Supporting our troops, the draft, protests


“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; That I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the order of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”

When I took that oath in June of 1967 it meant something to me. Thirty-eight years later I still get that same feeling in the pit of my stomach of flying down a hill too fast in a car as I read those words that I got then. I felt like my stomach jumped up into my throat and put a strangle hold on my tonsils! I was fulfilling a life long dream. Of course then I was also a naive eighteen year old high school graduate out to make my place in the world. I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to earn the rights endowed to me by my country under the Constitution. I wanted to be part of something bigger than myself.

My first duty station after boot camp was MCRD San Diego, California. I went to Ground Radio Repair School, then Radio Fundamentals School. All together I spent a few months shy of a year there going to school before being sent to Quantico, Virginia.

Of all my four years in the Corps, I loved San Diego the best. Yet it was also one of the hardest times of my life. The fast pace of boot camp didn’t allow much time to be homesick or lonely. Mostly like everyone else I was scared to death and always one half step ahead of a “screaming” Drill Instructor. To this day I will forever be thankful to SSgt. Westfal for all she taught me.

In those days the training at boot camp for men and women was segregated at Parris Island. So my knowledge of what training was like for the men was limited. However, San Diego was also home of the second boot camp training program for “men” in the Corps. As I went through my daily routine in San Diego, I was able to observe the young men as they went through their training to become MARINES.

When the men first arrived on post they were processed. Part of this involved getting all their clothing issued and that momentous first hair cut. They were all so young looking. They were scared to death. Most still blushed openly with embarrassment whenever anyone spoke to them. Everywhere they went they marched in formation. At first they were clumsy and out of step. But it didn’t take long for them to shape up. A couple drill instructors breathing down your neck always seemed to accelerate the learning process! They marched very tall and straight with the top button of their fatigues buttoned. Their lips were tightly closed in a constant scowl, their eyes straight ahead, never moving. Still, their eyes spoke what their mouths would never disclose.

Every day they ran for what seemed like hours, though that really wasn’t the case. But they had to carry their rifles as the ran. There were always one or two that really had a lot of trouble keeping up. The DI’s would go back to them and start their yelling tirades and sometimes that would be enough to make that recruit pick up his pace. Other times a recruit still straggled behind. On those occasions a DI would order the recruit to move it. If the recruit still didn’t pick up his pace he me might get a rifle butt in the gut from one DI and a boot in the rear end from the other DI. I remember asking my instructor why the DI’s did this. I told him I thought it was cruel. He told me that if that guy couldn’t keep up or couldn’t take it in battle he could get himself or others killed. So the DI’s had to weed them out now. He said one of their biggest fears was sending a guy to war who either wasn’t ready or couldn’t handle it!

I can’t remember when they started the confidence course but the first time they hit that course they were quite funny in a sad sort of way. They would leap for a rope to cross over a mud hole. But some couldn’t hold their grip or missed it completely and landed in the water and mud. The DI’s were right there to yell at them and make them try it again. The lucky ones made it the second time. When they had to climb the vertical wall using the ropes you could see the struggle on their faces. Sometimes one or two guys had trouble here too. I often felt like I wanted to go to the side lines and cheer them on. But, you never talked to a recruit. As the weeks went by the whole platoon would begin to really shape up. They could keep a good formation, stay in step and sang a cadence as they ran or marched. They even made up their own platoon songs. Some were quite good. At the confidence course and during their runs was where the improvement really showed. They began to act as a team. They were no longer just a bunch of guys.

Most of the guys didn’t want to be there because they were drafted. They knew most of them would be going to Vietnam as soon as boot camp was over and they completed AIT. Others would be going on to additional, specialized training first then they too would go to Vietnam. I never knew how many platoons were in basic at San Diego at any given point in time. But suffice it to say, there were a lot. It often reminded me of the way cattle were herded through the shipping yards in some of those old westerns as they were prepared for shipping off to the meat packing plants.

