11-11: Veterans Day

[I consult and consider many sources in search of appropriate subject matter for this blog. I have chosen for Veterans Day to cite myself–to share an excerpt from my book, After the Storm.]

Putting Lipstick on a Pig

I do not believe the artificial rhetoric I have heard since the election about how the President-Elect will govern so much differently than he campaigned. I do not sincerely believe he can be magnanimous or gracious. And does he still believe that the election system is rigged? I believe we are in for a bumpy, humiliating, disastrous ride.

Yes, I am cynical. What came to my mind in thinking about an appropriate Veterans Day blog was our nation’s naiveté. I get that many, many voters simply dislike Hillary Clinton; I don’t understand it so much, but I get it. What I don’t get is the acceptance of Donald Trump as the alternative. I am honestly afraid of what his presidency will bring, the damage it will inflict on our culture, and the humiliation—at the least—we will suffer around the globe.

“Before” the Storm

As a way of introducing and summarizing Chapter 14 of After the Storm, “Pulling the Pin,” I cite a line from William Butler Yeats’ poem, “The Second Coming”:

The ceremony of innocence is drowned.

That’s how I feel about America today. In my view the electorate has “pulled the pin” and thus triggered a tumultuous, vindictive, dangerous bomb called Trump. It is impossible for me to imagine that our next commander-in-chief can in any way relate to the 20-year-old infantryman described hereunder.

“Pulling the Pin”

Not long after our first encounter with death …the platoon went out on patrol in a free fire zone … we found the terrain relatively easy to navigate …

We saw a small clearing ahead … Plunging straight ahead could be suicide for (my) squad … The plan came down that the squads on either flank would skirt the edges of the wood line, thereby establishing some lateral security, and (my) squad would advance cautiously across the open stretch: run a few steps one fire team at a time, hit the dirt, run a few steps, hit the dirt until we reached the other side.

As we dropped to the ground maybe twenty yards or so into the clearing, I saw a flash of movement behind a pile of dirt at the far left corner, that is, at the beginning of the woods we were headed toward. The mound itself looked suspicious because it appeared from the color of the dirt to be freshly dug. A bunker, perhaps; a foxhole; a grave?

Without much thought, I signaled to the rest of the squad and both flanks to stay down. Then I detached a hand grenade from my harness and low crawled directly toward the target. When I got close enough to feel comfortable that I could lob the grenade just over the berm thereby causing maximum destruction to whomever or whatever lay behind it, I pulled the pin, tossed the grenade, and still on my belly tried to squeeze my entire body inside my steel pot for protection, in case the shrapnel blew through or over the mound. Bulls eye…. I now had to inspect the result of my first deliberate belligerent act.

I’m not sure what I expected….

Over the years, I have remembered and thought sometimes very deeply about this incident…. I know that part of me died that day. For I knew from that instant what I am capable of. Without emotion, without hesitation, with no sense of guilt at the moment, I could kill. I could kill someone I never met and didn’t hate. My innocence lay shattered that day….

A paradox of war is that, within the context of this basest of human activities, individuals often discover in themselves and others the highest of human qualities: patriotism, honor, loyalty, courage, comradeship, dignity, love of life. The moment I pulled that pin, however, I discovered the nadir of my humanness….

In my very humble opinion, I do not believe we have yet witnessed the worst of Trump.


The illustration at the blog’s top is the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. The blogger is a Vietnam Veteran, 1966-67. He is an author and past state chaplain for a major veterans organization. He welcomes comments on posts and encourages readers to subscribe to PTSDOutreach.com; two points: 1) it is free, 2) posts appear directly in your e-mail in-box.e is an author and past Chaplain



One thought on “11-11: Veterans Day”

  1. As always, I read and respect your sharing of your profound experience and food for thought. Thank you for your sacrifice and being the good man you are. GOD BLESS

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