exalting their trade; nor do I claim to be a tactical authority on the use of these men. I am not detracting from their bravery and courage under fire. I pay tribute to those who were wounded or killed in action. However, in all of my life, I’ve never been exposed to any combat veteran who disgraced and humiliated themselves, to the extent demonstrated by said snipers during their TV appearances.
Watching and listening to these veterans, as they made the rounds on the cable shows, I went over in my mind the scenarios that surrounded our actual involvement with this group. Independent of my personal evaluation regarding the ‘sniper love fest’ portrayed on the screen before me, several Marines randomly contacted me after viewing the same shows. They found the conduct of those veterans to be disturbing and discomforting. These hardened Marines were not onboard with the snipers’ presentation. They green-lighted this publication.
With their endorsement, along with my own assessment of the exploits of said veterans on TV, I made a decision to put on paper our collective recollections describing these men assigned a military occupational specialty (MOS) as a sniper.
If snipers wanted some real action, let them come up front and get their noses bloodied. Let them face off against a determined and accomplished  enemy soldier, at arm’s length. Combatants that were delighted to slit their throats with surgical precision. An enemy well versed in luring their opponents towards a location where they could be clutched onto and cut into pieces; or mercifully, simply shot dead.
The smells and sounds of death coming from groups of men savagely engaged in a fight for life, cannot be appreciated at a 1,000 yards.

