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“Men who go to war should do so because they are men, not to become men. A uniform does not guarantee that transition has taken place.”

Amen to that. Have you ever read the book When a Man’s a Man(by Harold Bell Wright)?

No, I haven’t read it. Is it worth reading? ^_^

Yes, ‘tis definitely worth reading. Certainly a story that makes one think. smile If you ever read it, I wouldn’t mind hearing your thoughts about it.

“I think that the better indicator of manhood (or womanhood) is what that person is willing to stand for. When we are young, we learn to avoid what causes pain. When we mature, we learn to do what is right despite the pain.”

You seem to be saying that those who join the military aren’t standing for anything.  I suspect you have never served and thus are speculating at best.  Marines have a saying, “Once a Marine Always a Marine”.  Most Marines live by the core values of Honor, Courage and Committment for our entire lives.  We learn from those Marines who came before us that while we pray for peace we must remain prepared for war so that Americans like you always have the right to speak freely even if that speech is critical or misinformed about us. 

When I wrote “Gold Star Mother” I did so because I had been affected by comments made by family members of Lima Company of the 3rd Battalion of the 25th Marines.  “Lucky Lima”, one of the hardest hit single units in Operation Iraqi Freedom, lost 22 Marines and their Navy Corpsman in 2005.  Many years ago I heard my own mother speak of my brother’s determination to serve in the miiltary.  She became a Gold Star Mother as her mother before became a Gold Star Mother.  Thanks to the grace of God I remain a Blue Star Mother.

Using a quote from my poem out of context illustrates how little understanding you have of those serving and those who have served honorably in our military.  Young men and women will continue to be willing to “stand for” your rights and they will continue to “do whats right despite the pain” because they understand their responsibilities to not only America but also to the rest of the world. As United States Marines continue to live by our motto of Semper Fidelis, our deep and abiding faith will always envelope you as we remain ever ready to keep you safe and secure in a dangerous world.

Keo R. Gathman
USMC Veteran

Thank you for your comment. There are a lot of people who join the military because they view it as their civic duty. I have friends who have done so. Others have joined to get a college degree paid for, or as an in-road to the aviation industry, or any of a number of other reasons.

I am not arguing that the military (and war) are incapable of maturing people. There are a great many testimonies to the contrary.

My family has a military heritage and my dad has been a military contractor for most of my life. My family has largely lived around Marine and Navy bases. I have known, and been drilled by, drill instructors. I have seen what the military does to their men when those men are given a quota of recruits to attain. I have watched what has happened to Washington DC over the last 10 years since September 11th.

Perhaps from the perspective of a military contractor’s son, I have seen some things that you have not. Or maybe I am more cynical because our culture reacts quickly with emotions. Several of my relatives who have been in the military now have similar views to mine, which closely mirror the beliefs of popular Libertarians on war.

In fact, quite a few men in the military have been wondering why we are so heavily involved overseas. Remember the campaign issues of the 2008 election?:

Do not misunderstand me as making light of the loss that comes from our wars.

I am trying to be a student of history and, historically speaking, democracies always invade neighboring countries because of “threats”—many of which are imagined. After the preliminary strike, a series of follow-ups must be performed, and a larger war occurs than was intended. We (including myself) like to think that our country does not do this, but history is often repeated. The interesting thing is that the founders of our country saw this pattern as well.

My reading of the constitution will differ from yours, but I do not see any place in it that allows for a standing army—apart from the navy—to be maintained (funding is allowed for two years at a time). The militia, which gun-rights folks often tout as our home defense, has been effectively disbanded since our “National Guard” is being used overseas as well. Surely you are aware that it is the new name of the militia as far as our government is concerned?

Please don’t think me flippant with the rights purchased in times past. I have seen more than those who crash funerals, and I sympathize with the individuals who have lost family members. My argument in this post is against the idea that you cannot become a man without joining the military.

Elsewhere, my argument is that our military is one of the major drains on our economy and that the states should have their own armies instead of the federal government. That is a topic best left for another time.

