Meaningful Distinction:

Patrick S. Lasswell Look outward for something to accomplish, not inward for something to despise.
pslblog at gmail dot com
Thursday, May 08, 2003
To a wounded Marine:


I do not know who you are, but I have been told that wounded Marines are recovering in Spain and need to know that their country supports them. I want to thank you; I want you to know that your suffering has meaning, and that I appreciate the sacrifice you have made for your country and for me. I supported this war knowing that Marines like you would get hurt and would die. I am responsible for you being hurt. Even if you were banged up in a traffic accident, even if you were the one driving; I am responsible because I wanted a safer world and am willing to accept your sacrifice as the cost of that.

I am a civilian now, but I was in the Navy. My father was a Marine who won the Silver Star in Korea. My grandfather served in World War One. Two of my uncles served in the Cold War and Vietnam and retired from the military. My father retired from the Marines shortly after earning his Silver Star…and his third Purple Heart; he was twenty years old. My family has earned the right to take responsibility for getting you hurt, and I am still thankful for your risks and your sacrifice.

There are some things you should know about my Father. When the grenade landed in his foxhole, he scooped it up and pushed his buddy down, but it was winter in Korea and the grenade stuck to his glove. He should have lost his hand at the least, but the much of the explosive had probably been used by the Chinese Communists to cook with. After walking two miles back from the line through the snow, the bloody mess that was his hand had frozen. When the first doctor to see him, a WWII veteran, looked at his hand, he was sure it had to be amputated. Fortunately, another doctor, not two weeks in country, knew the latest techniques and saved my father's hand.

Throughout his life, my father has surfed the crest of the latest medical technology. To give you an example, two years ago he caught pneumonia and should have died. According to his wishes, my family ordered the artificial life support pulled with the understanding that he could either breathe on his own or die naturally. The thing was that four months before he had started an experimental counter pulsation therapy that had been developed for athletes and his cardio vascular system had been substantially improved. Last summer my father and I went salmon fishing in Alaska because new medical technology allowed him to have a decent quality of life and also gave him life. You may be thinking that your wound has ended your life; if so, I hope you will rethink that in light of my evidence to the contrary. I believe that things will get better.

There is another lesson my father's experience can tell you. My father came back from Korea a Sergeant with a silver star and a seriously damaged hand. In those days the only real pain meds they had for serious pain was morphine. My father got hooked. His buddies, including some old China Marines who knew about this sort of thing, got him off the dope by getting him to drink a lot of beer and smoke a lot of cigarettes. One night, coming back to Camp Pendleton after drinking to the point where he was not feeling any pain, the Sergeant of the Guard decided to give my father a load of chicken manure. At that point in his career, my father did not feel in any way subordinate to some rear-echelon military functionary who had never heard a shot fired in anger and offered to settle matters behind the guard shack without the interference of stripes. My father won the fight with one hand and lost his stripes. When you get home, if you get drunk and punch out your superiors, I am not responsible. Keep it together so that you can train the next Marines. The REMFs who have never heard a shot fired in anger should not be the only ones giving the lessons.

One more thing about my father, you are almost undoubtedly better trained than he was, you were much better equipped than he was, and your war was not as screwed up as his was. (Okay, on three separate occasions my father got to meet Chesty Puller, so I just can not say that your leadership was better than his was.) However, in the absence of divine intervention, we will likely be cleaning up the Middle-East for the rest of our lives. After that, our children will be cleaning up Africa. We will be asking the Marines who follow you to be cleaning up messes for the foreseeable future. But the Marines are getting better and the world is getting better because of their efforts. I am responsible for asking you to go in harm's way because I am an American voter who demands a better world. I thank you for the sacrifices you have made and I thank you for taking the risks necessary to make the world a better place.

Patrick S Lasswell
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