Have you ever noticed that every time we elect a Texan to the White House the country goes to war? Seriously—Johnson, Bush senior, the W. I’ve often joked that we don’t need to spend trillions on a military; we simply need to stop electing Texans into office. Okay, before anyone twists their panties into a knot, I do know about Obama in Libya and Clinton in Kosovo. Neither of them are from Texas.
On this day of remembering our troops, I’d like to express a few thoughts of my time in the military. I Joined the Navy in ’71, as pink-faced nineteen-year-old who dreamed of sailing the world. I chose because I heard that, unlike the Army or Marines, sailors always slept on clean sheets, ate hot food, and never, never, had to march.
I spent four years stationed in Kingsville, Texas working as an aircraft metal smith in a training squadron—training officers how to fly jets. In those four years, I never set foot on a ship, and I never left the Continental United States. So much for seeing the world.
Although I had many good times in the service, and learned to become somewhat self sufficient, I came to think of myself as a paid killer. That was my job, to keep the jets flying so we could train pilots how best to kill the enemy (who, back then during the Vietnam era, we called gooks.) That tainted my stay in the service. I didn’t think of myself as a patriot, a defender of the land, a protector of our freedom; I thought of myself as a killer, a man society pays to do its killing for them.
Of course I never once pointed a rife at anyone. Lord knows I didn’t have the stomach or the heart for that. Still, I was a small cog in a monstrous killing machine. I couldn’t wait to get the hell out of there. I understand that the United States does need a competent military to keep other countries from threatening her shores. But after a few months, I wanted no part in it.
Forty years later, I still do not think of our troops as heroes or patriots, and I try not to think of them as paid killers. Now days I like to see them as ordinary people who do a tough job for their country, who make tremendous scarifies, and who get paid damned little for it.
I don’t blame the guy and gals with their boots on the ground for the wars and killings. I do blame our representatives in Washington for a lack of diplomatic skill in dealing with the world’s issues. I feel we should be spending trillions on diplomacy, so our troops don’t have to kill and be killed.