My disgust comes into play because you chose to use a fragment of a poem written to express the sentiments of a grieving parent to prove a political point.  Others have done the same in the past with information that my brother was murdered by another GI in his unit while serving in Vietnam.  Those with political leanings both pro and con were very ready to jump on that bit of information and twist it to suit their political perspective.  It is no wonder it took me 24 years to speak openly about the murder of a female Marine friend by two male Marines.  I fully understand both the negative and positive impact service in the military has on those who serve.  I experienced both and live with the consequences.  You also seem to be of the assumption I whole heartedly agree and support the politics of our current involvement in the Middle East and past conflicts.  What I learned during Vietnam is that one can hate the politics but it is wrong to turn our back on the boots on the ground or their families.  You chose to take a small part of something I wrote to illustrate the beliefs and emotions of specific Marine parents and you twisted it to fit your political position.  For 30 years I looked away from the ugliness of both sides of Vietnam, but no more.

Your assumption that I am a Gung Ho military advocate with no exposure save my own service again proves that you would choose to twist anything to fit your own perspective.  I grew up less than a mile from the front gates of Offutt Air Force base.  Back then it was called Strategic Air Command Headquarters, today it is STRATCOM (Strategic Command Headquarters) and houses the underground command center where President Bush retreated during the confusion after the 9/11 attacks.  In fact my parents met there when it was the Martin Bomber Plant during WWII.  My father worked on the line that modified the Enola Gay to carry the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.  In 1951 my own community was fully integrated without a single riot when the never segregated United States Air Force was founded and chose the site for it’s headquarters.  I worked for the DOD prior to my enlistment and the federal government for state and local branches after my discharge.

Now on to the National Guard, a student of history should know that the Massachusetts National Guard is directly descended from the Massachusetts Bay Colony regiments formed over 370 years ago, thus there is a precedent for the legitimatcy of the current   National Guard structure.  My ancestors and their close relatives served in those regiments.  Indeed many were at Concord Bridge on a fateful April day in 1775.  I can only imagine the conversations around dinner tables in the years leading up to that decisive day.  A student of history should also know the National Guard made up 40 percent of the U.S. combat divisions in France and during WWII the National Guard made up 19 divisions including this Wisconsin National Guard unit from the city I have called home for more than 20 years now. 

The Janesville 99
“They started their military careers as the ninety-nine men of the Tank Company of the 32nd Division of the Wisconsin National Guard. Activated for duty prior to American entry into World War two, they became Company A of the 192nd Tank Battalion. In the fall of 1941, they were sent to the Phillippine Islands and were present when Japanese forces invaded on December 8, 1941. They took part in the valiant but unsuccessful American defense of the islands and surrendered to the Japanese in April 1942. Along with 75,000 other American and Filipine troops they were subjected to the atrocities of the seventy-five mile trek to prison camp known as the Bataan Death March.
One of the Janesville 99 died on the march, and thirteen more succumbed to the tortuous conditions of the prison camp. The survivors endured the thirst, starvation and disease at the camp as well as the brutality of their captors for over two years. In the fall of 1944, threatened with the return of the Americans led by General Douglas MacArthur, the Japanese herded the surviving prisoners into ships for transfer to other camps. Onboard the “hell-ships” food and water were inadequate and space was so tight the prisoners could neither sit nor lie down. The voyage north took weeks, with at least one of the unmarked prison transports carrying ten of the Janesville 99 torpedoed and sunk by the U.S. Navy.
Upon arrival in Japan, the prisoners went back into camp, where more of them died of malnutrition, disease and brutal treatment. Upon Japan’s surrender in August, 1945, the thirty-five survivors of the Janesville 99 were liberated and soon returned home. The cruelty of their treatment was rivaled only by the heroism they summoned forth to survive and resume life again.”

As for a standing Army,

“My reading of the constitution will differ from yours, but I do not see any place in it that allows for a standing army—apart from the navy—to be maintained (funding is allowed for two years at a time).”

The Department of the Navy consists of all elements of the United States Navy and the United States Marine Corps.

By the way unless you went to Marine Corps boot camp and earned the title United States Marine, you have never been “drilled by” a Marine Corps DI.