Soldiers Charging  Public Domain via Wikimedia
Soldiers Charging
Public Domain via Wikimedia
In the thick mountainous jungles of Southeast Asia, in the territory that we worked, the utility and effectiveness of  a sniper was limited. Their negligible impact on the fighting,  within our ‘theater of operations’, was reflected by the insignificance with which they were viewed. On those brief occasions when they came up from the rear and were attached to a front line unit, they were hardly noticed.
When flown into combat from the safety of their rear echelon locations, in  their crisp new fatigues, with clean working battle gear, freshly bathed bodies and uncontaminated drinking water; it took all that we had not to strip them bare and relieve them of their fresh supplies. Suffering from jungle rot, emersion foot, fever and dysentery, along with torn up clothing strewn with feces, tissue and other bodily fluids, they only thing these new editions brought to the table were their pleasant smells and what they wore on their backs.
Snipers were not involved with our daily combat assignments and regular routines. As ‘grunts’ (riflemen and infantrymen) we went out every day on patrols and night ambushes.
Manning perimeter fighting positions, setting up ‘listening posts’, ‘killer team’ insertions and joint assault team operations; along with being assigned to combat action platoons within the local villages, rounded off our day.  
A sniper had little or no importance in our lives. They weren’t given a second thought. As accomplished riflemen, my men could hit a cantaloupe size object without a scope, while standing up at a range of 500 yards. Of what use was a sniper?  
We preferred dysentery medicine, a hot shower, clean fatigues, ointments for our jungle rot, dry socks, drinking water and hot sauce; rather than the temporary presence of support personnel (snipers).   
The bonding, trust and brotherhood critical to men attempting to stay alive while fighting, dying and being wounded with one another over an  extended period of time, are endearing qualities that can only be earned. They are not extended, nor given, to an unmerited recipient.
We were quite aware that our lives and very survival were dependent upon the sacrifices and care rendered unto us by those who kept our supply lines open and operational. Without their courageous consistency, under every  manner of hardship, death would have been our fate. Unfortunate for them, was the fact that the entire country of Vietnam resided within a combat zone.
Of special note was the extraordinary courage exhibited by  medivac, armored, weapons and artillery units; as well as the air assault and strike squadrons that protected us from above. Everyone serving ‘in country’ had some skin in the game.
As ‘grunts’, we were ordinary and simple men, operating within a framework where “uncommon valor had become a common virtue”. We were honored, privileged and humbled to have the gallant and valorous backing of so many brave men and women.
Snipers were not denied membership nor excluded from the ‘soldiers-at-arms’ family. They were just not that essential or crucial in determining  battlefield outcomes. They did not have the celebrity status proclaimed and reveled in by their successors on the recent cable shows.  
The chest beating and glorification of killing demonstrated by those  snipers, are uncharacteristic of the original ‘Soldier’s Creed’. It was a shameful display of ignorance that defiled the hallowed ground upon which soldiers shed their blood and die. Exploiting the taking of life for fame and notoriety, is reprehensible and  un-American. Even on the battlefield; killing is never glorified. Bragging and boasting about slaughtering any type of human being are sickening and noxious characteristics.
Adorning stardom upon individuals violating their ‘credo’ as soldiers reflects the callousness of a dumb downed society; grown fearfully dependent upon the government and its proxies to do their thinking for them. Detached and secure via political and media rhetoric; the government’s misinformation and  propaganda has gone unchecked. Unconscious to our commonality with all sentiment beings, injuring and killing the ‘evil doers’ has become easy and fashionable.
One nation’s terrorist, is another nation’s freedom fighter. The British Crown viewed the participants in our American Revolution as radical insurgents, terrorists to be sought out and hung.
Cheapening the value of life significantly increases the murdering of non-combatants. Conservative estimates tally the number of innocent children, women and men slaughtered in the Iraqi and Afghanistan conflicts to be at 174,000. That’s a lot of collateral damage. No wonder why so many people from these nations are not fond of us.
Innocent children and civilians murdered during the Vietnam conflict are estimated to be 2.5 million. Civilians wounded were approximately 5.3 million. The populace that was made homeless and put into refugee status because of that war was about 11 million.
Our nation has not been successful in prosecuting its wars. The government’s 16 year war in Vietnam resulted in a loss. The 12 year war in Iraqi and the 14 year war in Afghanistan are rapidly moving towards the loss column. With a record of 0 and 3, perhaps it’s time to reconsider the use of military force, when it comes to addressing the differences we have with groups of people from other nations.   
At 9 years of age in the South Bronx we negotiated peace treaties with the neighboring gangs; insuring safe passage on agreed upon activities, for the divergent races, religions and ethnicities that made up our world. As an American citizen with some years, I’ve watched our foreign policy blunders  metastasize and destabilize the world. Our diplomatic stature and standing in the world has suffered. An arcane and empty civilian leadership continues to drift, as genocidal and sectarian murders have reached epidemic proportions.           
So many Americans have been maimed, mangled and horrifically slaughtered; during America’s incompetent misadventures abroad. Those in charge haven’t had the stomach, will or intelligence to win a fight. It’s time to declare a moratorium on any further military involvement, until an effective leader; emblazoned with integrity, credibility and courage can clearly present the facts that necessitate violence and killing within another’s sovereign nation. At that time, a ‘Constitutional’ presentation can be made to Congress, asking them for the authorization to ‘declare war’.       
Not much has been accomplished by the aforementioned wars. It’s a cautionary tale as to what to expect, if we continue down this destructive path. The ‘military industrial complex’ is an unconscionable lethal mix of war for profit. It’s as deadly as any bullet or bayonet striking a child or innocent civilian in their heart.  
Cavalierly suggesting that there is a nobility in killing, is an indoctrinated, conditioned and misguided attitude. It’s a departure from our ‘founding documents’ which proffer the promise of a safe and valued citizenship based upon the principles that guarantee our rights to pursue: “Life, liberty and happiness”.
Lack of knowledge and information may have contributed to my ‘take’ on the sniper interviews. Times, tactics and terrain have changed, perhaps I’m unable to objectively understand the nuances of ‘contemporary war’. Or maybe, I’m tired of the baloney.
However, one thing is for certain, in my discontent I do not stand alone.
Discernment is a good thing. I judge no one. However, as imperfect as I am, I know the difference between right and wrong.
I don’t throw the word hero or heroic around. Those who did not have a chance at life, never returning home from their tours of combat or unable to enjoy life again because of their wounds; are the only “Heroes” that I’m familiar with.
My biases, as mistaken as they may be, are evident in this article. I am not, nor do I purport to be a ‘military expert’. If through my interpretation of events I’ve offended anyone, I ask for your forgiveness. It will not be the first, nor last time, I’ve been wrong.
I’ve chosen to atone for the violence I brought into this world by devoting much of my life to assisting veterans and their families, while affording aid to the Vietnamese refugees that settled in the United States. I’ve taken the second chance I had at life seriously, attempting to lighten the load of my fellow man. I hope that my God will forgive me, and perhaps find favor with some of my actions.
My spirit called upon me to speak up. Grandstanding and triumphantly exalting the taking of life, whether it be an enemy combatant/soldier/civilian, suspected terrorist, or an innocent causality caught in the cross hairs; has not, nor will it ever be an acceptable expression for members of our Armed Forces.
Warriors take care of their business with stealth like dispassion and precision. They derive their comfort, endurance and fortitude from the silent presence of their comrades-in-arms.
Beating one’s chest with bravado and luster, so that attention can be gotten for doing what a soldier in combat is called upon to do, will always be contemptible and repugnant.  

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35 thoughts on “An Introspective Analysis & Thesis on Military Designations

  1. Wow…Thank you so much for this much needed perspective from a bona fide combat veteran. This essay is written with heart and sanctioned by your fellows, giving it even more weight. We live in a time of moral ambiguity and false pride. “American Exceptionalism” is being hawked by the least exceptional among us and is a smoke screen that perpetuates the immoral paradigm of never-ending war for profit. Orwell himself could not predict the level of criminal behavior passing for “normal” business-as-usual. Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden are “criminals” for exposing murder and espionage carried out in our name, and the spies and murderers are free to carry on, while Manning rots in prison and Snowden is a fugitive. The adulation of the sniper-as-hero is just another example of our moral deterioration.
    John, you are the real deal.Thank you.

