Monday, 11/11/13, Public Square



by | November 11, 2013 · 6:00 am

15 responses to “Monday, 11/11/13, Public Square

  1. I want to explain the letter below. I found it on my friend’s Facebook. My friend took it from his friend’s Facebook. It was written by the father of his friend, written more than 10 years ago to the Senators and U.S. Representatives who represented him and his state in Congress: Idaho Senators Larry Craig and Mike Crapo and. Congressmen Mike Simpson and CL “Butch” Otter.


    My name is Gene Drabinski. 38 years ago our country sent its soldiers to the Republic of Vietnam for the expressed purpose of controlling Communist aggression and protecting the young Democracy of South Vietnam.

    I was 20 years old and was so patriotic that my perspiration was red, white and blue. In the community where I grew up, most of the adult men – and all who would aspire to public office – were veterans. My father was stationed on the US Arizona prior to his discharge in the summer of 1941. He re-enlisted after war broke out and was at war when I was born.

    It seemed only natural that I, a very young and naïve but fiercely patriotic man, would volunteer for the military, and I did. I enlisted in the Army in 1965, was the outstanding graduate of my basic training class, volunteered for both the Infantry and for Airborne training and found myself in Vietnam, as an infantryman, by early 1966. By mid-tour I was sent back to the States to attend Officer Candidate School, where I was, again, an Outstanding Graduate and soon found myself back in Vietnam as an Infantry Platoon Leader.

    My son was born during that tour, when I was at war, making it two generations.

    Coming of age at that very time were four other men: Larry Craig, Mike Crapo, Mike Simpson and Butch Otter. They saw their duty somewhat differently than I saw mine, and they responded to their country’s needs with different choices and different actions.

    I mention this, not to question their patriotism, not to judge their decisions and not to place my actions as superior to theirs. I mention this only to highlight that during the 1960s I learned some things they simply did not learn. I learned what war really is. And I want to share a bit of that today, so their thinking and the decisions they make about the war we are moving toward with Iraq will be informed by what I now know.

    War is full of physical deprivation. The soldier or marine at war will be more physically miserable than you can imagine – worse than any hunting trip gone bad or any training they may have done for war. Look at any pictures of soldiers at war and you will see how miserable they are. So, the first lesson of war is that you can be thirstier, hungrier and more bone tired than you could ever imagine.

    War is full of the violation of values the individual holds dear. This may be news to some of you, but there can be no war without war crimes. In war, all the young man has learned about protecting women and children and the aged and infirm, will be violated. Every combat soldier knows this – he has heard about instances, he has witnessed instances or he has participated in incidences of violence against weak and vulnerable people. The assumption that, like in the movies, a combat soldier is capable of turning his anger on and off at the appropriate time, is sorely flawed. The violation of core, learned values is as much a part of war as the cold, the mud, the sand and the heat.

    In war, the soldier will suffer great loss. Sooner of later, if he is not gravely wounded or killed himself, the combat soldier will hold in his arms a man he loves in a place where he has never loved another. And he will hold that friend in his arms as his hopes; dreams, ambitions and life flow out of him with his blood. The loss of the life of someone the soldier cares deeply about is a predictable part of war.

    So the soldier suffers physical deprivation, the violation of values and ideals and the loss of close and intimate friends. The feelings that grow in the soul of a soldier, from these experiences combine agony and rage. The result is a stone – a stone of grief – large for some and smaller for others, but a stone of grief that each and every combat soldier carries in the center of his being for the rest of his life.

    Butch Otter, Mike Simpson, Mike Crapo and Larry Craig, I want you to understand what that grief feels like, but for a person like me, mere words are incapable of describing that pain.

    But I have an idea of how you might grow in understanding the pain of war in the soul of the warrior. Not far from where you each work is the Vietnam Memorial. I suggest you sit beside it early some morning, before first light, or late at night when it is dark. The combat veteran will not be at the Wall with his family or his friends – he will come alone. He will be the man who walks slowly down the ramp, with his eyes on the ground. If you could see his face you would note that the tears have already begun. When he reaches the center of the Wall, he will stop and his shoulders will shake as sobbing takes over his body. He may fall on his knees in front of the names of his fallen brothers and strike the sidewalk with his fists.