Many of these guys would go to school right there in San Diego after boot camp. There were classes ranging from 6 to 15 weeks. There were a lot of classrooms all in session every weekday. Depending on your MOS you might have only one class or several back to back. I had a really great bunch of guys in all my classes. We all got to know each other well. Since most of the instructors had been to Vietnam on 14 month tours anywhere from 1 to 3 times, Vietnam often was discussed on breaks and occasionally in class.

In one of my classes we had a Silver Star recipient. He really had a hard time learning but they refused to fail him. They just kept holding him back in the week he had trouble in until he learned everything he needed to know. He never said what he got the Silver Star for but even the instructors showed him the utmost respect. The poor guy was Polish and the jokes were merciless! But he was a great guy and took it all in stride.

Anyway, not too many of the guys would admit in class they didn’t want to go to Vietnam, even though they were drafted and the daily casualty counts for deaths and injuries were high. There was a lot of talk at times about the way politics always got in the way of the fighting from the ones who had already fought before. They even talked about the kids carrying grenades and how guys were killed and decapitated and then their heads were put on stakes for our troops to find to affect our troop morale. But there was also a lot of banter about the every day experiences the guys encountered during their tours. They always managed to end a bull session with something that was hysterically funny. Being as young as we all were we looked at them as heroes. In my mind they were all heroes!

We marched to class every morning around 5:30. Often it would still be dark. We could see the lights from the planes as they approached the adjoining airfield. As the planes got closer the lights looked like a tiny stars that just kept getting bigger and bigger until they got close enough for us to see or hear that it was a plane. But those darn jets taking off and landing on that airfield made so much noise all the time that it was hard to hear in class, especially when it rained and they took off and landed at our end of the runway.

When we got back to the barracks we were dismissed and shortly afterwards went to chow. Much of our evening time was spent studying. Then later many would go to the club until we found other things to do. But, there was a lot of drinking, especially in the enlisted club. As a result there were lots of fights. The Civil rights riots had started by then, too. The very first and only time I went to the Enlisted club, Blacks were lined up on one side and whites on the other and there was almost a riot. But that was quickly squashed. You couldn’t go to war and fight as a team and while fighting over race.

Sometimes a bunch of us went to the zoo or out to eat. There was Old Towne which had the best Mexican food you ever ate. It wasn’t like what they have where I live. This was the real thing. We also went to Balboa Park and walked around. There was a very nice zoo. We especially liked Mission Valley and Belmont park. There were all kind of arcades and a roller coaster. As we went about our studies and all the sights there were to see it was almost like we were pretending that there really wasn’t a war. But sooner or later, the topic would come up, especially with the young guys.

Those who had been before would talk about what they had seen. They never seemed to have much emotion in their words unless they had been drinking. Some of the ones who hadn’t been yet would ask questions. A lot didn’t want to talk about it either way. And there was a lot of laughter and teasing about what they were going to do when they got over “there.” How many “gooks” they were going to kill. Some who had been before talked about their near misses, their beer or drug parties, or their buddies who were killed. Sometimes a guy was killed just before he started to get on his plane to go home.

It seemed like we all just got to know each other as friends and then a bunch would be shipped out. Then the next batch would come through. It was a repetitive cycle over and over again, like a big assembly line. They came. They went. But we never saw them again. Nor did we ever hear who made it and who didn’t. They were like leaves in the wind in the early fall, laying all over the place until a big gust of wind blew them away and more fell to take their place. That’s because so many came there, did whatever they were there for and were then gone. But others quickly took their place. It was a daily occurrence. It was like the main gate had revolving doors that constantly revolved. The only good thing was the they guys in my class were there for the duration just like me unless they failed, then they just got shipped out. Just the same it was so very hard to watch them come and go, all the time.