  2. John, I’ve waited eagerly for your take on all this and have been greatly rewarded for my patience. Passion and sincerity of this magnitude can only be looked upon with awe and respect. I marvel at your whole life experience and your ability to translate it into something positive for all of us. It is almost embarrassing for me to voice some minor discrepancies, but I must. None of what I’m about to say changes the overall feeling of awe I’ve gotten from this article. John, once again, you make the mistake of blaming government for all this propaganda and lethal idiocy, as if government were the problem, that foolish phrase of Ronald Reagan. Government is simply the agent of a corrupt, unconcerned, uncaring, corporate plutocracy that calls all the shots in this game. Remember, the media that creates these images are private profit making entities and, unfortunately, our government works for them and all the corporate powers that use media to be who they are. In the end, only some form of reformed government can ever do anything about this. Secondly, I do not consider those who’ve died in these horrific, counter productive wars to be “heros”. They were simply pawns used in a dirty game without the intellectual foundation to keep themselves from being used this way. I really can’t call anyone a hero that is being used in an immoral action. You’ve become a “hero” in my book, in the aftermath of what you’ve learned from war and because of your desire to speak out against it. You, John, are a hero. OK, in truth, I feel squeamish making any critique of this article, so forgive me, but I, like you, must speak my mind. You are a credit to your species, a hug, Jerome (PCM)

  3. Alex,

    Thank you for your comment. I value and respect your critique and assessment. It was painful to relive the penetrating and far-reaching destructiveness that war brings into every aspect of humanity.

    ‘Violence and killing’ do not render solutions.

    Thanks again for taking the time to read through the article and offer your response.

    Blessings & Respect

  4. Jerome,

    Always appreciate your insightful perspectives. If you’d care to, please continue the dialog. Your take on the article is important.

    Many ‘stand-up’ veterans have shared their similar frustrations with war continuing to be sought as an answer. I’m certain there are also many veterans who are in disagreement with my analysis.

    The mothers, fathers, wives, children and families of those killed or seriously wounded in the aforementioned wars have to experience severe pain when this topic is broached.

    My heart is always torn and troubled by this fact.

    There are also the innocent children, women and civilians killed on the other side, that I find troubling as well.

    I’ll have more to say later.

    Blessings & Respect

  5. somehow i don’t think the people on the receiving end of a bullet cared whether it came from a sniper or not. they were just dead.
    somehow i don’t think a wife took more comfort knowing her husbands brains were splattered by a heroic infantry grunt rather than a cowardly sniper. he was just dead.
    somehow i don’t think that a mother felt peace when she was scooping up the intestines of her son shot by a “virtuous soldier engaging in uncommon valor.” the kid was just dead.

    snipers, grunts, mercenaries, whatever. all are paid killers where the words honor, valor, courage, and heroism do not apply.

  6. John, I’ll gladly continue this dialog, it is important. One other thing I wanted to say somewhat coincides with the comment by Keysbum. For all the goodwill and heartfelt feelings you project in abhoring these wars, I think you subconsciously romanticize war itself. I can perfectly understand the bonds you and your battle comrades have developed, how could it be otherwise, but, without even knowing it, you sometimes make it seem so heroic, as if you had been in a movie with Mel Gibson or something. Considering how you really feel about all these idiotic wars, that can be self defeating. I repeat, this comment does not in any way over shadow the magnificence (I mean that) of your article in general. ciao, PCM

  7. Keysbum,

    Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on the article. I value your insight.

    We’ve been down this road before. I’ve repeatedly offered you an in-depth analysis identifying the dynamics of soldiers faced off in battle; along with a ‘myriad of context’ describing the realities and complexities of a civilian population intermingled within a combat zone.

    I’ve gone into my background in detail, describing the divergent driving forces causing some individuals to involve themselves with the military, and others not to.

    I’ve failed to convince you that there is more than one way to process the Vietnam War era in our nation’s history. I will not waste my time any further on that endeavor. Perhaps I’m just serving as a tool for your personal amusement and/or pleasure via your anonymous setting.

    “A new idea cannot be grafted upon a closed mind”. I understand your position and do not judge the decisions that you’ve made in your life. However, you have not afforded me the same courtesy.

    I’ve not made theoretical assumptions in my presentations to you. My information is based upon the truth as I know it, or have experienced it. As a ‘primary source’ of an event that you have not endured, it is my belief that some movement towards common ground must be reached, if we wish to continue our discussion.

    It has been the same old, same old with you. A lot of anger, judgment and hate directed at anyone wearing, or has worn a uniform. It has really gotten old. A one trick pony will only go so far.

    Just because you think in a certain way or write about a topic, characterizing it in a particular framework, it doesn’t make it true. With all due respect, it’s apparent that you know little of what you’re talking about concerning the matter at hand.

    Your fixation and accusatory tone regarding points that you have little, if any direct knowledge of, displays a contempt and ignorance which are uncharacteristic of the many cogent points that you regularly make. The obtuseness, and what appears to be a feigned inability to understand the depth, range and magnitude of the information contained in the essay before you, has provided me with a formidable challenge in attempting to effectively respond to your inquires. Perhaps I lack the requisite skills to communicate adequately; or maybe we’ve arrived at a place where we can agree to disagree. Thanks again for your input.