    If – Larry Craig, Butch Otter, Mike Simpson and Mike Crapo – that old soldier could see you there and if he could know your position of leadership and the war you are preparing to unleash, a war plan that now divides our country and our world, he would turn toward you with a very simple message:

    Don’t do it!
    Please don’t do it!
    Oh, God, don’t let this happen again!

    In Vietnam, armed combat was full of heroism. By heroism, I mean when a person overrides his instincts for personal safety and acts, instead, to protect a comrade or to defeat his adversary. Heroism came in 2 sizes, small heroism and big heroism. Small heroism included looking over the front of your weapon and pulling the trigger, heroic because lifting your head up when being shot at is contrary to every instinct telling you to keep your head down; pulling the trigger because, somewhere in his consciousness the soldier knows that his adversary is just like him – with a family, with friends with people who love him and people he loves. Big heroism included putting yourself in a much more dangerous position, moving over the ground under fire, again, to protect a comrade or to win a fight.

    Larry Craig, Butch Otter, Mike Simpson and Mike Crapo – you decided, long ago, when you were boys, not to put yourself in a position that called for this kind of heroism. Again, I am not critical of your personal decisions. But I am asking for some personal heroism now.

    All of your political instincts call for you to be supportive of this war the Bush administration seems determined to initiate. He is your president, your party leader and he manages the distribution of power and influence in Congress. Moreover, this war is supported by many of the people and groups you look to for political support. Acting contrary to their preferences could put your position, your reputation and your career at risk.

    But it is heroism I am asking for: Little heroism, such as speaking in small meetings and caucuses for peaceful solutions to this conflict; Sharing your wishes for restraint with others in your party, your staff and your state. Big heroism, though less likely, would be wonderful: speaking against the war on the floor of congress or in a letter to the President.

    Larry Craig, Mike Crapo, Mike Simpson and Butch Otter, our country asks soldiers for heroism with regularity – in my lifetime and before. We have consistently delivered in that request. Today I am asking you to pay the combat veteran back with some heroism of your own…Please, put down the drums of war and join us in working for peace.

  2. I find it so ironic when Republicans complain that government should not be involved in health care. Because there has been no invasion of American health care like the Republicans continual attack on women’s reproductive rights. Conservative politicians have demonized and publicly shamed women who would dare to get an abortion (which is a LEGAL medical procedure in this country) and continue to push for legislation that infringes on their health care rights. Nothing has ever come between a patient and her doctor like Republican politicians have.

    It is time that Republican politicians stop trying to impose their warped sense of morality onto American women. And it is beyond time that they stop playing doctor.

  3. Andy Borowitz:

    It’s nice that we give veterans a day, but it would be even nicer if we gave them a job.

    • I don’t know if any of you get Pivot channel on your tv’s, but I do on my Direct TV. It used to be the Documentary Channel and now it’s called Pivot. Anyway, Meghan McCain, yes, daughter of Grumpy McCain, hosts a show there called Raising McCain. As much as I despise all things Republican, I really like her and I really like her show. She hosts shows about issues facing her generation and they are really great topics.

      This week, she had her brother Jimmy, a veteran of the Iraq/Afghanistan wars and she looked at the issues facing the veterans of those wars, including PTSD, suicide and unemployment. It was a really great half hour learning about these veterans, both men and women, and how their struggles are the same as for any vet, and yet different for this generation and vets of these particular wars. Joblessness is one of the biggest problems they face.

      If you can get this channel, or watch it on online or something, I highly suggest you do it. She’s a great journalist and put the special issues of these special veterans in a way that I could relate and understand.

      Go Meghan! Thanks for letting us see the veterans of your generation and to help us understand how we can help them.

      • I did not realize the Pivot Channel as the old Documentary Channel.

        Geez…..I get Direct TV also……

        I used to watch Current TV – but since Al Gore sold it to Al Jeeza (sp?) – I have not watched it.

        Has anyone watched it?

