What is War?

Okay, I reread a comment on my Vietnam Wall post and feel a need to explain.

Getting drafted and going to Vietnam was certainly a possibility at that time, and though some men wanted to avoid it, I never really thought about it, since I had been working to get into a service academy for two years, thanks to my dad. Now, looking at The Wall, touching it, reading the names, and having seen movies and read countless books and articles about the horrors of Vietnam, and having treated so many PTSD and post concussive victims of that war and Iraq and Vietnam, I am thankful I was able to serve them in my best way, as a physician. Don’t get me wrong about Annapolis. If the war would have continued, I would have likely never gone to medical school, possibly ended up as a name on that wall, and done it with trepidation, but without looking back.

My thankfulness at not going to Vietnam, and able to raise a family and become a doctor is always tempered, though, with a yearning to have been there and experienced some of the heaven of war. But then there would have been the horror.

As a physician who spent my career treating either active duty or veterans, war is indeed hell, tempered with heaven. It is hell on earth with hell afterwards for many. It is heaven because many young men and women find a place where  respect, harmony, cooperation, and friendship all coalesce into a unit with a purpose you can sink your teeth into–a mission against an enemy that not only threatens values and a way of life you value and want to continue for your family, but uses primitive and horrific means to gain any advantage. The problem with that heaven is that it is temporary, and can be tainted with an abrupt descent to hell, and you have no control when that will happen. It doesn’t matter if you did everything the Bible espouses to be a good person. It doesn’t matter if you say your prayers regularly. It doesn’t matter if you saved ten fellow soldiers from annihilation by killing twenty of the enemy. It doesn’t matter if you saved thirty wounded soldiers with a surgery only you could have performed in a battle hospital. You must always live with what happened, as Colonel Walter E. Kurtz said in Apocalypse Now, “The horror. The horror.”

It bears watching again. And again. And again. If only to someday convince someone who has the power to end a war, or prevent it from starting.

 

Vietnam, Lamar Donuts and Motorcycles

Memorial Day 2017. 

The wall is back this year. I plan on going tomorrow and reading some names this time. No donuts. Don’t want to fill up before the barbecue. I’ll have a few things to say to my kids tomorrow about veterans.  We’ll see how it goes. Tune in tomorrow night for an update.

Yep, I went. No donuts, and I read a few of the names, actually touched the wall, getting a feeling in my hand and seeing the reflection of me on the other side. It was a time when I was enjoying the Beach Boys, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Grand Funk Railroad, and making sure I went to college so I wouldn’t get drafted. I probably made a poor choice of colleges, if I wanted to avoid Vietnam. Lucky for me I graduated from the Naval Academy after Nam was over.

I took pictures I haven’t posted yet of the wall, of the times when someone I knew might have gone. Haven’t been able to look at those pictures yet. . . . Someday.

 

The below is from a few years ago.

IMG_0856[1]

I think it had to do with fear. Not run-into-the-bathroom, kiss-your-ass-goodbye fear. More like fear I might see someone’s name I knew. It could happen. So I had to have a Lamar’s donut to kinda ease the worry. Maybe I ate more than one. The French crullers were excellent. Apple fritters: to die for. Probably will. But not today. I got there and actually read a few names.

(You Harley fans, yes there is something about motorcycles. Keep reading.)

I played ball and ran track with guys who graduated from Arapahoe High in ’70, ’71, and there was the off chance someone I actually graduated with in ’72 could be on that wall. What would I do if I saw a name I knew?

No answer to that one because I didn’t read more than three or four names. I’ll say it was because they were all glommed together and it was difficult. I’ll say it was because . . . Yeah. As they taught us at Annapolis, “No excuse, sir!”

I did get a picture or two of the wall.

Vietnam traveling wall in Fort Collins

Vietnam traveling wall in Fort Collins

Each column of names is a certain height to fit the upslope or downslope of the design. Each column is a length of time, usually several months to fill up the column with names of the killed. However, the middle has the tallest column of names. There were a lot of names. How many? 58,261 as of today. Next year they may come up with a few more from remains.

middle of the Vietnam Wall

middle of the Vietnam Wall

Yet, the thing that impressed me most was the right side of the hump, the year 1967.
The number of names was many more than the left side, 1968-1975, and it only took 2 weeks of time, not months as on the left side, to fill each column, with fewer spaces between names and each line held more. Lots and lots of names. Too many. Way too many.

