Kyle Jason grew up next door to my wife and I. When our son Daniel went to L.A. to film school, Kyle stepped up to fill in the gaps. He did chores and ran errands for us; and in the process, I got to know him pretty well.
Many evenings in good weather, we sat on the hood of my old Lincoln Town Car-me with my cigars and Kyle with his cigarettes. I tried to dissuade him from smoking, but I wasn't setting a good example.
My own smoking had started in Korea where sugar was in short supply. I wrote my uncle and told him this and he sent me a box of Swisher Sweets-cigars soaked in rum-very sweet tasting. I told this story to Kyle and threw in H.L. Mencken's* famous phrase, "A woman is only a woman, but a cigar is a smoke."
We talked about many things and I was amazed to find out how well read Kyle was-especially in the area of things military. He had read American Caesar, the biography of Gen. MacArthur; he had read The Napoleonic Wars, and he had read Julius Caesar by Robert Garland. In addition to this, he had read books about military strategy and tactics.
You see, what Kyle lived for was a chance to escape from a dead-end existence by joining the Army. I could relate to this because I joined the Army at age sixteen with a falsified birth certificate.
I didn't do it out of poverty or intellectual deficits; I did it because I was at war with my stepfather. In later life we became good friends; but as a teenager, he made my life hell.
Kyle was from a single-parent home and had similar problems of alienation; and so he began a military training program at age fifteen and, over time, achieved a remarkable degree of fitness.
"I do this because I intend to volunteer for the Rangers when I enlist," he said; and that day finally came three weeks ago.
We took pictures on the day that he left; my favorite is one with him standing beside me with his arm over my shoulder, he wore a brilliant smile.
Now he's at Fort Sill, Oklahoma-probably worried a little bit about tornadoes, and quite a lot about the next day's training.
On Memorial Day, he will stand in ranks as the Post Commander delivers the standard Memorial Day speech, which goes like this, "This time next year soldiers, many of you will be gone; that is why we observe this day with solemnity."
Wait a minute! Many will be gone, does that mean killed. Most of us have no thoughts of war or dying, we are a nation removed from all that. We are a Warrior Nation that does not make the sacrifices that warriors make.
During World War II, approximately one in ten Americans was in the Armed Services; nowadays, less than one in every two hundred Americans is in the Military. We live our lives untouched by Military Service.
I contrast our national mood with that of Israel, the country that our president readily gives advice, "Return to the ‘67 borders etc. etc." This is a place where the ‘67 borders are no farther from Tel Aviv than Hyannis is from Sandwich. This is a place where every able-bodied man serves in the military until age fifty-seven,* and they do it because the families that they must protect are not across the sea from their enemies, but right down the road.
Speaking of our president, I believe he will be back home laying a wreath at Arlington on Memorial Day. Maybe this will help him connect with those men and women who, unlike him, serve in the military. It may also help him forget the faux pas he made in London when he managed to talk through the British National Anthem. The Queen was astonished and British newspapers called him a "hick" and a "buffoon."
But before you come to the conclusion that I'm a little gung ho, let me state my true opinion about war, "It's mostly unnecessary."
Canadians did not have a Revolutionary War and they seem to be doing fine.
The carnage of the Civil War and the deaths of over one-half million men did not come about because of a fight over states rights or slavery; it was rather at the emotional level a continuation of the centuries-old struggle between the Anglo-Saxons of the North and the Scotch Irish of the South.
My wife, who is from West Virginia, disagrees, "Not all the South was Scotch-Irish," she says. That's true, but the culture and mood of the South was then, and is still, Scotch-Irish-country music and NASCAR races prove it.
I have ancestors who died on both sides in that war and I still wonder if it was necessary. Slavery, among other things, would have come to an end because of economics and there would not have been the legacy of hatred that still exists to this day.
Now we come to the Indian Wars. Since my father's mother was Lakota,* I have ancestors that helped wipe out George Custer.
A little known historical fact is that Custer, after making his first contact with the Lakota and Cheyenne, had a respite of five hours before the fatal battle began. He could have, and should have, retreated.
Now, I've somehow left out the Mexican-American War. I propose that before Israel gives back everything gained in the War of '67, we give back Texas to Mexico. I know it would be a problem because we built settlements there-namely Houston, Dallas and Austin among others; but the bottom line is still that We took huge territories from Mexico.
The Spanish-American War was another war of aggression-our aggression. Frederic Remington, an artist for Hearst Newspapers, sent William Randolph Hearst a telegram from Havana, saying: "Everything is quiet. There is no trouble here. There will be no war. I wish to return." Hearst supposedly replied: "Please remain. You furnish the pictures, and I'll furnish the war."
Subsequently, the battleship, Maine, got sunk in Havana Harbor; no one is sure who sunk it; but it got sunk, and Cuba and its Spanish Government got thunked. Oh, by the way, this was used as a pretext to take the Philippine Islands away from Spain. The General behind all of this was Arthur MacArthur, the father of Gen. Douglas MacArthur.
World War I was largely about an argument among the heirs of Queen Victoria-namely-King George of England, Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany and Czar Nicholas of Russia-cousins, one and all.
It wasn't until World War II that we had a real villain worth fighting and dying over. The Austrian one-ball wonder, Schicklgruber.*
As for Korea, when I see pictures of Seoul on the news, I am very gratified; the Seoul that I knew was flattened as if it were struck by a squadron of tornadoes.
All I know about Vietnam is that my lead guitarist was killed there; he was a little guy who only weighed one hundred and twenty pounds.
And now we come to George Bush's Wars. Kyle will probably end up in Afghanistan; he wants to be a Ranger and that's where Rangers go. I remember the fear and loneliness I felt in the mountains of Korea and I'm sure he'll feel the same.
When you think about it, it's eighteen and Nineteen year olds that fight our wars- mostly boys and some girls from families torn by divorce and poverty.
These aren't Ivy League kids................ to whom I give the following advice, "Before you get all worked up about things, go to the recruiting station and join up...............or shut up!!!!!!!
The kids in Afghanistan are very often those without recourse, sustained only by their dreams. In the Afghan Mountains, they long for a few hours of fitful sleep and a breakfast out of cans. May God bless them all each and every one.
*H. L. Mencken was a famous columnist and commentator in the first half of the Twentieth Century.
*All able-bodied men are in the Military in Israel except for the Haredim (the ultra-Orthodox). Gen. Yitzhak Rabin said, "The prayers of the Haredim protect Israel."
*The Lakota were called Sioux by the French.
*Adolph Hitler, who had one testicle missing, changed his name from Schicklgruber.
Be sure to watch David Rojay on The Dave Rojay Show each Saturday night at 9:30 on Channel 17. Read A RED STATE HERO and THE LONG BRIDGE RUNNER by David Rojay on capecodtoday.com and finally check out David Rojay on YOUTUBE. For more information, Google "David Rojay".