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May 11, 2006
Warrior to WarriorBy Greyhawk
Hopefully I didn't wait too long to repost this entry from last year...
Vietnam veteran and author John Harriman returns to Mudville with the eighth installment of his series Warrior to Warrior, letters from a Vietnam veteran to our soldiers in Iraq. See the intro to the series here).
Don't Blunder into Mother's Day
Dear Warrior . . .
Here's my Mother's Day message to all our uniformed men in Iraq. A warning, actually.
First the situation: Your wife, the mother of your children, asks you via letter, e-mail or phone, "What are you going to get me for Mother's Day?"
Next the advice: Do not blunder with your reply, as in, "What are you talking about? You're not my mother."
I know a guy who said that. I'm not allowed to be his friend anymore.
If you ever do feel an urge to say, "You're not my mother," tell it to the first sergeant. Never speak the phrase to the mother of your children. Got it?
Good, good. Now a personal war story. On my second Vietnam tour, I set out for Montana and arrived home in the dead of winter.
Sometime after midnight the temperature dropped to 40 below, a 125-degree swing from the 85 of Vietnam. This was January 14, 1972. You could look it up.
The reason I know the date so well is because it's the birth date of our third child.
The hometown doc knew I was back from Vietnam on leave, so he discharged my wife after a day in the hospital. This I remember with great joy.
All else is a blur of memory. We had children. Three, I think. Yes, three, as I recall, all under the age of four, by their birth records.
The two older children seemed nice enough. Happy, I think, even boisterous. And busy, very busy. Clingy, too. I remember the three-year-old and the one-year-old were very attached to their parents. In the sense that an octopus gets attached to a dead mackeral.
The youngest, the newborn, the infant was on a timer. You could set your watch by her diaper changes and feedings and crankiness--if you could open your eyes long enough to see the face of your watch. I think her cycle was about 20 minutes, yes, a feeding every 20 minutes.
Toward the end of my leave, I remember waking from a nightmare at 3 a.m. or so, the infant in my lap, an empty bottle still in her mouth. Both of us were soaked, and it wasn't spilt milk.
I propped this glorious child on my shoulder and coaxed a burp from her. It was a wet and wild sound I did not hear again until my son was 14, the age where he and his soccer team would each eat four burgers and drink two super-sized colas and fill the air with the sounds of bull elephants trumpeting their dominance over each other.
I changed my infant daughter's diaper and hugged her to me, worried. Worried that my wife, just days from now, would have sole care of these three children who had worn down both of us in only a week of leave.
I got to go back to Vietnam, where I could regain consciousness and get a night's sleep. She had to remain in Montana, locked in winter, locked inside that apartment.
I don't know how she did it. She herself certainly doesn't remember how--another of those blurs of memory. But, years later, the one time I said the words, "You're not my mother," something snapped in her. She made me very afraid.
And I felt ashamed that I said those words. Ashamed that I gave so little thought to her role.
Think about it. When you're away, you're not the only one in your family serving our country. Your wife, the mother of your children, is serving it as well by clearing the decks so you can serve better. She gets so little thanks for that role. She deserves better.
The least you can do is remember her on Mother's Day. And the worst? Well, now you know.
Till next week . . .
God bless you and Godspeed.
John is a veteran of two combat tours in Vietnam and a member of the American Legion. These columns are excerpts from an upcoming book. His current book, Delta Force #1 : Operation Michael's Sword is a fictional account of the 9/11 attacks and the early days of Operation Enduring Freedom.
(Original post 2005-05-04 20:10:19)
Posted by Greyhawk / May 11, 2006 8:14 PM | Permalink
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
The Mudville Gazette is the on-line voice of an American warrior and his wife who stands by him. They prefer to see peaceful change render force of arms unnecessary. Until that day they stand fast with those who struggle for freedom, strike for reason, and pray for a better tomorrow.
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Original content copyright © 2003 - 2011 by Greyhawk. Fair, not-for-profit use of said material by others is encouraged, as long as acknowledgement and credit is given, to include the url of the original source post. Other arrangements can be made as needed.
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