George Jr., always the consummate asshole:
“I must say, I’m a little envious.
“If I were slightly younger and not employed here, I think it would be a fantastic experience to be on the front lines of helping this young democracy succeed.
“It must be exciting for you … in some ways romantic, in some ways, you know, confronting danger.
“You’re really making history, and thanks,” Bush said.
And to veterans everywhere, yeah, thanks.
(Illustration found here).
Yesterday was Veteran’s Day.
And a lot of customers at my store also said “thanks” when they found I was a veteran — along with a shitload of the thrown-up phrase, “Happy Veteran’s Day,” put forth in the same voice and vein as “Happy Halloween” a couple of weeks ago.
Pride is not really the emotion I feel as a veteran — it’s more a sense of being a fellow cog in a giant, grindingly-obscene machine, just another serial number now counted in the hundreds and hundreds of thousands.
No one in my age bracket and brain power escaped being made a ‘veteran,’ directly or indirectly.
Those who escaped, or in the vernacular, “dodged the draft,” had what was called ‘deferments‘ (i.e., Dick Cheney), or their families had great pull.
So, yesterday, when told that ‘thanks‘ for just being a veteran, I kind of recoiled inside.
George Jr. and I have something in common regarding staying out of Vietnam — our parents had influence.
Mine, of course, were on the lower end of the social and public scale, and although I eventually served four years in the Air Force, their leverage nevertheless kept my 19-year-old apolitical and naive ass out of the rice paddies.
During the 2004 presidential race, George Jr.’s military career was inspected critically and it wasn’t pretty — read a general overview of his service record here.
This exchange, however, between Tim Russert and George Jr. in February 2004 explained the reality of a military service obligation:
Russert: You did — were allowed to leave eight months before your term expired. Was there a reason?
Bush: Right. Well, I was going to Harvard Business School and worked it out with the military.
There was a whole shitload of US young peoples in them days who’d have liked to “work it out with the military” and go their way.
One must remember George Jr.’s daddy and grand-daddy — George HW Bush, and Prescott Bush, respectively.
HW at the time was a Texas Congressman, and of course, Prescott was then dead, though, he’d had his more-than-fair-share of the spotlight, a lot of it not good.
Anyhow, my daddy wasn’t a Congressman or anything like that, but he was a hard-working federal civil service employee all his life — attached to the DOD, and in 1968 (the year George Jr. graduated Yale and made eligible for the draft), was running the laundry operations for Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.
The clothes-cleaning business turned-out to be my dad’s talent, and when he died of a heart attack in 1984, he was charged with running right several US military laundries worldwide.
Way-back in 1968, however, his oldest son was a clueless geek-idiot with a head way-beyond the clouds.
And 1968 was literally one for the record books — a year beyond a watershed.
(If you like, read a piece I wrote on the eve of 40-years-later, posted in December 2007).
In ’68, starting right off the bat in January, was the Tet Offensive, which effectively changed the Vietnam war; then in April, Martin Luther King was shot; then in June, Bobby Kennedy; in August, the riots at the Chicago DNC; and in November, but by-no-means-last, the election of Dick Nixon.
And that’s just the high points — lesser lights include the USS Pueblo dust-up in January; just a couple of days before Kennedy’s death, pop icon Andy Warhol is shot to death; in July Arlo Guthrie debuts ‘Alice’s Restaurant Massacree‘ to the public; and so forth.
A week after the initial Tet attacks began, I eloped with a redhead to Biloxi, Mississippi, eventually dropped out of junior college, and seemingly without-a-worry-in-the-world, made myself most-eligible for the military draft, kind of like George Jr.
After I quickly received my draft notice, in stepped my daddy, too.
In this a twist of coincidence, dad knew quite-well both of the Air Force recruiters in nearby Pensacola, Florida, and as it turned out, so did both of my new-then-wife’s parents.
And so it goes — although the waiting list for the Air Force was way-way-longer than I had time, these recruiters inserted my name near the top, and I promptly enlisted.
Draftees were Army or Marines — grunts who were the most-cannon fodder for those rice paddies, and with my dad’s influence I endured the way-more mellow Air Force.
In fact, not only did I miss the actual horror of Vietnam, I traveled no further west than Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, for basic training, then back to Biloxi, Miss., and Keesler Air Force Base for tech school as an air traffic controller, and then further back to Eglin Air Force as a permanent station — back at freakin’ home!
I did get my two-year degree while in the service, going to the same nearby junior college I’d dropped out of a couple years earlier — and in 1972 to the University of Florida.
My military career is more-or-less a sham — I’m a veteran in name only.
Those who endured war are the real veterans, enduring those rice paddies long ago, and putting up with bad shit in deserts and mountains nowadays.
The world was way different in 1972 when I was discharged — the unemployment rate was at about 6 percent, and now for those who’d be in my age class (18-24-year-olds), the rate was a staggering 30.4 percent in October with the overall rate for vets at 12 percent, higher than the national average.
Being a veteran of the current US war on terror is pretty-much the shits.
And speaking of the miscreant creator of all this shit, George Jr.
In April 1975, I’d just missed living in the same Montgomery, Alabama, neighborhood as the boy by a few months when I joined the staff of the the Montgomery Advertiser in my first newspaper job as police reporter.
I rented an apartment in the Old Cloverdale section of the city, the same area George Jr. had lived during his Texas National Guard ‘political operative’ period in Alabama, which was to party.
FromÂ a detailed Salon piece in September 2004 on George Jr.’s year of living dangerously in Montgomery:
The break happened not long after a boozy election-night wake for Blount, who lost his Senate bid to the incumbent Democrat, John Sparkman.
Leaving the election-night â€œcelebration,â€ Allison remembers encountering George W. Bush in the parking lot, urinating on a car, and hearing later about how heâ€™d yelled obscenities at police officers that night.
Bush left a house heâ€™d rented in Montgomery trashed — the furniture broken, walls damaged and a chandelier destroyed, the Birmingham News reported in February.
â€œHe was just a rich kid who had no respect for other peopleâ€™s possessions,â€ Mary Smith, a member of the family who rented the house, told the newspaper, adding that a bill sent to Bush for repairs was never paid.
This is the same guy who nearly trashed a planet near-40-years later.
And one of the most-heartfelt words to come out of Veterans’ day activities yesterday was from Brigadier General Don Packard, U.S. Army (Retired),Â who gave the keynote address at a retirement community in Virginia:
“There are 1.7 million veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, or about one percent of the U.S. population,” he said. “These veterans and their families are suffering inordinately.”
“The suicide total in recent months has exceeded the combat casualties, and this is totally unacceptable,” he said. “It is deplorable.
“Twenty percent of our 1.7 million Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, about 340,000 soldiers, are suffering from PTSD,” he said.
“The relatively small size of the Marine Corp and the Army means we have to rotate commands through the war zones more frequently,” he said.
In the past, larger service corps meant soldiers could rotate out, into a safer and quieter place to recoup for a while.
“The size of the army and the geography of the war zones makes this impossible,” he said.
“Some units have deployed three, four, five, six, seven times,” said Packard.
“This places incredible stress not only on the soldiers, but on the spouses and children as well.”
“A veteran recently told me, ‘We don’t need pats on the back, we need jobs,'” said Packard. I hope our country can renew the patriotism of World War II as we together face the economic and security problems of our country.”
He said there is much to be done to help our vets.
“As was said of the Royal Air Force in WWII, I say of our veterans today: Never in history have so many owed so much to so few.”