Saturday, August 07, 2004

The average age of the military man is 19 years. He is a short haired, tight-muscled kid who, under normal circumstances is considered by society as half man, half boy. Not yet dry behind the ears, not old enough to buy a beer, but old enough to die for his country. He never really cared much for work and he would rather wax his own car than wash his father's; but he has never collected unemployment either

He's a recent High School graduate; he was probably an average student,
pursued some form of sport activities, drives a ten year old jalopy, and has
a steady girlfriend that either broke up with him when he left, or swears to
be waiting when he returns from half a world away. He listens to rock and
roll or hip-hop or rap or jazz or swing and 155mm howizzitor. He is 10 or
15 pounds lighter now than when he was at home because he is working
or fighting from before dawn to well after dusk.

He has trouble spelling, thus letter writing is a pain for him, but he can field
strip a rifle in 30 seconds and reassemble it in less time in the dark. He can
recite to you the nomenclature of a machine gun or grenade launcher and
use either one effectively if he must. He digs foxholes and latrines and can
apply first aid like a professional. He can march until he is told to stop or
stop until he is told to march.

He obeys orders instantly and without hesitation, but he is not without
spirit or individual dignity. He is self-sufficient. He has two sets of
fatigues: he washes one and wears the other. He keeps his canteens
full and his feet dry. He sometimes forgets to brush his teeth, but
never to clean his rifle. He can cook his own meals, mend his own
clothes, and fix his own hurts. If you're thirsty, he'll share his water
with you; if you are hungry, his food. He'll even split his ammunition
with you in the midst of battle when you run low.

He has learned to use his hands like weapons and weapons like
they were his hands. He can save your life - or take it, because that
is his job. He will often do twice the work of a civilian, draw half the
pay and still find ironic humor in it all. He has seen more suffering
and death then he should have in his short lifetime.

He has stood atop mountains of dead bodies, and helped to create them.
He has wept in public and in private, for friends who have fallen in combat
and is unashamed. He feels every note of the National Anthem vibrate
through his body while at rigid attention, while tempering the burning
desire to 'square-away' those around him who haven't bothered to stand,
remove their hat, or even stop talking. In an odd twist, day in and day out,
far from home, he defends their right to be disrespectful

Just as did his Father, Grandfather, and Great-grandfather, he is paying
the price for our freedom. Beardless or not, he is not a boy. He is the
American Fighting Man that has kept this country free for over 200 years.

He has asked nothing in return, except our friendship and understanding.
Remember him, always, for he has earned our respect and admiration
with his blood. And now we even have woman over there in danger,
doing their part in this tradition of going to War when our nation calls
us to do so. As you go to bed tonight, remember this shot.. A short lull,
a little shade and a picture of loved ones in their helmets.......

Prayer Wheel

"Lord, hold our troops in your loving hands. Protect them as they protect us.
Bless them and their families for the selfless acts they perform for us in our time of need. Amen."

Prayer : When you read this, please stop for a moment and say a prayer
for our ground troops in Afghanistan, sailors on ships, and airmen in the air,
and for those in Iraq. There is nothing attached.... This can be very powerful.......
Of all the gifts you could give a US Soldier, Sailor, Coastguardsman, Marine
or Airman, prayer is the very best one.


Friday, August 06, 2004


But it will still be somewhat minimal for a bit. I have been taking on extra work so that I really shine for a promotion that I am trying to get.

I will try to post something here once a day from now on.

Or not.


From Fortress Boston to '1984'
Bucks County Courier Times

In high school as I read "1984," my English teacher, Stephen Walker, said fear of falling victim to random violence would usher in George Orwell's frightening vision and undo America.

This was the late 1970s and climbing murder rates gripped most major cities. Big-city crime worked its way into sedate suburbs, too, where people were always surprised that "it could happen here."

Walker said that, like terminal cancer, in the future everyone would know someone who was the victim of life-ending crime. Then, government would be handed sweeping powers to snag the killers before they snuffed us.

Life would be harsh. Only those with credentials could travel and only to certain zones at appointed times. Cameras on street corners and satellites in orbit would monitor everything that moved from city to city, town to town, block to block.

Neighborhoods would be gated. When the bad guys figured a way to penetrate the gates, walls would go up. When walls failed, armed military tanks would guard neighborhood entrances.

I imagined a hulking green tank with its gun aimed toward the windows of Manor Elementary School as it sat at the entrance to Levittown's North Park section, where I grew up.

Over the years, I've chuckled at that. Unthinkable.

But then I spent last week in Boston at the Democratic National Convention amid oppressive security.

Fear of sudden death on a large scale was in complete control in Beantown.

From the gun-toting sentinels atop overpasses, to the barb wire and fences and concrete barricades, to decontamination trailers and endless demands by security people to produce credentials and identification, Walker's view of an America that had freely surrendered its liberties for the sake of security was for real.

Harsh? You have no idea.

One evening, as I left the FleetCenter where the Democrats gathered, I mistakenly walked 10 feet beyond the entrance to a fenced area that corralled the idling hotel shuttle buses.

As I turned around to walk back to the entrance, I was stopped and questioned by a plainclothes security man who was monitoring the area.

He asked for identification and to see my convention credentials.

Even though everything checked out, he forbade me from walking through the entrance to the buses, he said, "because you already walked past me."

When I told him he was being unreasonable, he instantly called for backup.

I took off, running through a maze of fences and concrete barricades that led to a busy street.

I continued to run, looking back to see if I was being chased.

A couple blocks later I stopped, out of breath, heart pounding.

What the hell was I running from? I hadn't done anything wrong.

Heavy-handed security pervaded Boston.

The tedium of constantly standing in lines, going through checkpoints and metal detectors, producing ID, constantly being eyeballed by cop after cop put people on edge.

Tempers flared throughout Fortress Boston - if not from the unprecedented lack of coveted convention floor credentials for delegates, then from the daily experience of intimidating hyper security.

Philadelphia Mayor John Street, trying to soothe frazzled nerves, led the Pennsylvania delegation at breakfast in a calming chant of "Lower your expectations."

Even leaving Boston was a nerve jangler.

At Logan Airport, I forgot to take my laptop from its case before sending it through the X-ray scanner.

I was immediately pulled aside while a guard called out "Bag search! Bag search!"

I was told to produce identification. I was questioned.

Both the laptop and case were taken from me, examined and swabbed. The swab was placed in a high-tech device that sniffs for trace amounts of explosives.

They assumed I had a bomb.

I figure we're only one or two attacks on the scale of Sept. 11 - or one nuke - from Walker's America, huddled in fear.

Then it's only a matter of time before you might find yourself running through the darkened streets of a strange city, dodging traffic, out of breath, heart pounding - and you've done nothing wrong.

J.D. Mullane can be reached at 215-949-5745 or at jmullane@phillyBurbs.com. His opinion column appears Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday.

Are we there yet?


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