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Being John Wayne, Or Not…

Saturday, November 11, 2017 10:09
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“Being John Wayne, Or Not…”
by CoyotePrime

Being a dumbass kid whose mind was full of delusional “John Wayne” hero nonsense, I enlisted (with the required parental consent) in the Marine Corps at 17. It was late 1968, the VietNam war was raging, and the military had a tremendous need for fresh bodies. (The first draft wouldn’t happen until July, 1969. Incredibly, my birthdate was picked number 1! So my sorry self was going anyway.) I went through bootcamp at Parris Island, then Advanced Infantry Training at Camp Geiger, N.C. Those of us now officially MOS 0311’s, Infantry Rifleman, were assigned to the 2nd Marine Division base at Camp LeJeune. 

The day after our arrival at Camp LeJeune the sergeant entered the squad bay and shouted, “Who wants to go to ‘Nam?” En masse we rushed forward to volunteer, eager to defend democracy and kill those nasty commies. Within a week, all who volunteered were given new orders sending them to VietNam- except for me, and 4 other guys, who were still only 17. See, you had to be 18 to die for your country, and we’d have to wait our turn, which eventually came, sadly. My best buddy, a guy named Jim Hart, with whom I’d gone through both bootcamp and AIT together, was one of the “lucky” ones. As he prepared to leave, we tore a dollar bill in half, promising to buy a beer with the re-connected pieces when we saw each other again. We never drank that beer. 

I and the other 17’ers were sent on a “Med Cruise”, as part of the landing battalion aboard the Navy’s 6th Fleet ships patrolling the Mediterranean. We soon began receiving mail from our buddies in the ‘Nam. Things weren’t going so well, guys were getting killed, and where was John Wayne when we needed him? Eventually a letter came to another guy, telling of the slaughter of most of our friends. The VietCong, clever as they were, had dug up a misfired 155 mm artillery round and made a booby trap of it. In their new unit our buddies came boppin’ down the trail, and someone stepped on it, killing 11 of them, including my friend Hart, all ripped to pieces by the tremendous explosion. My most terrifying thought was that if I’d been a few months older, I’d have been either in front or behind him at that moment, and killed with the rest. 
This was another life changing moment. This was for REAL! People were really getting killed! And I had to know why. Not just the bullshit, flag-waving, “bringing democracy” crap- does that sound familiar right now?- but what were the real forces that made wars happen, and why did so many people die in these tribalistic mass murders. Tragically, the answer is economic: we are in competition with other nations for control of resources of every kind like oil, rubber, metals, natural gas, and food, and all the other necessities we need to sustain our current way of life. And, of course, the money and power that comes along during the process, to a privileged few. They won’t ask you to die for Exxon/Mobil, and you’d tell them to go to hell if they did, but they’ll volunteer to die defending Mom, apple pie, and the good old “American way of life”. We’ll die for an ideal like “patriotism”, but not for the truth. And that’s how they’ve worked this deal, since the dawn of man. War is a very, very bad thing…


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