ARE WE CREATING A NEW GENERATION OF “TOMMY ATKINS?”
You talk o' better food for us, an' schools, an' fires, an' all:
We'll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
Don't mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
The Widow's Uniform is not the soldier-man's disgrace.
For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Chuck him out, the brute!"
But it's "Saviour of 'is country" when the guns begin to shoot;
An' it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' anything you please;
An' Tommy ain't a bloomin' fool -- you bet that Tommy sees!
- “Tommy” by Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)
On April 8 of this year, I published a brief post about my Marine nephew and his role in continuing our family’s long tradition of military service. In the course of that post I also published a photo of a band of confident, accomplished young Marines who, at the time, were completing the last of their specialized training as scout-snipers. I have included the same photo in this post; I recommend that my visitors study the picture carefully: these are the young men who, on our behalf, wage war against an implacable enemy in dangerous, faraway places. And they do so willingly, but at a terrible personal cost.
The Marine scout-snipers that operate as part of MarSOC are much like the Navy SEALs or the Army Special Forces; they are the “tip of the spear” in the new type of warfare currently being waged all around the world against our nation’s enemies. Unlike other combat units that are assigned a geographical objective, or an area of responsibility, these “special ops” people are only sent to where things are hot. Typically they arrive at their objective — sometimes having travelled halfway around the world to get there — and go right into the fight. It is probably one of the toughest jobs that any combat soldier can ever have. By the very nature of these operations, “uncommon valor” is not only a common virtue, it is an essential requirement for success. The commanders who send these elite troops into action expect them to accomplish near miracles. They are, after all, the very best that we have. But these types of missions also mean that losses are inevitable and, if things go wrong, can be very high.
I recently received word that my nephew’s operational team suffered heavy casualties during fighting, somewhere in Afghanistan. Two team members were killed, and two were wounded. Among the wounded was my nephew. One of the Marines, the team leader, received a severe neck injury that will probably result in permanent paralysis. Thankfully, my nephew’s wound was to his calf and, considering the circumstances, was relatively minor. He is presently undergoing treatment and should soon recover. Then he will go right back into the fight; it is what is expected by his brothers in the Corps and, more importantly, it is what he wants. In the Corps, unlike the civilian world, the words “Duty, Honor, Country” still mean something.
For three of my nephew’s closest friends this war against a murderous, pitiless enemy is over. Two have given all they have, and all that they ever might have had, to protect the rest of us from the barbarians clamoring at the gates. The third has given up any hope for a normal, independent life. For too many in this Country, however, their sacrifices are and will remain unacknowledged gifts. We, as a nation, it seems, would rather celebrate the outrageous and inconsequential than the honorable and courageous. Yet these Marines and others like them have each willingly made their sacrifices despite the very worst that our society can offer. They have made them despite the actions of nincompoops such as Senator John Kerry or comedian Bill Maher, both of whom glibly insult our men and women in uniform by calling them dummies and losers. They have done it in spite of self-important fools like TV personality, Jon Stewart, who — although he has never heard a shot fired in anger — believes himself an expert on both the morality and strategic conduct of our existential war against Islamic terrorists. Stewart pompously, and without hesitation, even branded President Truman a war criminal, because Truman ordered that the atomic bombs be dropped on Japan: an act that finally ended the War in the Pacific, and which indisputably saved millions of both Japanese and American lives. These Marines’ sacrifices have also been made even in the face of the actions of venal political dimwits like Dick Durbin and Barbara Boxer. And it is California Senator Boxer who, having had enough money to buy her Senate seat — but uneducated in military protocol, etiquette, or tradition — recently felt entitled to upbraid an Army General, with decades of national service, for extending her exactly the same courtesy that American uniformed tradition demands that he show to any superior, man or woman. It is a tragedy when those who defend us are mainly slighted, patronized, or ignored. I only hope, despite our current political venality and lack of seriousness, that we, as a nation, are still deserving of their service.
Needless-to-say, my family’s prayers and sympathy go out to the families of my nephew’s three young teammates, and to all of the other servicemen and women who daily go into harm’s way on our behalf. The next time you see a man or woman in uniform, remember all the others who have sacrificed so much so that the rest of us can go about our daily lives, untroubled by the barbarians who would kill us all. Who knows? A sincere “Thank You” and a handshake might even be in order.