- I received this from Marty Cepielik, publisher of News
of Polonia in Pasadena, California:
- "I don't know if you saw this in the news but it
really impressed me. Funny, our US Senate/House took two days off as they
- "On the ABC evening news, it was reported tonight
that, because of the dangers from Hurricane Isabelle approaching Washington
DC, the military members assigned the duty of guarding the Tomb of the
Unknown Soldier were given permission to suspend the assignment.
- "They refused. "No way, Sir!"
- "Soaked to the skin, marching in the pelting rain
of a tropical storm, they said that guarding the Tomb was not just an assignment,
it was the highest honor that can be afforded to a serviceperson.
- "The tomb has been patrolled continuously, 24/7,
- Once upon a time, not long ago, I did the monuments tour
in Washington. It was the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier that really got me
thinking. I lit a cigarette in the gray drizzle, surveying the puddles
forming on the august granite quadrangle, in the shadow of the majestic
Corinthian pillars of the museum nearby. Gazing at the mammoth cube of
Colorado marble, I tried to think about the archetypal spirit of the mythical
warrior resting inside it.
- In the mist, closing my eyes, with as much compassion
and respect as I could muster, I dared to say: "Hey buddy, how's it
- And in my reverie, maybe assisted by some helpful spirits
nearby, I imagined I heard a raspy response: "Can't complain, man.
We all do what we have to do." Then a pause. Then ... "I sure
wish I could still smoke though."
- The image of a grizzled, unshaven GI, battered helmet
askew on his unkempt head, popped into my mind.
- "So you were in World War II?" my thoughts
guessed in the humid air.
- "Hah," the voice shrugged. "I was in all
the wars. From Thermopylae to My Lai, I was there. Everytime there was
a bullet fired in anger, an arrow aimed from ambush, a club bludgeoning
the teeth of someone you never met and would never meet again, I was there."
- "You know the question everybody asks you,"
I said in my mind, projecting my thoughts toward the elegant monument.
"Was it worth it?"
- "No, it's never worth it. At the time it's happening,
though, there's really no choice to think whether it's worth it or not.
You get caught up in the inevitability of the thing, swept along, as it
were. Then it becomes a matter of staying true to your buddies."
- "What's it like to kill somebody in combat?"
- "It's not a good thing, though for some people it's
kind of a drug-induced high. I think the people who like killing don't
really like themselves. Killing others is like killing yourself, except
you get to walk away, and they don't.
- "At that moment you fire the bullet, and someone
drops, never to get up again, it makes you feel kind of immortal. I mean,
to have that kind of power, to stop someone's life its tracks, it's kind
of like a drug. Or at least until sometime later, days or months or years
later, and your mind tricks you and you start seeing the faces of your
children on the people you are shooting ... that kind of comes with the
- "What's it like to be killed in combat?"
- "It's funny. There's usually no pain, although sometimes
there is and it's beyond anything you ever thought of at the dentist. But
usually, unless you're blipped out instantaneously, there is this kind
of calm. It's dazzling and boring at the same time. When you know you have
about twenty seconds of life left, it's not the wound that you think about.
It's where you came from, trivial moments of childhood that somehow foretold
the end you are now confronting. And then, for a second or two, it's where
you would have gone, what you would have done. And it's about those people
who are close to you, that girl, that little boy, or your mom. She'll be
so angry, you think. Then the dark shade comes down and you can go anywhere
you want. But you can never talk to anybody again."
- "Do you get time to ask the question 'Was I doing
the right thing?"
- "Not usually, unless you linger on. It's the wounded
who have to deal that trip, those with legs blown off or made blind by
some explosion in your face. Then you can really work up a case of resentment.
The 'what-might-have-beens' are about the most painful injury that can
happen in anybody's life. Regret is about the worst thing there is."
- "Did you ever realize, in any of all those wars,
that what you were doing, was probably an exercise in futility, a pre-arranged
deal, a conflict set up by rich men to make money off the sale of armaments
or to steal someone else's property. I mean, did you ever realize that
the song-and-dance about patriotism or defending your country was just
a cover story for some much larger economic crime?"
- "Shee-it, every enlisted man who ever served in
the military knows that from practically day one. You only need to look
around you to see the injustice of the whole system, where rich kid junior
officers too timid to poke their eyes out of their tent flaps order ragtags
into harm's way without any thought of what will happen to them. Or, of
how the equipment they give you may or may not work, and superiors don't
really care about that, they only care that they don't their asses kicked
by somebody of higher rank. If the enlisted men, the real soldiers, got
to run wars, there wouldn't be any wars. The only reason there are wars
at all is because the men who decide to make them are never the ones who
have to fight them. Can you say Dick Cheney?