    I appreciate your insight and perspectives.

    Blessings & Respect..

    1. Mr. Grapel’s retort above sums up what my response would have been, and he did so far more eloquently that I could, so I’ll let his commentary speak for me as well.

      i will say, that yes, i know nothing of the horrors of combat and vietnam or any other war because i CHOSE not to participate. what you fail to acknowledge is that there is NO excuse for participating in the wanton slaughter of your fellow human beings. it does not matter that you consider yourself a patriot, believe in a cause, or are simply a mindless drone following your governments dictates. you engaged in MURDER. period. end of story. there is no honor to be had. there is no valor to exhibit. there is no courage to display. you view your military experience through your eyes, your experience, your pathos, and not the consequences of what your choice coerced on other people. you wrap yourself in the flag and decry the “suffering” you and your comrades experiences then and now, but pay lip service to the people steamrolled by the imperial forces of which you proudly proclaim to be a member.

      there is only one way to process the vietnam war, and all wars; they are criminal acts, perpetrated by criminals, fought by criminals, and later, savored by criminals.

      i wont apologize for my “close mindedness.” at the risk of sounding supercilious (thanks Shaquille, haven’t used that word in a while), i am right, and you are wrong.

  8. Thank you, John. We need combat veterans to speak out against the glorification of the dishonorable modes of war: sniping, drones, mass bombing, etc. You and your Marine colleagues have an experiential and moral authority to call out these self-glorifying cowards.

    Jerome, I detect no Mel Gibson in John’s recollections. I feel pain in the recollection of the misery of their continually-failing destructive actions, relieved only by sharing it with devoted fellow sufferers.

    Keysbum as always entirely misses the point of this article in his dependably pathetic attempt to be supercilious.

    Jerome, I don’t know if if matters anymore to distinguish our government from its corporate masters. Wars exist to enrich the Halliburtons. The military-industrial complex is now an achieved triad, the military-industrial-federal government complex.

    1. Rick et al, In this case I distinguished the government from the corporate masters because I glean a certain antipathy towards the IDEA of government in John. Certainly, I agree, our government is a fraud representing anything but the people, but that should not impune the possibility of government doing something positive. As for John’s possible romantization of war, I do not question John’s sincerity, I only see something that could be seen as war-positive in his presentation, something that makes it sound so heroic, etc. But I’m willing to suffer the attacks of others for such a thought. I guess we can all see it differently. ciao, PCM

    2. Shaquille, you are nothing if not consistent. a consistent joke that is.

      you correctly ascertain that war is prosecuted for the profit motive; then your analytically maladroit intellect assigns the notion of honor in that prosecution. do you even understand what you write??

      let me guess; supercilious was your word for the day, and you were just dying to get a chance to use it, right?

      and by the bye, only someone with inferiority issues would accept and absorb my commentary as supercilious.

      know anyone like that Shaquille?

  9. JEROME,

    Your critique is accepted and appreciated. Without going into all of the details, my birth into an extended family of warriors (Father, Uncles and Grandfathers) who participated in the Normandy Invasion, Battle of the Bulge, Iwo Jima, along with a plethora of World War I engagements; is a matter of fact not romance. In my family we had three successive generations of Soldiers/Marines who were awarded 5 Purple Hearts.

    We lived in the Irish section of the Bronx. All of my playmates and classmates had families of a similar make-up.

    JFK arrived on the scene and for many of us he was our version of Martin Luther King. JFK and the new hope for a better day was characterized through the media as ‘Camelot’.

    Why would anyone not believe in this man and the government he represented. Our government found it necessary to involve combat troops in Vietnam. After our nation’s enormous sacrifice in blood and treasure to secure a victory in a two front war (WW II), I believed it necessary to stand with my country in their time of need. No romance here. I acted in accordance with my analysis and beliefs. I gave up my scholarship and enlisted in the USMC.

    Some of my best friends decided this war/conflict was not for them. I supported them in their decisions.

    Jerome, there was never any romancing of what we were called upon to do, and what we endured, as combatants.

    The civilian government leadership kept our nation embroiled in that bloodbath for 16 years. Although creative alternatives were acted upon, the draft required participation in that war. Conscientious Objector status was infrequently achieved.

    Civilian government leaders in congress and the white house imprisoned those who did not want to kill another human being, as they refused to allocate an end to that slaughter.

    Lecturing individuals who have engaged in the horrors of combat, as to its destructiveness and barbarism is counterproductive and demeaning.

    “The soldier above all others prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war”.
    Douglas MacArthur

    Compassion, courage, sacrifice and valor under fire are not romantic acts. They are tangible and measureable actions coming from extraordinary individuals.