I had to leave, have another Lamar donut. The chocolate glazed cake was scrumptious.

I’ll be as big as a house if I keep thinking about this. We got way too many donuts.

The real problem where I sit, as a doctor who sees the veterans that come back, not the ones who were killed, is that there are way more mentally killed by that war than are on that wall. And the last ten years is going to be worse. A lot worse. PTSD and TBI are already becoming our daily bread at the Veterans Hospital and clinics.

I wrote a poem about it below. It is a fictitious veteran, but based on fact. Too many facts. Way too many.

The Vet
By Milt Mays

He lives by himself, even in crowds, sometimes can’t go out at all.
Sound of a car, electric razor, makes his mind flinch,
His thoughts stall.

He’s made great progress everyone says, but he knows it’s still there, alive.
The monster in his closet plays, and can open the door
Anytime.

Was there a time before war when happiness lived,
When he looked at his hands and felt pride?
Maybe an inkling is there of a man whose hands and his heart could
Mold wood.

Hands of a cabinetmaker, heart of an artist, with proof on the kitchen wall,
And the music box that plays for her.
But the war in his mind scared her away
With his hands.

Must wear gloves even in summer, nineteen pair, nineteen, nineteen…
NINETEEN!
Cover the blood, don’t look, even washing.
Anyhow,
The stain can’t be cleaned.

He rides Harleys not cars, wide open, not closed.
The speed and the danger, the next curve, the down shift,
Occupy time.

Like gloves on the mind, meds cover the madness,
For years made him “functional,”
Stupid, and dull.

So, today he stops them to feel life again,
The Harley, the wind and the road,
Then nothing,
At last.
I need another donut. Maybe the Bavarian cream-filled Lamar chocolate special. No maybes about it. It was delicious, but way too big and way too rich. Now I’m full and feel guilty and sad. Perhaps that’s appropriate for Memorial Day.

This Memorial Day enjoy a barbecue, a beer, and feel a little guilty and sad. Guilty because we let ourselves get into wars day after day, year after year. Sad for the 1% of Americans that will eat MRE’s today and risk death and more to protect us 99%.

Maybe I’ll go back and read the names. No donuts this time. Just my thoughts, the wind, and The Wall.

Milt

Two things (and one more) to do for Veterans today

One will add to the other, and you will be glad you did both. If you need motivation, take a peak at this video of a father and son reunited.

1) Give one veteran something from YOUR HEART to THEIR HEART! My suggestion is music, a song, a collection, a simple CD of music that has touched you in a way that makes you happy, makes you want to dance.
If you are a musical artist, give them a concert!
It’s your time to give back to the 1% that protect the 99%. If Toby Keith can do it, you can.

2) Do something that will stop wars. If we stop wars, there can be no more veterans suffering from ruined lives or families due to their experience in war. My suggestion is reach out and understand someone from a different culture, particularly Muslim, as we seem to need to understand them. One of the greatest generals and former President Dwight Eisenhower noted that the biggest way we can end wars is to embrace others as people, not alien beings who just don’t speak English.

Here’s a couple of Muslims you might enjoy.

Please try these two simple things. The results will be huge. Music brings us together, and I believe heals as well as any prescription I can write as a doctor.

Don’t let music, our music with each other, our love for one another, die.

Milt

PS. Another thing you might give a veteran–a good book. Give them a Kindle and they can carry the Library of Congress with them, a Kindle Fire and they can listen to all that music and watch all those color videos, too.

What is Freedom Worth? You might not like the answer.

This Memorial Day 2017.

On a Chris Hayes Memorial Day video, a mother who was just told her only son was lost in the war asked the Marine casualty assistant officer, “Was it worth it?” He replied, “I can’t answer that for you.”