- "Ha. Well put. Has it always been that way?"
- "Yes. Hail Caesar! Onward Zachary Taylor! But at
least they got out there and swung their swords on occasion."
- "What do you think of all these stories about rapes
by Americans in Iraq?
- "Pfft. That's war. Happens every time. Nobody remembers
the 1.9 million American rapes of German women after WW II. But the Krauts
and Japs had set the standard by doing the the same. Depravity is not limited
to one ethnic group, though it may be limited to the human race. You don't
see other animals doing this kind of crap."
- "So, you're saying that's normal behavior for any
soldier, any warrior in combat?"
- "No way. A real soldier is like a wild animal. Totally
controlled, utterly savage. He doesn't kill unless he has to. The true
soldier is about the most honorable person on the planet, even though he
has been hired to kill for wimpy rich men who are afraid to fight. Still,
there is the code of honor. A true soldier won't follow an illegal order,
but you can tell how many true soldiers there are these days by the paltry
number who refuse immoral commands.
- "Just like the rest of the country, every country
that ever was, people are afraid to stand out, to say what they really
believe even though they know it's right to do so. In the service you can't
do that either - or not easily anyway - because if your commander tells
you to wipe out a village of women and children, and you don't do it, you
get thrown in the brig. Maybe you'll get shot. But those who kill unnecessarily
or rape women are just the kind of psychopaths who wind up in the military
because they can't find a job anywhere else."
- "What do you think of our fearless warmaking presidential
- "Same as every other day. They all think soldiers
are little stickmen on a chessboard to be sacrificed for somebody's stock
options. Based on what I've heard about Kerry, he did soldiers dirt by
opposing what they were doing. They say he has lots of medals, but from
the things I've heard, he's lucky he didn't get fragged in 'Nam. And Bush.
What a pansy! He's a deserter, in time of war. He should have been shot.
But he had a rich daddy, so they let him fly planes til cocaine got in
- "And he killed all those people in Texas whether
they were innocent or not. Tied them down and killed them, then laughed
about it. What he did flying onto that carrier saying the Iraq war was
over was a disgrace. I'd like to see him a fistfight with the weakest person
in the Iraqi army. Bush'd get his throat torn out, which would be a good
thing for the world, though there are plenty of other strutting punks like
him to take his place."
- "As a soldier who fought for your country, you are
honored for your sacrifice and your patriotism. Does that make you feel
proud in the place you are in now?"
- "I wish they would have honored my widow and my
orphaned children instead of me. They never had much when I was alive and
now have a lot less. I miss them. And patriotism. There is a difference
between patriotism and esprit de corps. The former is used to lure halfwits
like me into putting everything on the line for some reason which is never
fully explained to us. But esprit de corps is one of the great things in
life. You get to know who you real friends are when somebody steps in the
way of a bullet meant for you."
- "What do you think about the people who come here
to visit you?"
- "I feel sorry for them, that they venerate a process
that is so unnecessary. I appreciate their thoughts, like I appreciate
your thoughts, but what happened to me, all those times on the battlefield,
was completely unnecessary in all instances, and was caused by those who
sought to make a profit by the deliberate manipulation of social forces
and public opinion. I would advise people to remember that if they treated
me as well in life and they have in death, neither one of us would have
ever had to be in this sorry place."
- "And kids who want to be soldiers, what would you
say to them?"
- "Slit your belly open with a knife, just to see
how it feels. Then imagine how someone else would feel if you did it to
them. Then imagine how your mom would feel if it really happened to you.
- "Especially if she found that the war you were fighting
in was a total lie, and never had to happen? All wars are lies, you know.
None of them ever had to happen."
- "So, go be a soldier. Go be a fool. Kill somebody
over nothing. Watch yourself die. Hell, they might put you in a monument
like this one. And no one will ever remember your name."
- John Kaminski, an honorably discharged Navy veteran,
is the author of "America's Autopsy Report," a collection of
his Internet essays seen on hundreds of websites around the world, and
also "The Day America Died: Why You Shouldn't Believe the Official
Version of What Happened on September 11, 2001," a 48-booklet written
for those who still believe what the U.S. government is still saying about
9/11. For more information about both, go to http://www.johnkaminski.com/