If You Are Reading This in English, Thank a Vet
Vol: 28 Issue: 11 Friday, November 11, 2016
Tiny Melton was a truck driver from Missouri. Tiny got his nickname in boot camp after his drill instructor took one look at his 6’4″ 220lb frame and said, ”From now on, son, your name is Tiny.”
The name stuck. Tiny looked like a body-builder, but it was just the way he looked, he didn’t work at it. And as big as he was, he was as gentle as a lamb.
Tiny always put me in mind of Clint Walker’s character, “Posey” in the 60’s war movie, “The Dirty Dozen.”
Lynwood Richardson was from Alabama. Lynn was black, his skin a deep, rich ebony color. He was rechristened by his drill instructor as ‘Snowball’.
Richardson was a great runner, but a lousy athlete. It was a dirty little secret then, but I suppose it’s safe to admit it now.
In those days, it was fairly common for the drill instructor to cheat a little in order to squeeze somebody by some parts of the physical fitness test.
The tester was a drill instructor from another platoon. Snowball couldn’t do the requisite number of pull ups — my DI had me wear his sweatshirt and do them for him. (Snowball did the 3 mile run wearing my sweatshirt while I wore Pvt. Brunson’s and did his situps.)
Sherman Latchaw was a little bitty guy from Pennsylvania — he didn’t weigh 95 pounds dripping wet. He wore great big, oversized glasses that made him look like the little kid ‘Sherman’ from the Mr. Peabody cartoons.
But, since his name was ALREADY Sherman, we called him ‘Poindexter.’ Poindexter looked like a stiff wind would knock him over. But he whipped every guy he was matched up with in hand-to-hand combat training. Poindexter, the little guy with the big glasses, graduated at the top of his boot camp class.
Terry Severance was from Pennsylvania, as well. For some reason, he and I didn’t hit it off that well at first. One of the duties shared by each recruit in boot camp was ‘firewatch’ duty. Each recruit in turn pulled a one-hour patrol of the barracks at night, before waking up the next man.
Terry fell asleep and when he woke me, it was halfway through my turn. Somehow, we ended up having a fight in the shower room — me barefoot in my skivvies, he in full dungaree uniform and combat boots.
I don’t remember who won, but I remember we were friends from them on.
My drill instructor was a guy named S/Sgt. J. R. James. When he found out I was Canadian, he nicknamed me ‘Wacky Jack’ — whenever another DI stopped by, Sgt. James would invite him to inspect ‘his pet Canadian’ whereupon I would race to the center of the squadbay to be ‘inspected.’
They’d look me over and say things like, “No wonder the Canadians sent him down here.” and, “they don’t grow ’em too sturdy up there, do they?” and other kind words of encouragement. (I kept part of the nickname — I dropped the ‘Wacky’ part and only had to put up with it when I ran into somebody from my old platoon)
Mike Tuscan was a decent guy, quiet, steady, and somebody you knew you could count on when the chips were down. He was a fairly nondescript looking guy, you’d pass him on the street without a second glance.
The last time I saw him, he had made it to S/Sgt in less than three years — quite an accomplishment for a Marine so bland that HIS nickname was ‘Mike’.
The Lord Jesus said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)
I spent the Veteran’s Day weekend watching old war movies with my buddies. It sounds boring to some, but there is a real education there, if one takes the time to study the lessons offered.
The WWII movies I like the best were the ones Hollywood was churning out in the early years of the war when its outcome was still in doubt. Hollywood didn’t understand the enemy, and it didn’t try to.
Instead, they stuck to what they DID understand; we were good, the enemy was bad, they started it, and it was up to us to finish it. Our soldiers were heroic, brutal yet honorable, a force for good in an epic struggle with evil incarnate.
The war turned out the way Hollywood scripted it. We utterly destroyed our enemies and marched home in triumph.
We watched a couple of movies set during the Korean War, and one could see a subtle shift. Our forces were still brave, but so were the enemy’s. The main characters were not quite so fierce, not quite so honorable; the enemy was not quite so evil, our cause not quite so just.
The Korea War ended in stalemate. Nobody won, nobody lost, and the Korean War has yet to formally draw to a conclusion.
Then Hollywood moved on to Vietnam. We watched “Platoon” and “Full Metal Jacket” and “Hamburger Hill”. In those films, it was hard to figure out exactly who the enemy really was or which side to root for.
Vietnam ended in a loss. Or as observed by a character in the Clint Eastwood film, “Heartbreak Ridge” the score was 1, 0 and 0 for our side.
In post-Vietnam war movies, no matter which conflict they chronicled, there were no ‘good’ guys’ — just some guys were worse than others.
In the most recent war movies, our forces are depicted as dangerous psychopathic Nazi wannabes — unless they are gay, disloyal or cowards, like the hero in the slanderous 2004 movie, “Jarhead.”
It was like watching our society implode in fast forward.
But the men who fought those wars didn’t change. There is no difference between a Japanese bullet and a Taliban bullet — when it is fired at you.
Marines from all these wars didn’t fight for governments or to advance some kind of unpopular foreign policy. They fought for their buddies, for their flag, for their families — and for the ungrateful morons who can’t tell the difference.
I spent the rest of the day remembering.
I remembered Tiny Melton, Lynn Richardson, Terry Severence, Sherman Latchaw and all the rest. To the many veterans among our membership, I apologize on behalf of the ignorant among us. And to all the millions before and since, I add my heartfelt thanks.
There is a bumper sticker out there that sums it all up nicely;
“If You Are Reading This in English, Thank a Vet.”
Featured Commentary: The Global Glorification of Islam ~Alf Cengia