Why didn’t he just say yes? Because he knows that mother would filet him and serve him up as grilled dumbshit to every mom with a kid in the service. If he said no, his boss would fire him on the spot; have a nice retirement, and oh, by the way, you remember that UCMJ article that says you can’t oppose the President? You got some ‘splaining to do, Georgie. I hear they have good books in Fort Leavenworth.

So, this is just a friendly blog and you can answer the question without the above. Just leave a name no one will know, and an email no one can trace. Yeah. Blogs are so private.

Okay, I’ll be the first. Freedom is worth Death for thousands and Suffering for those millions that survive–every damn day. Not good enough? How about, freedom is worth the complete annihilation of two Japanese cities, making them unliveable for, what was it for Hiroshima and Nagasaki, twenty years, twenty thousand years?

That’s taking it too far, you say. How about close to home. What is MY freedom worth: the ability to walk my dog in a pleasant neighborhood; ride my bike for hours at a time every day if I like, drive to a nice campground and catch fish on a clean river? If I gave those up, no big deal.

What about the freedom to talk to you about problems in our government, or discuss with my neighbor about how unfair the schools are to handicapped children, or publish a book that takes a political shot at the President, or a member of Congress? Hmmm. I still think I could live without those.

Then there is the freedom to sleep at night, or walk the streets without someone from our now non-free government, kidnapping me or my kid, and torturing us because they heard a rumor from the fanatical kid down the block that I didn’t like what a Congressman said on TV. Yeah. Me neither. Not big on torture. I think freedom as The Constitution outlines might be worth that, all by itself.

This video show that we are not the only ones in the world that value freedom. But at what price?

So where does this slippery slope begin, and where does it end? The real question is, shouldn’t we all have to suffer some to have freedom, not just the soldiers and their families?  Yes. And we do, every time we pay taxes. Right? Oh, yeah. That’s real suffering, spending a couple of hours on Turbo Tax figuring out how you can get a refund. Surely we suffer more than that. Hmmm.

What if every time we were at war we were not allowed to use any electricity after 8 p.m.? That would save a lot of money, make us realize every day we wanted to get rid of war, and make each of us suffer some.  Any other suggestions?

Here’s the other problem, though. In order to have freedom we have to convince those bullies around the world that want a piece of the USA to NOT be aggressive about it. Or we have to fight back.There’s no school principal to settle our differences. We have to do it. Just the Pres, his diplomats, and our army against theirs.That’s it. And sometimes their army shoots at our army and there you have it: war. How do you keep them from shooting? How do you avoid shooting back?

What about Iraq and Afghanistan wars? Did someone shoot at us? No, other than almost 3,000 people killed at 9/11. Did we have to shoot, or could we still have pretty much the same freedoms we had before 9/11 today, without those wars? Seems to me the terrorists still got us terrified enough to invent Homeland Security, and search everyone going on a plane ride like you were entering San Quentin. Okay. Worse.

Did killing all those Iraqis, Afghans, along with a few kids and other innocents, and, oh by the way, our best and brightest hearing Taps from six feet under, did that get rid of that terror? I don’t think so.Then again, did it prevent the terrorist from having more 9/11’s? Hmmm. Hard questions.

I’d love to hear some answers from anyone.

Milt

Ten ways I’ve found to slow down time, other than fishing.

1. Watch my grandson play

playing at the pool

playing at the pool


2. Hold a purring cat close to my cheek
Purrrr

Purrrr


3. Look into the eyes of my Labrador retriever.
I love you

I love you


4. Make a silly face
If you make a funny face you'll feel better

If you make a funny face you’ll feel better


5. Hike in the Rocky Mountains
RMNP

RMNP


6. Watch a rainbow
rainbow over Cameron Pass

rainbow over Cameron Pass


7. Listen to a stream
Ah, spring

Ah, spring


8. Sing a favorite song
Probably John Denver, or Jimmy Buffet

Probably John Denver, or Jimmy Buffet


9. Tie a fly for a friend
tying at the Bighorn

tying at the Bighorn


10. Row the drift boat and watch a friend catch a fish.
Bighorn

Bighorn

Okay, so some of them INVOLVE fishing. Can you blame me?
What are your favorite ways to slow time? Share them with me. With us. There are lots more, I’m sure.

Milt