    Many civilian versions of our government leadership sent us off to fight against an enemy that was all too happy to kill us, we fought against those that were determined to slaughter us, not the innocent civilians. Under the penalty of prison, along with destroying any chance of a prosperous career, young men were made to kill by the politicians that you put into office.

    Majestic and enduring sacrifices made by my Marines to treat those children and innocent civilians injured during this war, while fighting a skilled and accomplished enemy, is not romance. It is a fact.

    There is nothing heroic about any of this. However, let’s acknowledge some of the realities that were made by men who have been characterized as murders and baby killers.

    Blessings & Respect…

  10. RICK,

    Really appreciate your ‘take’ on the article. Thank you so much for reading and taking the time to make a comment.

    Your expression of the meaning I was attempting to get across is ‘spot on’. It precisely describes the intent and purpose of the article.

    Thank you for assuring me that I did not fail to communicate the concerns of a challenging and painful era in our nation’s history.

    Blessings & Respect…

  11. The clarifications I’ve shared regarding the realities of ‘What Was Going On’ in the lives of many young men approaching age 18 during the Vietnam War are a matter of record. It doesn’t beg nor ask for anyone else’s approval or endorsement.

    If these facts and the multifaceted reasoned approaches utilized by these men, as they arrived at a decision to address their consciences and the law, are too much to bear for some, perhaps it’s more of a statement about you, than the young men who answered THEIR call.

    Me thinks, thou doth protest too much…

    Members of the Armed Forces are apolitical. For the most part, they go and do what their Civilian Commander-In-Chief directs them to do.

    Perhaps the non-voters should put their money where their mouths are. Pledging their fortunes, lives and sacred honor to the candidates that best represent their ideals for a better America.

    One Self-Realized citizen can change the world.

    As I recall, some chose involvement with domestic terrorism (SDS/Weather Underground) rather than joining the military, staying in school or seeking a 4F or ‘CO’ waiver. Some of these domestic terrorists killed innocent American civilians for no reason whatsoever.

    Yet, some of those affiliated with these murderous organizations have been quick to vociferously castigate and condemn soldiers that fought on a battlefield in defense of their lives.

    In conclusion, why is it so difficult to understand that American servicemen and women during battle, under the most perilous and threatening types of conditions, circumstances not of their choosing; regularly placed their lives on the line so the needs and suffering of an innocent citizenry might be addressed. Nothing romantic or heroic here. Just facts as they occurred.

    Blessings & Respect…

    1. as i have stated in prior discourse Mr. Donnelly, i do not posses the hubris to judge you, nor do i posses the acumen to characterize you. all i can do, all i have done, is define you by the decisions you have made for yourself. if you take offense, if your response is defensive, then perhaps it is you who requires introspection and self approval.

      you postulate continually about answering a call, being bound by duty, following your conscience, and obeying a higher authority. how do any of those otherwise admirable traits, when in the possession of an erudite, sophisticated person such as yourself, translate into picking up a gun, pulling its trigger, and ending the life of a person who has done NOTHING to you, except wear a different color uniform?

      Mr. Grapel basically called you a moron for not possessing sufficient intellect to deflect the bombardment of propaganda aimed at you in your youth, and thus seemingly, he also views that as an excuse to deflect blame and responsibility.

      i myself, do not share in that assessment. for i believe that through your own words, you have lucidly exclaimed your proclivity for war and violence sans any political rationale, any “righteous cause” and instead view it as simply a call to duty. an accepted authority figure told you to go kill, and you did. it was as simple as that. it is also frightening.

      conscience, morality, ethics, all played inconsequential roles in your actions and decisions. you most certainly had a choice to participate or not, and any circumstances in which you found yourself, no matter how perilous, no matter how threatening, no matter how murderous, were the result of your conscious choice.

      i had that same choice, and i made it. it was not the same as yours.

      Mr. Donnelly, you are not evil incarnate, and i find you to be a very intelligent, fascinating man. but i also believe that you have an affinity for violence and the glorification of your military service, and yet you so desperately try to mitigate your record.


      PS- as you referenced, i was a member of SDS at UCLA (non-violent), and I am proud of that affiliation. I also do not vote because it is a useless exercise, and doing so, to me anyway, legitimizes a system that I know does not exist.

  12. John, et al, Although I do think that Keysbum understands the point I was making, I don’t concur in his condemnation of all the participants. Propaganda is a real thing and most people do not have the intellectual foundation to defend themselves from such brainwashing. It’s a Jesus kind of thing — forgive them for they know not what they do (I am not a man of “faith” but I can appreciate the Jesus-like person). Kharma, however, is real, and most of the people who did and are participating in such awful violence do pay some kind of negative price for it. If we ever can get past this madness as a species, it will take ALL of us to do it, even those who once fell prey to such propaganda and lunacy. And John, please, I’m no SDS-Weatherman defender, but nobody in Vietnam was fighting for their lives, or for anything other than an American empire … just like now. With such a comment, you seem to be saying that the Vietcong were on the wrong side of history. Do you really believe that? ciao, PCM

