10 February 2010

Respect the Marine, if Not His Politics

David Bellavia, OIF veteran and author of House to House: An Epic Memoir of War, posted as his Facebook status today this thought regarding the Feb. 8, 2010 death of U.S. Sen. John Murtha, D-Penn.:
"David Bellavia was disgusted by John Murtha in life, but in death, I am respectful of the father and husband he was ... politics should stop at the coroner's toe tag. Prayers and support for his family at this time."
Inspired by his punchy, pithy, provoking, and prayerful prose, I added my proverbial two cents' worth:
"Well said! May I also point out that the man was a Marine (that fact alone absolves a multitude of sins, IMHO), a vet, a Bronze-Star-with-V and twice-decorated Purple Heart recipient? I don't have to have agreed with his politics to have respected his service. Wilco on prayers."
Many are quick to say "good-riddance" to any politician, particularly one who was as staunchly pro-NRA, pro-life, and, yes, even pro-soldier, as Murtha.
Murtha was a former Marine drill instructor and officer. He was the first Vietnam War veteran elected to Congress. I wish there were more like him--veterans who answer the call to service beyond their years in uniform, and who try to do what they think is right, limited only by their own human frailties. (Remember the Alamo, but also remember Abscam!)

In today's hyperbolic media environment, we too often demonize and disparage our fellow citizens, just because they do not agree with us. We would do better to realize that our difference temper and hone the country we share. We'd do better to remember that we're all in this democracy thing together.

I could probably end there, but I'm not quite done waving the flag yet. I'm reminded of the time one of my soldiers pissed "hot" for cocaine during a random drug urinalysis. This was a more-than-likely career-stopper, regardless of whether I spoke up on his behalf. He'd likely be discharged from the National Guard. He'd also lose his military-related full-time employment. Uncle Sam and the American taxpayer would lose thousands of dollars invested in his years of training. You want to believe that he's honest, and that he can change his past behavior and make better decisions in the future. You also know that cocaine is serious business--hard to claim, for example, that you accidentally ate a Particularly Good Brownie at last week's high school reunion.

That's when I noticed that he was wearing the same flag I was.

That's when I came to the following, mixed-up, crazy "Starship Troopers"-sounding philosophy: I'll take the worst young soldier over the best civilian juvenile delinquent any day of the week.

You can be the biggest rag-bag, sad sack, ate-up-like-a-soup-sandwich soldier, and I'd still have to give you some credit. Credit for at one time walking in off the street, signing your name, and raising your hand, and becoming part of something bigger than yourself. Maybe you joined for the G.I. Bill, maybe you joined for God and country, maybe you joined because the judge suggested it, and maybe you joined for all the wrong reasons. You know what, though? You joined. And that's heckuva lot more than a lot of other people do.

That's not a "get out of jail free" card, but it is a token for a second chance ... or honest reassessment.

Shakespeare's "Henry V" was the one book I packed in my first six-week Army training camp. I regularly returned to this St. Crispin's Day speech. Most people remember the "... we happy few, we band of brothers ..." line, but it goes on:
"... [H]e to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition [...]"
I hereby consider Murtha's condition gentled. 'Nuff said.


  1. Nice post, Sherpa. I thought your Army specialty was communications; do you build bridges, too?

  2. I too respect his service in the Marines, his awards and most of his service to his country. We all do great things in our youth. But IMHO he turned his back on the military and his country. I respect your opinion, but I have no regret he is gone.

  3. Prayers for his family, for sure. As for himself, I'll let God sort that out.

  4. I'm also not one to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    I'm terribly tired of hyperbole, the sharp divisions made because someone wants something so badly that's what they'll do to get it. I have nothing to gain from their doing this, than having the truth harder to get to.

    Anyway, good choice of reading material.

  5. @Kanani: Thanks for the good words! I sent you this already via another means, but I thought I'd post a link to a recent Des Moines Register article: Many Iowans apparently describe themselves as "moderate" and "progressive," regardless of political party.

    I also remember my high school social studies teacher saying that many districts in Eastern Iowa and Southern Wisconsin coded--this is back in the 1980s--as neither "conservative" nor "liberal," but "libertarian." That last label probably describes me pretty well. I'm pretty tolerant of others, as long as I can legally own firearms.Even though I only adopted Iowa as my home state--Papa Sherpa was active-duty, and we moved around a lot--I guess I've "gone native."

    Anyway, enough blather. Here's that link:



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