Wednesday, August 27, 2008

John McCain and Real War Heroes

Do I respect John McCain's service?

I respect the fact that he served, and I respect any POW because his or her service was by definition a term in hell necessitated by our country's decision to go to war. It was a term endured on our behalf, unwillingly but nonetheless endured.

However, I have far, far greater respect for my late Air Force pilot uncle, a colonel who was one of the two pilots selected during the Korean War to fly into Chosin Reservoir and bring out the frozen bodies of 300 American Marines. I never knew about that until three years after his death.

I have far, far greater respect for my late Army Paratrooper father who lost his eye in North Africa, and whose unit, the famous 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion, was the first and much decorated combat paratrooper force of the US Army in WWII. He didn't talk about his war experience. He screamed in nightmares regularly, but he didn't discuss The War.

I never, ever even once heard my dad or my uncle mention their service, much less brag about it, or milk it from dawn to dark to advance their personal ambitions, or use their wounds of war to justify some later behavior.

For them, war wasn't something to be bragged about. War's suffering wasn't something to be cheapened by throw-away lines on late-night talk shows.

My father and my uncle didn't demean their military service by selling it for high office. It wasn't something they invested in for a later return. It was simply answering duty's call. It just wasn't for sale.

War wasn't something a self-respecting man thought appropriate ever to discuss except in private, sequestered alone somewhere with other wounded warriors, far out of our hearing. For my dad and my uncle, serving in wartime was a thing made sacred by agony and blood; it was a far, far too noble thing for common consumption.

This is the difference between heroes and honorable men, and men like John McCain.