When this writer was 18, I met a really pretty blonde whose name I still remember, and I asked her out on a date. Her name was Maureen and unlike me, not a college kid. She was a sweet, not terribly bright young woman who lived in a working class neighborhood in Brooklyn, similar to my own. This was during my first year at Brooklyn College and I was having problems with the transition from high school, where I had excelled academically.
Brooklyn College in those days was one of the most difficult of the City University of New York ( CUNY) schools to get into. Lots of very bright kids from all over Brooklyn were there with me. Anyhow, I had gotten a bit of the "Military fever" from the excessive propaganda of the Vietnam War (another of those "never declared" ones since World War 2) and how the "Marines build men" and all that.
Yet, I was not that gung ho to ever consider signing up for a four year tour of duty and wind up in Vietnam. No, my student deferment was intact in the winter of 1968. Instead, I opted out for joining the Marine Reserves, which, in those days meant to never be sent overseas under any circumstances except perhaps World War 3. Looking back, it was the "cowards' way" to be a big man while getting out of college for a while.
So, I showed up at Maureen's parents' apartment to pick up my beautiful date. She introduced me to her dad, a bartender and former Marine, who was awaiting me in the living room. When she told him of my plans for the reserves her old man began lecturing me on the "Corps" and what it meant, etc. He spent a good half hour trying to convince me to ditch the reserve idea and go for the full ride. I told him I would think about it (I was serious... he did a hell of a job). It was when we were about to leave that he really turned me off by saying: "Just remember kid, if our president says we need to be there to fight the Commies, then the Marines go! I say, "America, love it or leave it kid. Semper Fi"."
Fast forward almost 50 years later to a street corner in my town in Central Florida. My 85 year old peace activist compadre, John S. and I were standing on our usual corner during rush hour with signs in hand. My sign read: Save Our Cities: Cut Military Spending 25%, Close Overseas Bases, Bring our Troops Home! John's sign read:
In between the honks for support and a few nasty remarks telling us that we were helping the terrorists and not our troops, we had a visitor. This 30 something guy on a bicycle alongside of his two young children, also on bikes, approached. The first thing he asked me was if I ever served in the armed forces. Before I could answer him, John responded, "Yes, I was a Marine. Why is that important?" The guy then rambled on about how we should be supporting our military because it is fighting the crazy terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan (this was before the whole ISIS thing exploded in Syria).
I rebutted that if it wasn't for our, by the way, illegal and immoral invasions of those countries there wouldn't be enough terrorists in those countries to fill a baseball stadium. He went on about how he was in Iraq for two tours and it was disgusting how the people there are filthy and lack proper sanitation:
"You should see the streets, how filthy they are there", he said.
John countered how he met some German tourists who told him how filthy the streets of New York City are. Then came the quintessential bit of Orwellian fake truth:
"We are fighting them there so they don't come here!"
John mentioned collateral damage and its devastating effects. Not even taking a breath or a moment to ponder the question, the guy shot back,
"That's what happens in wars. Innocent people always get hurt or killed."