Friday, June 14, 2013

Sometimes You Lead by Following

I was in the United States a (very) long time ago, though I didn't actually serve with Orville or Wilbur if you're working on a chronology. And I was barely in the Air Force according to nearly all of the unfortunates who were unlucky enough to have me work for them, holding  an AFSC (Air Force Skill Code) of 791X1 (radio/tv production specialist).

It was more Life of Reilly than anything else to include Good Morning, Vietnam, especially since I spent so much of my two enlistments serving with members of the US Army who had as close to no understanding of us zoomies as anyone either of us might ever meet.

This was all post-mandatory conscription for the US Armed Forces. I always hesitate to say "the all-volunteer force" since to me a volunteer is more like the person who hugs Special Olympians at the finish of a track meet or who cooks hamburgers for a 2nd grade picnic at Rocky Neck State Park or helps sort out the neighborhood's recycling bins before the big Spring clean-up.

I, and all the people with whom I served, got paid which seems to let at least some of the air out of the volunteer balloon (for me). Yeah, I could say "I volunteered to get paid" which reminds me of a mid-shift at AFRTS Sondrestrom when John D asked our boss TSGT Phil L. 'when will my pay raise be effective?' to which Phil replied, 'when you are.' All of us tittered like school girls.

When you're surrounded by snow drifts and arctic wolves, in complete 24 hour a day darkness you'll find the damnedest things funny. And when life hands you lemonade, you reach for the vodka. At last, back in the day, I did; it seemed to make everything even funnier.

What none of us there, later on in Germany or in a dozen other locations around the globe working for Uncle Sugar, ever found funny were the too-busy for colors asshats who would rush under cover into a  building before the National Anthem at 0800 or who stayed in the building foyer until the last note of the "All Clear" after "Taps" had sounded and who then evacuated the area like red beans and rice losing to Montezuma's Revenge.

That people who had sworn an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States from all enemies, foreign and domestic, couldn't allow seventy seconds in the morning and less than that at sunset to honor the representation of the nation whose constitution they were on record as being willing to die for, drove, and still drives, me crazy (and I'm so close, I can walk and save the gas).

I'm bringing this up today of all days, because today is Flag Day. On military posts and bases across the country, ships at sea on the oceans of the world and in absolute armpit hellholes in far flung places whose names none of us can remember or pronounce, those men and women who wear our country's uniform are according appropriate honors to our flag today, as they do everyday.

In light of the hyper-partisan idiocy that now permeates the political discourse at every level of our democracy, combined with the pig-headed selfish obstinacy with which so many of us pursue our Private Idahos (under the motto, 'devil take the hindmost') perhaps we should find a minute to be mindful and grateful for their service and choose, as do I, to accept as sincere the truth of the words offered by the always thoughtful and thought-provoking Randy Newman.

"You can stand alone, or with somebody else; or stand with all of us, together.
 If you can believe in something bigger than yourself, you can follow the flag forever.

"They say it's just a dream that dreamers dreamed-that it's an empty thing that really has no meaning. They say it's all a lie, but it's not a lie. I'm going to follow the flag 'til I die.

"Into every life a little rain must fall, but it's not gonna rain forever.
You can rise above--you can rise above it all--We will follow the flag together.

"We will follow the flag together. We will follow the flag forever."
 -bill kenny        

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