Reflections on military service
Published: Monday, February 23rd, 2004
There has been a lot of discussion lately about our President and his military or lack of military experiences during the Viet Nam War. In fact, it has risen to levels of scandal. And let me be the first to say, I am very happy about it. The last Presidential scandal we had, I never felt qualified to comment on since I never had any experience with the situation in question. I mean even when I was in my 20s, women in their 20s didn’t find me overly attractive and these days...well, let me just say, my wife is not feeling overly threatened by chubby congressional interns. But this military thing, having stumbled through a year and some months of the army, I feel I can put forth an opinion. If I read the criticism of our President correctly, he is being accused of getting preferential treatment so he could get into the National Guard and once in the Guard not always showing up where and when he was supposed to. On the first point, I want to make it perfectly clear, I too entered my chosen military branch because of preferential treatment. My draft board contacted me and said that they would prefer that I spend my next two years under their protective wing rather than having me wander around unchaperoned inside the continental United States where I might get into trouble or even injured. To make sure I would not get into trouble in the States, they even sent me to Southeast Asia away from the drying winds in the summer (so damaging to skin and hair) and often blizzardous situations (frostbite and bad driving conditions) so prevalent in the Southwestern United States. Obviously, whoever was looking out for our future President did not think clearly about these dangers. One of the places he was stationed was in Texas. I mean, have you ever seen Texas drivers? And do you know how many tornadoes and hurricanes hit Texas and Alabama? In all the time I was in Southeast Asia, I never heard of a single tornado or hurricane (OK, OK typhoons and monsoons, but no tornadoes or hurricanes). On the second point, I have mixed feelings. I must admit, at times, I have not shown up for things like parties and get-togethers because I got lost. I have been so lost I couldn’t find streets, houses and a couple of times even towns (I get lost easily) for days, but even I would have trouble missing a state the size of Alabama for a year. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, for a week or two maybe (I did it once with Delaware), but a year? On the other side of the coin, however, having been a draftee, I think I speak for most of us when I say, there were a number (if not the vast majority) of officers with whom we served, we would have preferred to not have shown up for their military service. We would have gladly hand carried their pay to them to keep them from their assignments. Young Lt. Bush may have realized that this was indeed the feeling of the enlisted men in his National Guard units in Alabama and Texas and he thoughtfully didn’t want to subject them to serving under a potentially unpopular or even dangerous officer. There are more than a few officers I served under that I would have been overjoyed if they would have followed Bush’s lead. Unfortunately they never did. But really, as I reflect on the subject, I realize I probably should not be too critical of the current President. In all the time he was in the National Guard, no enemy attacked either Georgia or Texas where he was stationed. I cannot say the same for me and where I was stationed.
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