As for thinking you flippant, that isn’t what I think at all.  I think you are arrogant, judgemental and rigid in your opinion about me, my poem and indeed anyone who doesn’t hold the same views as you do.  You continue to hold up a fragment of the poem as an absolute statement “that you cannot become a man without joining the military”.  Thus you show complete disregard for the opinion of the Gold Star Mother whose voice is echoed by the poem because only your opinion is relevant and for the author who you have never met.

I have three children.  Only one of them serves in the military.  They are all three mature and responsible adults, but of course you would assume that I think the two civilians can’t possibly be “men” or “women”.

That is fair enough. For others who want to read the full poem, it is available on other sites:

My intent with the last reply was not to say I knew more of military life than you—only that I was not ignorant of it. I would be foolish to say that I knew more about living in base housing, or what it is like to get up multiple times at 2 AM because a DI is in your barrack.

The problem, as I see it, is that our military expeditions are played up with great fanfare. The Navy’s “Anchors Away” is quite rousing, as my mom has remarked. (And, yes, I know the Marines are organized under the Navy.) This is all well and good in some situations, but the “Islamic Extremists” we are engaged against are doing the same. And we ridicule them for it.

Why is it fair to argue that a soldier’s life is too dear for us to later question a war, when perhaps we should not have gotten into the war in the first place (and, as your poem pointed out, he wanted to be a part of the whole fighting force involved)? I’m still not convinced we should have entered WWI. What we are doing now is viewed as an extension of the Crusades by many in the middle east—we are an extension of Europe. The first World War was a war fueled by “diplomacy.”

Emotions are part of war. I understand that… but I am also dismayed at how quickly we let emotions overrun the right thing to do. This tendency crippled Athens during the Peloponnesian war. Our country’s framers created the Electoral College to buffer the president from the emotions of people during a fight. We have seen fit to remove that buffer.

Any attempt to argue when emotions are in play is considered to be in bad taste. Where should I draw the line?

Chris being a Marine is so much more than just being a warrior. I saved a copy of a National Geographic magazine published after hurricane Andrew hit Florida because on the cover is a photo of a young Marine holding a small child.  That Marine met the boy while helping in one of the shelters and they formed a deep bond.  Perhaps that little boy grew up idolizing Marines because of the love and compassion that warrior gave to him when all around him was chaos.  Another story by a Marine is of his childhood in foster care while his mother was getting through a difficult time.  Christmas came and with it Marines bearing gifts via the Toys for Tots program.  That boy never forgot that through the proud and disciplined exterior of those Marines he felt their love and compassion.  I would also ask you to check out how some former Marines and Soldiers are responding to humanitarian crisis’ world wide ...........

I also would like to share with you that time and time again in both Iraq and Afghanistan I have received requests from Marines and Soldiers for care packages.  The have repeatedly stated that they don’t need anything but that the children need school supplies, warm clothing and toys.  I remember the letters my brother wrote me from Vietnam shortly before he died there.  He reminded me to be thankful for a soft bed, clothing and a home because the children he saw around him had none of that. 

The measure of a man or woman can be affected by many things.  We are after all a culmination of all our experiences, both good and bad.  I have known many young men and women who changed dramatically after service in the military.  Most have grown and learned lessons that they bring back to civilian life, contributing greatly to their communities.


These things are all very good and I can agree with them whole-heartedly, given the situation(s) we are in. For my part, I am actively working toward doing some of these things as a civilian and I am glad that our wo/men in uniform are concerned for the welfare of the people around them.

Life does not count for much apart from our interactions with fellow human beings. Well said.

Chris one of the most heroic people I ever met was named Thelma Boston.  She had a grade school education was married with nine children when her husband was killed during a robbery at his gas station in Dallas.  Thelma’s children were grown and her house was big and empty so she applied as a foster parent.  When she was approved the social worker asked her what kind of children did she want to take in and Ms. Boston said you send me the ones no one else wants.  Eventually others in the community saw what she was doing and helped build her a home to care for her “kids”.  She adopted several and others lived out most of their lives with her.  They were children with severe seizures, severe autism, children who were blind and deaf and with other severe disabilities.  One child had been found beaten and left for dead in a ditch.  Ms. Thelma loved them all. More than 30 years after her husband was murdered his killer confessed to the crime saying God had led him to take responsibility for his actions. 

So Chris live your life with honor, courage and committment but even more important with compassion.

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