  13. John, One more thing: you give me quite a history of your family, and in so doing, you really hit on the real crux of all this. My family has no such military history, most likely due to the fact that my social class generally found ways to stay out of this stuff. We were not rich, but comfortably middle class. None of my cousins and such fought in VN. We were all in college avoiding it like the clap. I make no bones about it. It is always people from lesser economic-educational stratas that are used as cannon fodder by the Bush-Cheneys of the world. Sad but true. The Commies had some things right, and their preocupation with social class was one of them. It is almost everything. John, your article has engendered a wonderful discussion. Thanks so much. PCM

  14. Jerome,

    As many others, I’ve been blessed with a sharp mind and superior intellect. An intuitive ability to relate with people and understand their motives, while growing up on the streets of the South Bronx in a city of 8 million people, provided me with the means to address the realities of my existence, while facing life on life’s terms.

    I know the difference between propaganda (lies) and truth. I don’t believe nor look upon myself as being a moron, a term that Keysbum inferred you used in describing me. I do see how Keysbum made that connection, as you describe my ‘falling prey to propaganda and lunacy’, as the reason I decided to enlist in the USMC. Perhaps that is true. However, having been personally involved in the internal workings that lead to my decision, I see it differently.

    In your next comment, the last one made, you’ve come around to a more accurate and truthful understanding of the processes influencing (Karmic & Otherwise) my decisions to answer, as I saw it, my nation’s call to duty.

    The ‘milieu’, from which my consciousness arose, is different from yours. My world and the manner in which I experience and respond to it, is different than yours.

    There was a lot of geo-political maneuvering, alliances and treaties (SEATO), along with national and worldwide subterfuge, which destabilized and triggered the powder keg in Southeast Asia. There is a long laundry list of discrepancies that led to and maintained our long involvement over there.

    Monday morning and arm-chair quarterbacking 47 years after the fact are counterproductive, toxic and foolish; if the purpose of such an examination is solely to assign blame and denigrate one another.

    The 58,000 killed in action and the 300,000 wounded in action might disagree with your assessment; regarding them ‘not fighting for their lives’.

    I’m not narrow minded nor given to lunacy. I accept, admire and respect you and your ideas. I don’t call into question the legitimacy of your positions or opinions.

    I value your wisdom and courage. Thank you for contributing to this discussion.

    Blessings & Respect…

    1. John, In truth, I think we’ve come to an understanding here … but I seem to have not understood your comments about the SDS and Weathermen. I thought you were saying that the soldiers in VN were fighting for the lives of those protesting in America, meaning the SDS and such. If what you meant was that they were fighting to save their own lives, I thoroughly accept that and apologize for the error. The main thing is to understand that it is always a certain social class that takes the brunt of the punishment for those using them for their own purposes. John, you may have taken your decisions to go to VN very seriously and sincerely, but I still think they were based upon fallacious concepts. When the middle class opted out of VN, the idea of the volunteer army came about, and the idea has worked for those pulling these strings. The same social class is out there getting their asses killed and maimed for the same masters. I recently heard a wonderful comment from a man who was Colin Powell’s chief of staff, a retried coronal who hates these wars. When told that 62% of the American people support some kind of ground war against ISIS, he said, fine, then let’s have a draft to see just how much they support it. John, you are good for my brain, you make me think, thanks, PCM

  15. Dave,

    Although we have engaged in some heated exchanges, I sincerely appreciate and value all that you have brought to our many discussions.

    My postulations about answering a ‘call to duty’ were predicated upon the Milieu from which I was birthed and raised. I’ve described in detail some of the factors and nuances influencing my development.

    Why would I pick up a gun and kill someone, simply because they were wearing a different uniform? Taken out of context, your question seems quite horrific. But then we would just be looking from the outside, at how things appear to be, without really knowing anything.

    Life doesn’t occur in a vacuum. An individual does not arrive at any point, without going through the process that brought them to said location.

    Your referred to postulations are not claims of fact, they are not theoretical or hypothetical, they are the building blocks upon which my mind and heart were wired. It is the ‘milieu’ from which I arose.

    In past communiqués, you’ve not adequately attended to nor factored in this important piece of information when advancing your assessment of my Vietnam experience.

    I was surrounded by a lot of authentic and spontaneous adults, who fostered independence in their children. From an early age I made my own decisions. I was not a follower nor was I prone to take suggestions. Propaganda and indoctrination were not a part of our household. We were too busy for it, as we all had our different jobs, ideas and friends. I grew up fast and knew that I was always responsible for everything that I did and said.

    You talk about my “deflecting blame”. How can I deflect blame, when I hadn’t done anything wrong.

    I just came to the part where you’ve written that I: “lucidly exclaimed a proclivity for violence and war”.

    Gee whiz Dave: is that where you really want to go with this. I’ve never said any such thing.

    Earning trust and acceptance are a part of my nature. I will never accept an individual, simply because they are an authority figure. I would never kill anyone, simply because I was told to. Dave, it’s difficult to fend off a lot of the nonsense in your comment. However, I shall press on.

