Major Macho causes itch in my eye

I wasn't here in the USA when newspapers began to be loaded with pictures of dead and injured soldiers back in the days of the Vietnam war. I wasn't here of course because I was over there. Over there, our news was cleaned up considerably. Over t...

I wasn't here in the USA when newspapers began to be loaded with pictures of dead and injured soldiers back in the days of the Vietnam war. I wasn't here of course because I was over there. Over there, our news was cleaned up considerably. Over there, one advantage of the lack of communication--a lack which was aggressively fostered by the military for its own purposes--was that none of us knew how hopelessly that war was going.

Now I'm here in the USA while the war in Iraq is going on. Now I'm here while it's hard to pick up a newspaper that doesn't have a picture of either an injured veteran that the community is gathering around or one for whom only the bells toll in remembrance. Now I'm here while the news shows how hopelessly this war is going.

Vietnam for us veterans always will feel like it just happened yesterday. Vietnam feels like a treasure chest full of not gold but of memories and feelings and difficult emotions. I almost daily gaze upon that chest full of memories much like Scrooge McDuck gazed upon his store room full of glittering gold coins. Both gold coin and memories--they hold, apparently, a quite similar fascination.

Unlike Mr. McDuck's treasure, mine are monetarily worthless, even though I wouldn't trade them for a million dollars. They're all mine. I earned them, the hard way. Like some people count gold coins, hold them in their hands, and savor them, so are these of mine held, and weighed, and considered and contemplated. For better or worse.

Suddenly, another war somewhat similar to Vietnam is upon us. Suddenly, young men and womens' pictures are appearing in the newspapers, and on television.


Suddenly, I've got a twitch in my right eye. You've probably had those, right? They appear out of nowhere, are probably stress related, even though you cannot directly connect the twitches to that stress.

Some of the stress is school starting back up, new students, new names, new policies. When the tech school gathered the teachers from all four campuses the other day, hundreds of us walked into the big meeting room to see one entire wall papered with new initiatives and directives and plans and tasks. "We've been busy all summer," said the president of the college. We saw that. We also saw whom most of this stuff is directed toward--teachers.

So far, so good. None of this is out of the normal. None of this contributes much to the twitch in my eye. Maybe a little, but not too much.

Then we were informed that Governor Pawlenty and the Minnesota National Guard had funded a plan to help reintegrate returning Iraqi war veterans back into society. The plan? Well, it turns out that we--MnSCU, or Minnesota State Schools, Colleges and Universities--are the plan.

A major from the army was introduced, stood up, grabbed the microphone, and swaggered in an acceptable military fashion to the front of us. I say acceptable in a military way because I'm sure that in order to become a major, you have to learn to walk like someone besides an algebra teacher.

Then he began to talk. He talked also in a swagger, if such a thing is possible. He turned a steeley-eye on us and told us stuff in a tone of voice which I'm certain he believed let us know just how tough he was. He told us lots of stuff. I remember big pieces of all this stuff. I don't remember all of it because one part of me--the Vietnam veteran part--was busy opening up that treasure chest full of memories and finding several that told me that now would be a good time to run like hell for cover.

The last close contact I had with a major like this one was just after someone tried to frag him, up on the DMZ where I spent the war. That major had a steeley-eye too, but steeley eye or not, he had me and another GI weld his entire sleeping area shut with steel aircraft runway, the better to shed not rain but grenades. Tough is one thing. Stupid is another.

As this Minnesota major talked, he did a Hollywood-good job of giving us his best interpretation of a natural born killer of men, and of an alternate touchey-feeley gentleman who seemed to feel that this might occasionally be the way to get his point across to us.


"What you're going to have over the next year is close to 4000 soldiers coming back, and a lot of them have seen a war that you can't imagine." Swagger. Swagger.

Really? None of us?

"They've run over children with their vehicles because that kid might have been an ambush setting up. They surrounded Fellujah, evacuated the women and children, and killed everyone that was left." He went on in this major macho vein with more stuff about loud noises, sitting by the door, macho-blah, macho-blah, macho-blah.

Then he shifted gears and went into the touchey feeley mode. "We didn't get it right with the Vietnam veterans, this time we are going to get it right."

Really? Don't you mean that this time, the "we" you're talking about is us, the teachers, not you, the military? Don't you mean that, once again, you the military are going to dump a bunch of survivor-guilt-ridden, messed up, post-traumatic-stress-disorders-waiting-to-happen off on society, completely unprepared not only for loud noises, but for life in general? Don't you mean that this time, when something goes wrong, you're going to be able to blame someone else?

I've got this twitch in my eye...

What To Read Next
Get Local