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February 01, 2007

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SCI 2007: A Sad Side Note on Military Service

This isn't about guns, but I felt I had to pass it along.

Daves_uniform_3Just outside the main entrance of the Safari Club International Convention halls, the U.S. Army had a booth, and loitering there, a few minutes before the hall opened, I fell into a conversation with the first lieutenant working the booth. He was a big, strapping kid with a Combat Infantry Badge, and he asked if I’d like to enlist. I said I had some doubts about passing the PT test, and that I’d already done my time in the 60s.

Well, said the lieutenant, why not send in the details of your service and you’ll get a certificate thanking you for what you did from the Secretary of the Army?

I would have liked to tell the lieutenant the following:

  • I enlisted because if I hadn’t, they would have drafted me. There was as much patriotism in what I did as there is in paying your taxes. And I suspect this was the story for millions of other young men in that time.

  • I was never shot at.

  • The war during which I served got 58,000 Americans killed for no good purpose. And we have learned nothing from it.

  • When I was discharged, I received a letter of commendation from my company commander. He knew what kind of soldier I was. The current Secretary of the Army does not.
  • But there was no time to explain this because the show was opening and I had to go do my job, so I simply said I’d think about it and gave him my hand to shake.

    The hand he extended to me had no thumb.


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    drill sergeant eh? maybe that's where some of your cynicism stems from. not complaining, i enjoy sarcasm other than my own. i salute you, DP.

    Ralph the Rifleman

    DP...My enlistment was similar to yours, and thankfully I was never shot at either. As I have stated on this blog before, however; I am a patriotic SOB and shake every hand of a person in uniform-or-has served in the military.I think most of the surprized looks came from WWII vets when I thanked them for serving and sacrifice. Being asked if you wanted to enlist must have purged your ego,Dave,I would have shaked his hand for that compliment alone!


    You know I agree with you, I left the Coast Guard in 2002, and I received my Honorable Discharge certificate last summer, The ink was not even dry when they put it in the nice plastic sleeve. It looks like crap with the smear marks!!

    I called them back in July and they said they would send me a new one, must be in the mail!

    That was the thanks I got leaving the service as a Disabled Vet!


    I was shot-at and did shoot-back-at in and around Laos in the early '60's.The patriotism I remember, from 45 years past, had much more to do with protecting my team and my own red ass than providing data for glass-encased historical documents and speeches by unemployed prime ministers......you're right,we've learned nothing.

    Dave Petzal

    To everyone: This is what's known as a pre-emptive strike. You former soldiers will notice that one breast pocket is unbuttoned, that there is a rope above one of the tags, and that the leather hat band is brown instead of black.

    My excuses are: This photo was taken by civilians, who can't be trusted. And the original hatband rotted away, and I could never find a black one to replace it.


    Thanks Mr. Petzal for your service and the service and sacrifice of all the men and women of the armed forces. While I may not have always agreed with the reasons behind the wars, I always wished for the warriors to make it home safely. I continue to do so.

    jim bishop

    Extraordinary piece of writing here, and of observation. Thank you.


    Mr. Petzal,
    I'm your age and served also.
    I'd disagree with you on the lives of 58,000 men. They served a just cause and had the nation held on, Southeast Asia today would have a counterbalance for the Red Chinese.
    Think the Chinese are the friends of free peoples, think again. They (the gov't) will never allow true freedom in that country and hunt down Christians as we do deer.
    Lets all turn tail and run again from Iraq, buy all those Chinese goods at Wal-Mart and soon we'll have to fight, just to save our ass, you too Jane Fonda!
    Where you going to get your oil, Russia is working as you read this to control the oil the world needs. Their Gov't will never allow true Democracy either- I know first hand of what I speak.


    I am a marine currently in Iraq and as far as this country not learning anything I think that's bs and true at the same time. America is in deep shit. Until we as americans can respect eachother for what we are and politicians can see past there own political careers/agendas we, the troops will have to fight wars with our hands tied. Everyone needs to wise up and think more about our nation as a whole and not so much for themselves. Heaven forbid we can't all have our nice SUV's, low gas prices, Monday night football and Budweiser. This country will never be what it was until the people in it are all willing to make some sacrifices. We all know what the problems are, nobody has the fortitude to do anything about it.


    David, I support our men and women fighting over there. I have friends that have served in this current "war", so far(thank God) all have returned. You are right on target.

    We need to learn that while we are engaged with an enemy, winning is the objective.

    Washington needs a wake up call. Political agendas are killing our men and women. Untie the hands of our military and let them do what we started, and do it with authority, or lets get them the hell out of there.


    An interesting phrase - " with our hands tied"

    Granted, the rules of engagement might not permit you to call in airstrikes in an urban area, or shoot back when you can't see what you are shooting at. The reason for that is because wars are supposed to serve a political objective, and indiscriminate use of firepower, and attendant non combatant casualties can hurt that objective. It might not make sense at the time to a soldier on the ground who is taking fire, but there it is.

    How many dead bodies of civilians and how much bomb tonnage equals "untieing the hands of the military?"

    The US dropped several multiples of the entire tonnage of bombs dropped in WWII on Indochina, total casualties in the 2 to 3 million dead people range, and untold numbers maimed.

    And as for Iraq, well, the count is high and still rising. Of course, if you regard all or most of the people of Iraq as enemies,who are fair game for the most devastating firepower, than what are we doing there anyhow? Of course, after the hell which we have unleashed in that country, they probably are our enemies now. The Vietnamese are not.

    If that's how many we can kill with "our hands tied", I would really hate to see what your visions of untied hands looks like.


