Wednesday, September 08, 2004

A Veteran's Response to 60 Minutes

I'm going to tell you a few things in the next few lines that I really don't want to broach. But it's relevant, so I'll go with it.

I spent over six years in the military. Before that, I was educated in a military environment for three years - the "West Point of the West" - and my Vietnam lottery number was 71.

What I watched on 60 Minutes tonight defies credulity. For the most part, it was nothing new. I knew quite a few folks in my demographic who took a similar route to Dubya out of actually serving "in theatre". But I also knew a few upper classmen whose names are now etched in Vermont granite in Washington, DC.

Basically, W's story is the same as many young men of privilege back in that time of history. Guard service, deferments, or outright failure to comply with reporting notices. I'm personally familiar with the story of at least one of my peers who flat out refused to report, had his daddy pull a few strings, and ended up totally absolved of any service obligation.

So the story of George W. Bush, as amended tonight on CBS's 60 Minutes by Ben Barnes, is no great surprise to me. I didn't have that luxury. I enlisted in the U.S. Navy, tested high enough to get the duty I really wanted, and served for over 6 years at a time when being in the military wasn't exactly the way to impress people or land girls (at least, none you didn't have to pay for).

I can't for a minute imagine, during my time, disobeying a written, direct order from my commanding officer. Shit, I can't imagine disobeying a direct verbal order from a guy with one stripe more than me. Yet somehow, Lt. George W. Bush managed to just that and then skate away from his obligation and his duty and direct written orders without so much as a slap on the wrist.

How do you do that?

Connections, gentle readers. Connections. While the actual chances of my lottery number being called were pretty low, even in 1973, I wasn't willing to roll the dice. But W was. It's quite clear that W's absence from duty (AWOL, if you will) was more than enough to invoke the "active duty" clause of his contract, which meant immediate relocation to a war zone half a planet away.

Listening to W's explanation and story, you'd believe that the Air National Guard, regardless of the state which a unit was located, was just a party squadron with shoddy record keeping and a "whatever" attitude. I beg to differ.

I have a friend who was in the Army National Guard at the same time Bush did TANG. If you were scheduled for training or testing or a physical, you damn well better have showed up - or you were active. There were no excuses. No negotiation. You were there, or you were absent without leave - AWOL. And you were on the next C130 to Saigon.

The specifics of John Kerry's honorable service aside, he volunteered for two tours of duty in Vietnam, when he certainly could have pulled out the 'privilege card'. Not only did George W. Bush pull out the 'privilege card', he threw the sucker on the ground, stomped on it, and rode a what some people say is a drunken binge all the way to Alabama.

Yeah, this vet is pissed tonight. I'm pissed when I see the smirky, "ringtapper look" that Lt. Dubya oozes in his TANG picture, his two bars gleaming on his cocked hat. I've run across too many assholes like that in my life. I'm pissed knowing that this shirker, this fortunate son, has sent over 1000 young (and old) men and women to their deaths in the sand castle he wants to build 3000 miles away from home. I'm incensed by the memory of all the Moses Daniel Rocha's and Dave Guindon's who have died for the pretender who occupies 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and his visions of the latter day Crusade.

And as a veteran of the Vietnam era, I'm absolutely livid that this lying AWOL weasel, who would call himself Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the United States of America, has the unmitigated gall and audacity to allow his henchmen to call into question, for one millisecond, the honorable service of a five time decorated war hero.

Not only is it time for a change in leadership, it's time for an accounting.

Accounting for the past.

And accounting for today.