        I like Meghan McCain….she is so much smarter than her father could ever hope to be…

  4. Rapid advances in technology, corporations taking advantage of favorable tax codes and moving operations overseas and government budget cuts at all levels came together to kill the U.S. job market. A study recently released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed the dramatic drop in the percentage of employed civilians in America.

    Naturally, the party of God, guns and gynecology organized with fervor to meet the unemployment challenges facing their constituents. They gathered their forces and quickly went to work, putting together not one or two, but forty two bills designed to address the one critical problem facing Americans: Obamacare. Of course the GOP did also offer legislative packages they referred to as “GOP Jobs Bills,” but careful analysis of these programs revealed that they all were based on three common Republican ideals.

    1. Eliminate regulations governing corporations.
    2. Kill government programs like the Environmental Protection Agency.
    3. (Wait for it…) Cut taxes! (especially the top marginal rates and capital gains tax).

    Simply put, Republicans’ suggestions to help the middle class find jobs were carefully disguised efforts to strengthen corporate America. They’re intent on doubling down on their beloved trickle-down policies. The same policies that the GOP has championed for 30 years, and the same policies that have given us a society where all the wealth has been funneled directly into the hands of a few robber barons.

  5. I always think about my father on Veterans Day. How he was an untraveled, barely schooled and unworldly farm boy, drafted and yanked out of his family and community, and thrown into a world he could not imagine. He postponed his life, his marriage and his farming career for 6 years to go to Europe and North Africa. He was thrown into the military with other men from such diverse backgrounds he could never have imagined and, as a medic, saw things too terrible to talk about.

    I have one of the letters he wrote home to the neighbors who had sent him a Christmas gift. He served with their son and one other guy from home all six years. Amazing. His letter is so simple and touching, but what is more touching is that the neighbors saved it, carefully preserved, all these years through three generations and gave it to me a couple of years ago. I still can’t believe they kept it and cherished it as just a simple letter from the neighbor boy serving with their son.

    Dad came home in August of 1945 then married my mother in October and they lived here on this farm until 1971 when they built their house in town. He died in 1986, and not a day goes by I don’t think of him, and often think of how he survived that war experience so far from home.

    We have a family story about how they all went to the train station to see him off to training when he was drafted. My cousin, his nephew, was six, and all the way home to their farm, he was lying on the back seat crying “I want my Uncle August! I want my Uncle August!” Dad was always the pet of the family, neither the oldest or the youngest, but certainly the most cherished since he was the one who left for six years, not knowing if he would ever return.

    Thankfully he came home all in one piece and could resume his life. So much luckier than so many others. But, he was changed forever and, while still just like his family, he also was different and loved to travel, always took a vacation every year, and enjoyed foods and experiences the rest of the family eschewed. Once he was made worldly, he could not be unmade and could not unsee the things he had seen.

    I love you, Dad and miss you. I’ll always salute you on Veterans Day.

  6. Another story about my father…

    Dad never complained about food. No matter what was put in front of him, he just ate it, said thank you, and was never picky about anything. Both of his brothers are the pickiest eaters you can imagine. But not my dad. He liked to try different things, and even if something was strange or maybe he wasn’t crazy about it, he always ate it or at least tried it. He loved when I cooked Chinese and the first time he ate Mexican food, he looked at the soft tortilla wrapping the burrito and asked, “do you eat this paper thing?” My friends and I howled and he looked kind of sheepish, but he ate it and never complained.

    I always thought he never complained about food because they grew up pretty poor with limited food choices and often faced scarcity. But, later, I heard him tell about serving in North Africa and how the local “A-rabs” as he called them, were starving during the war. They would send their children to the military camps to beg for food. Soldiers would share their chocolate bars in the C-rations if that’s what they were eating. They would share any chewing gum if they had it because the kids loved it.

    And… he told of the kids sent by their parents to the garbage cans in back of the chow tent. The kids had buckets and cans and would dip the “slop” out of the garbage, flies and all, to take back home and feed their families. Dad always wondered why the soldiers were not allowed to scrape their leftovers or unwanted food directly into the kids’ buckets. Instead, the military made them scrape their trays into the garbage and then the kids took it out of there.