    It's pretty nice that we can sit here and discuss this with out fear of being hunted down by our own Gov't and getting ourselves and family kidnapped and killed.

    You have to admit, it is a helluva Country and I've been to one or two in my short time on this planet.

    So Dave what happened to a gun a week? Which one is next?




    Our country often seems obsessed with “good” wars versus “bad” wars. We also seem to be obsessed with painting those who served in the military during these wars as having the same good or bad qualities that we’ve so conveniently assigned to them.

    WWII is held up as a poster child of virtuous motives or clarity of noble purpose when it was anything but that at the time. Had television and embedded reporting not been around, we’d likely find that Vietnam and Iraq were no less virtuous or noble.

    Dave; you did your service – probably more than most. Your comments almost suggest an apology for not doing more or losing your thumb. While the sentiment of your comments are understandable, I hope you understand some might see them as diminishing the sacrifice that many servicemen willing made then and make now. I believe those 58,000 men that died in Vietnam did so for no less a purpose than the 500,000 that died in WWII or the 600,000 that died in the Civil War. They served their country. My best friend was killed in An Loc and I never even got my feet wet. I still punish myself about this. But try question the sense of this or seek some equal measure of justice for the sacrifice of others is ultimately selfish. I believe what’s appropriate is to honor those who died and thank those who didn’t. On that note, thank you for your service even if you feel like you don't deserve it.


    From an old disabled officer-type:

    So the USA still had a maimed 1Lt on active? 20-25 years ago he would have been RIF. The present US Military is showing some heart to its wounded officers, or it’s short junior field officers.

    Never diminish, demean, or disregard any person’s military duty. A cushy desk job morphing into totting a rifle with two grenades is always a whisker away. It’s just plain luck what a person does and what situations you're tossed into.....

    e.g. There’s a guy in this town that was a Navy postal clerk. He and another guy was handed a spool of telephone wire and made two first wave landings…one on Tarawa, the other on Saipan.

    See you on Campus!

    Boar Slayer

    I think vietnam was the worst thing this country did by going and then pulling out. I wish the politicians would learn that you cant Half-a** any war. I think had we stayed we would have won and in my opinion ends would have justified the means.

    I pray that we will stay the course in Iraq. Leaving now would give Islamo-fascist every where a moral boost. They would consider it a second victory against the Great Satan and that clearly God must be on their side resulted in even more disaterous terrorist attacks.

    (proposed solution: tell isreal they can take out every Palestinian in return for taking over in Iraq.)


    Chip, as long as we continue to fight this war the way we have been it will never end. Things have changed in the last 60 years since my grandfather flew fire bomb missions over Europe. America is the only super power in the world. The undisputed heavy weight champion. The problem is everyone knows it. We don't speak softly and carry a big stick." Our enemy in Iraq comes from all over the world, and these people all know what it takes to fight us. Our bombs, helicopters, jets and Mk. 19's don't mean jack when you can't go somewhere and get down to business. Like my Senior drill instructor told me a few years back. There is no such thing as a fair fight. When you fight, you fight to win. If you have to pull hair, gouge eyes or go below the belt, it doesn't matter, and as long we continue to fight this way, your sons and daughters will continue to come home in body bags. With the way the war is fought a body bag means you atleast stayed in one piece. Consider yourself lucky. For those of you trying to put a face of mercy or compassion on war thats is where you are going wrong. I am a christian, and few things in my religion are more profound than "thou shall not kill." Period. At the same time, a man has a god given right to defend himself, his family and home. The simple fact of the matter is war is hell on earth, and the just the thought of coming home and seeing family is heaven. So as you said, "with our hands behind or back" is an interesting phase. Because this heavy weight can't swing and honestly I don't give a damn about oil, shiites, sunis, or any of this crap. I wanna win. I wanna get home.

    Michael Moriarty

    What strikes me is that the Lt. is missing his thumb, but still believes enough in what the Army is doing to be actively recruiting people. I'm one retired NCO who is thankful we have young men and women like him.

    Shooter Sam

    Outdoor Life reader surfing the net; Hi All, and Amen to that Michael M, the character and fortitude of the fighting man has always been challenged. It's not about the Army, Navy, or any other branch of service.It's about honor, pride, and bravery from within one's self.
    No guts...no glory, or do some of you prefer,"Better red then dead"?

    J.R. Hart


    I don't agree with your obvious opinion of the current war, but I will thank you for your service in Vietnam.

    Dave, you shook the Lt's hand ... did you thank him for his service?



    You have placed the crosshairs precisely on this subject.

    The 1st LT's name is Wesley Knight
    A Westpoint graduate Wounded by a IED with facal scaring and a loss of his right thunb. Pulple Hart ,Bronze Star A real American Hero. You should have thanked him for his servace to our Country I did.

    The 1st LT's name is Wesley Knight
    A Westpoint graduate Wounded by a IED with facal scaring and a loss of his right thunb. Pulple Hart ,Bronze Star A real American Hero. You should have thanked him for his servace to our Country I did.

    The 1st LT's name is Wesley Knight
    A Westpoint graduate Wounded by a IED with facal scaring and a loss of his right thunb. Pulple Hart ,Bronze Star A real American Hero. You should have thanked him for his servace to our Country I did.


    Hey Dave: bet you can't fit in that uniform and we all know your head's too big for the hat.

    Bryce Clevenger

    As much as I enjoy disagreeing w/ you I believe you have just told the story of many, many young men a few decades ago.I applaud your candor and think in similar terms everyday as I watch the news from Iran/Iraq, remembering when the term "escalation" was coined.

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