    You go on to further state that: “conscience, morality, ethics, all played inconsequential roles in your actions and decisions”. You are wrong Dave. It’s so foolish for you to judge and condemn another without ever have walked in their shoes.

    If that is what you think of me, why do you waste your time interacting with me?

    Dave, regarding the Vietnam War era you and I made different choices. I respect and admire the courageous action that you took on your behalf. You honored yourself with the decisions that you made.

    My conduct and behavior, along with those of the Marines under my command, reflected the highest of standards possible, under the gravest of conditions. The Vietnamese children and civilians that we saved, protected and cared for; will meet us ‘later on, to the place that we’ve gone’.

    In closing, Monday morning and arm-chair quarterbacking 47 years after the fact are counterproductive, toxic and foolish; if the purpose of such an examination is solely to assign blame, judge, denigrate and defame another.

    Blessings & Respect…

  16. Alex,

    Please allow me to extend another special thanks to you for the immediacy and brilliance with which you broke the ice on the article.

    You framed it beautifully and provided everyone with an opportunity to address this topic in a meaninful and purposeful manner.

    I sincerely appreciate the assistance. Thank you.

    Blessings & Respect…

  17. Rick,

    You stepped in just when I was beginning to doubt myself. I really value your encouragement and brilliant mind.

    Thank you for the magnificent contributions and support.

    Blessings & Respect…

  18. Keysbum, I did not call John a “moron”, that is the word YOU chose, not me, and it is in harmony with how you sadly present yourself. All I was saying is that John and I come from different social classes, a fact that is, sadly, still relevant in our world. You can reject or accept that premise, but that is your business. The fact that John has become what he now is regardless of his humble beginnings makes me admire him even more, and has nothing to do with whatever discrepancies I might have with him.

    1. “propaganda is a real thing and most people do not have the intellectual foundation to defend themselves from such brainwashing.”

      Moron: a very stupid or foolish person.

      so what did you mean by the sentence? you are a supposed professional author; words are your trade. i would expect a certain degree of literary precision in the words you choose, and the construct of your sentences.

      you knew what you were saying. there was no mistaking the meaning.

      backtracking and hurling invective while attempting to cloak yourself in innocence is not an attractive trait.

  19. John, I am surprisingly glad you responded to keyscum’s self-aggrandizing whimpers. I have found out so much more about your painful but admirable history. I have counselled y’all to ignore, never read his direct posts–as I say, I don’t have to bend down to snif dogshit once I recognize it, so I haven’t read a post he has written to me once I said I wouldn’t. But keyscum has served as the “useful idiot” who provokes such an inspired, profound, and heartfelt response as you, John, have provided.

    I never thought these keystrokes would come from theses fingers:

    keyscum, keep it up. Keep barfing in public. You have an anti-intuitive virtue you could never possibly appreciate.

    1. oh shut up shaquille. you are as useless an “intellect” as i’ve come across.

      why don’t you go vote for something. it’s as useless as you.

      “keyscum”? really?? how long did it take you to think that up? or did it just “cum” to you while engaging in your daily stroke-a-thon with “miss michigan.’?

  20. Keysbum,

    With all due respect, I found your comment preceding the last one posted, to lack continuity and purpose; other than to disparage the author of ideas that you are in disagreement with. It was difficult for me to make sense of what you really wanted, other than to ridicule me.

    If you are disappointed with my inability to construct sentences that accommodate your desires, why do you persist in reading my articles? Why do you continue to incessantly post responses to my columns?

    If the words I use do not correspond with the literary precision that you desire, please do not injure yourself any further and avoid reviewing my submissions.

    Keysbum, I’ve been extremely gentle and respectful in my responses to your comments. I have not, as you stated, been hurling invectives at you. I have not, nor ever sought, to cloak myself in innocence concerning any aspect of my life.

    Your comments document a plethora of misunderstandings, as they relate to the meaning and intent of my essays. My ideas and positions trouble you. Not my words or sentences.

    Keysbum, if you now have decided that I am a moron, so be it.

    I live my life independent of the ideas and opinions of others. How someone may view me is not any of my business.

    I will continue to answer the call of duty, as the God of my understanding makes it known to me.

    Blessings & Respect…

    1. Mr. Donnelly… that comment was directed at Grapel. if you will notice, it is under his comment to me trying to distance himself from his derogatory comment to you.

    2. Mr. Donnelly, John, may I call you John? i did not have time to adequately respond to your post this morning, so i would like to do so now.

      unlike our friend Shaquille Boettger, i do not engage in ad hominem attacks. nor do i devolve into a teenage boy by invoking sexual innuendo to desecrate a nom de plume. i regrettably succumbed to Shaquille’s nadir of comportment by responding back, and for that I apologize to all the participants on the board.

      but john, i have never outright insulted you, and i am somewhat surprised, and disappointed that you thought that i would begin now, especially in such a crude and unsophisticated manner. any insult authored by me would be far more subtle and require a modicum of adroitness to decipher. the only outright insults i put out there are reserved for those with limited comprehensive facility, and who have earned the utter lack of respect and contempt to which they are subjected.

      so please accept my apologies for even having that thought planted into your head.