Often over the years I have tried to put names and faces together but except for one guy, I can’t. I have been to the wall twice and looked for names that I recognize; but, again I can’t remember their names or sadly, their faces. But every now and again, I still see outlines of some of their faces. Then as I think about all those young men I feel guilty because I cannot even remember their names and go pay them the respects they deserve. I wonder to myself, if they forgive me for that. If they forgave all of us.

We thought we were helping South Vietnam repel a Communist take over. It wasn’t until long after the war we realized that we were in the middle of a civil war. But the cold war and soviet threat produced much paranoia. We were not alone in that regard. The Vietnamese never threatened our National Security. They never attacked America at home and abroad all over the world. But I think the threat of nuclear power after the bombings and devastation in Japan shocked the whole world into a frenzy. That and the untimely rise of Communism made for a very prolonged cold war and arms race, especially between the United States and Russia.

But this war is different. The enemy has waged a protracted and progressive war against America for over twenty years. They do not believe in negotiations and in fact consider negotiations a weakness. This all culminated in the attacks in the United States on 9/11. Our enemy has made it plan that the only acceptable out come for them is our destruction as a nation and our death if we refuse to convert. They will do whatever they can whenever they can to bring about this end as they wage their global efforts.

Often since the War in Iraq started, those in political office who care only about political ambition, talk about re-instating the draft. I think it would be a terrible crime. Men who do not want to be soldiers don’t have the same feeling about their service as volunteers do for the most part. Many of the guys I knew were there because they were given a choice of jail or the military. That too was wrong. Most were drafted. As a result, too many were killed, too many were involved with drugs, too many fled the country, too many were maimed forever either physically or mentally, or both, and most importantly, too many died needlessly.

I don’t want any of our soldiers to die. But, soldiers who volunteer know what they are volunteering for and are better prepared mentally and physically. It’s only when we draft our troops and we have to resort to this mechanized type training of our troops like during Vietnam that we see a drop in morale as a whole throughout the whole military family. We also see a drop in the professionalism of our troops. With all the political bickering on a daily basis, we would have a much higher injury and casualty rate than we have now.

Many of these same people were part of the anti war movement during Vietnam. They staged protest and rallies all across America. Many were involved in fascists and Marxist philosophies which every day Americans were unaware of. Now they are political figures. They are still off the scale to the left of main stream America. Their goal in life is the end of all we hold dear in America.

We fight a dual war in America. We fight our enemy abroad and we fight our enemy at home. As the Iraqi election draws near, our enemies at home want to force us to leave Iraqis soon as possible. Even though the Republicans forced the Issue in Congress by calling for a vote for immediate withdrawal which was held and defeated, the Shadow Party is conducting a public campaign to have people contact their elected officials and insist on immediate withdrawal. They plan to present their demands on the fourteenth I believe. MoveOn.org is spear heading the push.

We must not leave Iraq until the job is done. We must not start drafting troops and weaken our military’s skills and professionalism. We must insist that the media starts presenting the true facts in this war or that they be held accountable for the consequences of their irresponsibility. The thing of utmost importance is that our troops know they are supported 100%. That our troops don’t have to endure a steady diet of media and fascists negativity. It’s time that our elected officials start acting like they are capable of doing the job they were elected to perform. It’s time they start recognizing that their political futures will be a moot point if we don’t win this war at home and abroad.

The protests of the sixties against the war were justified. Though not all the means of protests were acceptable. None of those issues apply here. We were attacked by an enemy that wants to literally destroy us. If we do not start speaking up in America and take back our country from those fanatics who want to destroy us, it won’t matter if we win in Iraq! Supporting our troops and President as they try to defend our country ought to be the first priority. If a dissenter can’t put forth a better plan instead of talking about a better plan, then they need back off and get with the program. Frankly, I think some of these people and groups go way past first amendment rights and are rapidly approaching treason!
[been kicking this around in edit for quite a while and moving and then deleting old work to keep currrent date. forgot to make current draft when I posted it]

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~ by devildog6771 on December 14, 2005.

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