    My dad told that story for forty years, and every time he told it, I could tell it disturbed him just as much then as it did when it happened. All he wanted to do was feed those starving kids and their families. I guess that’s what a true farmer does. Feed people. He was always so sad when he told that story, and he must have told it a hundred times.

    No wonder he never complained about food or never turned down whatever was offered. Today, I’m much older and hopefully wiser, and I wonder if he ever, EVER, sat down to a meal or a snack without seeing those starving children and thinking of them and their families. Probably not, which is why he probably never complained about what he was served.

    Did I mention I loved my Daddy? Such a great guy. No wonder his nephew cried and wanted his Uncle August!

    • All this love, compassion and dignity in a man who was also movie-star handsome (I’ve seen the picture!). Obviously he touched many lives or there wouldn’t be stories involving sad nephews and neighbors who cherished letters. Bet those two don’t scratch the surface! There’s one TED talk. Along with water issues, procurement, food / recipes / menus / cooking tips to name just a few more! YOU may not know what you’d talk about but everyone who knows you would have a long list of possibilities!

      • Thanks for your kind words, Fnord. I guess I’m windy enough but the question is am I worthy enough of TED! heheh

      • Prairie Pond – I loved reading about your father.

        I have a sneaking suspicion my Grandpa and your father would have become fast and longtime friends.

        Do you think it was that generation of men that were different – or was it the difficult times these men faced that made them into the men they became?

        My Grandpa never served in the military during the war – but he did work in the shipyards.

        I remember the stories of how my Grandpa, Grandma and 3 of their kids shared a house with my Grandma’s sister and her husband and their 2 kids. Both men were working in the shipyards and times were rough.

        My Mom was the oldest in her family and she talked about how they would cook supper for everybody – and the men would come home from work – tired and about ready to drop – but both men took the time to eat with their families and played with the kids before they fell into their beds just to wake up the next morning to do it all over again.

        Can you imagine if that daily routine was required of today’s Americans?

        How would they ever manage without their blinged out cell phones, I-Pads, MP3 players in the ears 24/7 and drinking their Starbucks Lattes?

        Seriously….I work with young people in their 30’s and they bitch if their cell phone is not the latest model or if the boss tells them to get the ear plug out of their ear long enough for him to ask them to do their jobs.

        For all the advances in technology – are we really better off as a society?

        I wonder……..

        My Grandpa died in March 1971 – and I remember he asked the entire family to go camping as a one big family. We did that the summer before he died and I’m glad we got to do that for him.

        In looking back….I suspect Grandpa knew his days were numbered. He was the one that was out pruning his lilac bushes…and then just fell over from a heart attack.

        I’ve often wondered if the doctor had told him some bad news during that last year. Because Grandpa also bought each of his kids’ families a special Christmas gift from him – it was a huge box of chocolates.

        Grandma did not know anything about those gifts……..he wanted it to be a surprise.

        Then….in a short 1 1/2 months….we lost Grandpa.

        Prairie Pond – we should both be grateful and proud we had such fine men to look up to ….and to try to in their footsteps.

        BTW – my Grandpa was a farm boy…..and one of his favorite foods was was the jar of pigs feet from K-Mart.

        I still remember riding in the back of Grandpa’s green Rambler going through K-Mart’s parking lot like a bat from hell……(my Grandpa had a heavy foot – LOL).

        And the first thing he went for was the aisle with the pigs feet.

        I shuddered every time I looked at that jar……and Grandpa just smiled and said….Suzie-Q….these here are good eats….

        Grandpa was the only one that called me Suzie-Q (my middle name is Sue)…..he was a gentle, kind, compassionate, caring and loving man.

        He never talked much …but when he did……everybody stopped and listened.

        PP – did your dad like to fish?

        My Grandpa loved to fish…..his dream was to retire at 65 and just fish every day.

        He died a few months before he turned 65 yrs old….

        Life is not fair…..

      • just so you know….I do know my math facts.

        I realized I had typed 1 1/2 months later Grandpa died.

        that should be 2 1/2 months later.

        I get to typing so fast….my fingers cannot keep up with the mouth.