  21. Keysbum, I must admit, considering the respect I have for your intellect and intelligence, even if I object to your presentation, you have greatly erred with your reply to my message. The definition you give for “moron” is totally accepted by me, but those who went to fight in VN were neither stupid nor foolish. They were simply unprepared for the manipulations they were subject to and the fact that millions of people were in the same boat proves that they were not “morons” but simply regular folk who could not defend themselves from the powers to be. Now, if you want to call the collective state of our culture “moronic”, I can buy that, but not the minute individual parts who are subject to it. If there is such a thing as “progress”, that will be manifested in uplifting the molten mass of society to a better place, a daunting task, but it is the task at hand.

  22. Please address each other respectfully. We do not want to have to start editing everyone’s comments. You’ve all proven to be literate and intelligent therefore should be able to make a point without insulting each other.

    thank you.


  23. I’ve been trying to understand what compels you to write these essays John. I think the answer to that question can be found in this paragraph…

    “My strong aversion to this cast of characters triggered a serendipitous awakening, forcing me to acknowledge my kinship with these killers. These contemptuous and crippled individuals, longed to justify and make some sense of their battlefield experiences.”

    I cannot pretend to understand the horrors you most likely have encountered in your journey. I just hope that you will find a way to truly forgive yourself and to spread the message to the younger generations that fighting and killing for empire is never justified.

  24. Sister,

    Good to hear from you. Hope all is well. I appreciate and value your input. For the most part, your comment is powerful and beautiful. I’ll do my best to address it.

    Perhaps the better question might be, ‘why do you read these essays and feel compelled to post a response’.

    I’m grateful that you participate and I’ve learned a lot from you. I miss you, when you aren’t a part of the discussion.

    I believe that we need to love and accept people as they are. Judging and challenging people, as to the reasons why they live and see the world differently, are counterproductive in bridging gaps of misunderstanding.

    For those we believe to be evil, I try to love the sinner and hate the sin.

    My kinship with combat veterans is a reality. However, that bond has never been blind. It does not advocate nor endorse an assortment of actions, which may violate a Soldier’s Creed or the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

    Going further, as you must know if you read my article, I did not approve of the conduct of those veterans who made the rounds on the cable networks. Although I have kinship with these men, I am not one of them. I made that clear in the essay.

    I do understand the severe consequences suffered by soldiers engaged in combat. 4 years of homelessness were required of me before I could move on. I’ve shared the stress and anxiety of many returning combat veterans. I have that kinship with them.

    Hindsight is 20/20. During the last 47 years I’ve come to understand how the government distorted facts and twisted events, as they related to the Vietnam War. However, 47 years ago I was not cognizant of such conduct.

    I had every reason to believe in and trust my country and president (JFK). When called upon to serve, I gave up my scholarship and joined the Marine Corps. I behaved in accordance with my conscience and ideals. I do not ask to be forgiven…

    On the battlefield, we directed our aggression only against those desiring to kill us. During combat we shielded children and civilians from enemy fire. Many Marines were killed and wounded, sacrificing themselves so that a child wasn’t butchered. We do not ask nor seek forgiveness for such conduct…

    I cower before no human power. I do not want nor seek anyone’s forgiveness or approval. My life speaks for itself. It will be judged by the only ‘One’ with the authority to judge it.

    I assure you Sister, I have counseled wisely to the younger generations regarding the futility and barbarism of war. I believe that you would be supportive and in agreement with me.

    Embracing differences, while not being a one trick pony are good things. Understanding, that although an individual may hold a divergent perspective or a conflicting point of view, it doesn’t make them wrong; has given me the space necessary to grow and evolve as a human being.

    Accentuating the positive within another, has provided me with the means to listen and accrue wisdom via their experiences.

    I will continue to share the truth with young men and women seeking counsel with me.

    Sister, my Blessings & Respect… Thank you…

    1. I appreciate your kind response John and I do enjoy reading your essays as you certainly have a way with words.

      Viewing life through a lense of fifty shades of grey has a tendency to lead one into slavery and bondage. I’m more of a black and white kinda girl. There IS a distinction between right and wrong, no matter how the fashionable liberals want to spin it.

  25. Keysbum, I remind you that your accusation of me calling John and his military comrades “morons” was based upon my defending their innocence for what they were sent to do. I am not hiding behind the old “I was ordered to do so” defense in this case. Considering the immense propaganda mechanism that “legitimized” their role as soldiers in VN, it would be difficult to see how they can be considered guilty of anything but a mistaken set of values ingrained in them from their very birth. I remind you it is YOU who refuses to forgive them for their actions. So just who is calling them “morons”?

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