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'Tell Johnnie I'm okay'

Posted: January 5, 2012 11:11 a.m.
Updated: January 6, 2012 5:00 a.m.

Having the opportunity each month to write on an array of topics continues to deliver to me absolute satisfaction. Chosen subject matter usually encompasses certain resolute thoughts that have incited my interest or stirred my conscience in some manner. This month has proven to be no different except for, perhaps, the degree in which my awareness and inference of a fastidious topic has been kindled; the painstaking topic of war. Last week, we took in the Stephen Spielberg movie, “War Horse.” The story has a universal message; one that portrays to its viewers the horror of war in which men and animals suffer and die, but for the animals there is no reason. Spielberg shows audiences just enough to understand that what they are watching -- machine guns, mustard gas, bodies strewn across the horizon -- was without comparison. In an early scene, a German officer with brutal realism refers to the horses as weapons, and they would be used or destroyed. The horses, as depicted here in World War I, were literally used to death. And if it wasn’t entirely endurable to watch the terrified faces of young soldiers in the cold, murky, barrenness of the trenches, horses were thrown in to the maddening chaos. I must admit that at one atrocious scene surrounding the trenches, my tolerance could stand no more, and I walked out. I did return, though, to conclude that in the midst of this inconceivable carnage, it was a horse that had reminded the soldiers of their humanity. More, I came to the conclusion and opinion that, with all the superb artistry Hollywood can produce, she could never, without a doubt, justly expose the extreme malice of war.

Even several days later, I was still thinking about two recognizable sentiments aroused by “War Horse” -- my fondness of animals, and the realization of how inconceivably malevolent war can be, past and present. Emotions that are on quite disparate ends of the spectrum. All of this has brought to the surface beliefs I’ve held close on war and our armed services. I spend time with family members discussing the intrigue and politics of war, though only penetrating the subject just so far. We speak about relatives, friends; those we deem heroes. I believe the brutality of war is devastating. I believe the U.S. Military is second to none. I believe I’ll never know what it is to put my life on the line for the precept of freedom. I believe I will always live in a country where my speech is free. I believe all Americans should know every last word to our national anthem and should fly our flag proudly always. I believe the sacrifices our servicemen and veterans have made and will continue to make are immeasurable. I believe the American soldier puts my safety before his own. I believe we are the home of the free, because of the brave. I believe a family’s pain over their fallen soldier must be unbearable. I believe the civilian could never fully understand the cost of being a soldier. I believe we should honor our servicemen to the fullest extent. 

Recently, I asked a cousin, a two-star major general in the Marines, what can we do to give back to our military? He asked me to go and raise my family right and with patriotism. He asked me to live my life and live it well. He asked me to go after the American dream, because that is what our military fights for every day. I believe the American soldier gives us not only a physical protection, but shields us from the atrocities of war and shoulders its burden. He is a natural protector and I must believe our service men and women internalize much of the trauma of war to further safeguard the very ones they protect. The following serves as a testament to this. In a letter dated March 6, 1945, sent by my father-in-law, a Marine, to his brother’s wife, from the island of Iwo Jima, he describes his life in war: “I was never so happy to receive your letters as I was just 3 days after we landed on the island. You know your husband is one swell fellow but he worries too much about me. He must think I’m still a kid instead of a man of 19. I’m writing you from my foxhole.  I will be glad when we get this island secured. We have been eating cold, canned food for 2 weeks now, and I am so sick and tired of it, sometimes I don’t eat. I’ve had several friends of mine who came over with me killed and bombs are going off around you and over you and that noise is really getting me down. If you could have seen the elaborate defense the Japanese had on this island you would wonder in amaze how the Marines ever landed here. I’ll try and write soon. P.S. Tell Johnnie not to worry about me. I’m okay.”

He is a protector; a peacekeeper; a point man; a reservist; a tanker; a rifleman; a flanker; a guardsman; a trooper; a warrior. “Wars may be fought with weapons, but they are won by men.”

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