Being A Better Man Than You Are

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I was at a loss for something appropriate to write for this special day. I know many sad stories that will go to the grave with me. Don’t misread that line. I am not a hero, but many heroes came to me to talk. I mainly listened. I am an excellent listener. Hopefully, I helped some of them by listening and offering a few lame words of encouragement.

I am offering you this previously published story to avoid reaching deeper. It is a story that is painful enough for me. I hope, by reading these few lines, you will appreciate our brave servicemen and women a little more. I wish I could do more than saying thanks and shaking hands, but that seems to be the best that I can manage for now.

I am currently working very near the diner that was the stage for this drama. So I feel it is appropriate to republish this story. Don’t thank me after reading this story: thank a vet and tell him you appreciate everything he and his brothers have done for you

Whatever It Takes: Once Again

There have been some comments lately, concerning the returning vets and how to welcome them. Old Skook has been trying to make this into an art form for several years; give me a few minutes and I’ll share my techniques and I will tell you of the day a few years ago, when I was called upon to be a better man than I am.

This activity requires stealth and nerves of steel. When you are in a fine dining establishment like Denny’s or Elmers, use your scouting skills and spot the ME vets sitting together or singly. Keep them under observation and time your meal so that you finish ahead of them, then estimate the cost of their meal and walk by their table and say, “this one’s on me soldier” and drop a ten or a twenty on their table and walk away before they can protest. That’s a great devious trick for Patriots, it always makes me chuckle when I start my car to leave.

Once I saw the chance to be a real hero and I played it to the max. Every few years, I’ll walk around the streets of Oceanside and recall those nights forty years ago when I walked those same streets with nothing to do. Except on this particular night, I saw a young Lance corporal in Dress Blues with a bride still in her wedding gown, looking to be about seven months along. They were aimlessly looking in store windows and I saw my chance for yet another dastardly deed.

I palmed a hundred and walked up to that young Marine and shook his hand and congratulated him on committing matrimony. I held on to his right hand (they say I have a grip like a gorilla, so that part was easy) I grabbed his shoulder with my left hand and told him to take his bride out on the town and spend all the money and let tomorrow take care of itself. I turned my hand so that it was on top and the C note wouldn’t fall on the side walk and left them at a brisk (at least for me) run.

He was outraged and said he couldn’t accept the money, but I was laughing like a schizophrenic and double timing my way out of there. I am 65 years old and know that I can’t outrun a young Marine, but when they are dragging a pregnant woman, I can outrun them all.

Now on a more serious note, I was driving on I 70 and I stopped at a truck stop in Western Colorado for a meal and spied a young soldier that looked like he had been dealt a few bad hands. I decided to buy him a meal and dropped a twenty on his table and said, “Thanks soldier”. I rushed to the cash register and a bunch of seniors crowded in front of me and some of them looked mean and bitter, so I decided to wait my turn to pay.

The young soldier walked up to me and asked, “Sir, are you former military?” I told him, I once wore the uniform and that I wasn’t an officer, so he didn’t need to call me Sir.

He asked if I would have a cup of coffee with him; he needed someone to talk with.

You can’t refuse a request like that, I sat down at his booth and looked him directly in the eye and said, “What’s wrong son?”

He told me of his best friend in that war in the Middle East. They were planning to go back to California and live near each other the rest of their lives, but one day while he was on the perimeter and his friend was sleeping, a single mortar round landed directly on the hootch they shared and his best friend was killed instantly. He saw it happen in slow motion and clear detail.

His voice began to quake and he was barely keeping the tears back. Our neighbors at the tables around us were interrupting their meals to eavesdrop; however, the Lord gave me a cold stern stare and after I looked at the nosy people, they found a renewed interest in their pancakes and eggs.

He went on to tell me that he had a wife and a baby son that he had never seen waiting for him in California and he didn’t know if he could face them after the loss of his friend, he was actually dreading the rest of the drive back to California. I listened to the tale unwind and finally heard my cue, “What do you think I should do?”

I reached deep down inside and hoped I could say something that was worthwhile. “You think your friend is gone, he’s not gone, he’s here with us right now; as a matter of fact, he’s a little disappointed in you for being reluctant to drive home and see your bride and baby. He’s never going to have a son, so he’s planning on living his life through you. He will be beside you for 50 or 60 years, every mistake you make will be a disappointment for him. He expects you to be a man, the best man that you can be, because he can only live through you. He wants to watch you play ball with your son, take him fishing, help him with homework, he wants you to be the dad he will never have a chance to be. If you hide like a whipped dog and feel sorry for yourself, he will be ashamed of you. The best thing you can do is to drive on to California and be the best husband and father that you can possibly be, because you will never be alone, not even when you check out of this big poker game they call life.”

Well, that did it. he lost it and it was all I could do to keep from crying, but I figured it was my job to maintain discipline. I walked with him to his car, we shook hands and he thanked me several times and told me he felt much better.

He drove West and I drove East, about twenty minutes later, I pulled over and broke down.

A professional horseman for over 40 years, Skook continues to work with horses. He is in an ongoing educational program, learning life's lessons from one of the world's greatest instructors, the horse. Skook has finished an historical novel that traces a mitochondrial line of DNA from 50,000 years ago to the present. The book Fifty-Thousand Years is awaiting me to finish a final proofread and it should be sent to the formatter in a matter of days. I am still working, so it is not easy to devote the time I need to finish the project. The cover is a beautiful wok of art. I would put it up here if I could figure out how to make it work.

6 Responses to “Being A Better Man Than You Are”

  1. 2


    I pay for police officers and vets meals a little differently. I carry preprinted notes I made that say, “Your meal has been paid for by someone who appreciates you being out here. Thank your for being a part of my being born and living in a free USA.” I then ask the waiter or waitress to bring me their check or checks, and ask them to give the cop or soldier the note, but not tell who paid for the meal. Some police departments don’t allow their officers to accept a free meal. This way, they can’t refuse. I can’t afford to do this as often as I would like, be I can ask others to let the cops and the vets know how much you appreciate what they do by paying for their meal.

    At the bottom of your post you have the picture of the raising of the US flag on Iwo Jima. Ever since I learned that this is not the first flag raised their, seeing it bothers me, because the ones who raised the first flag never got the credit they deserved for it.

    I have been to the Iwo Jima memorial at Arlington National Cemetery, and I didn’t see anything about the FIRST flag raising. Two sites that tell the story are at:

  2. 3


    @Smorgasbord: You show a great deal of class, when playing the game,

    Here are some famous Marine quotes from history:

    Marine Corps Quotes

    “C’mon you sons-of-bitches, do you want to live forever!” ~ GySgt Dan Daley at the Battle of Belleau Wood WWI

    “Retreat, hell we just got here!” ~ Captain Lloyd Williams, USMC at the Battle of Belleau Wood WWI

    “Of the Marines on Iwo Jima, uncommon valor was a common virtue” ~ Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz Iwo Jima WWII

    “We’re surrounded? Good, now we can kill the bastards in any direction.” ~ Colonel Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller; Korean War

    “The raising of the flag on Iwo Jima, means a Marine Corps for the next 500 years.” ~ James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy

    “Tell that to the Marines!” ~ President Franklin D. Roosevelt after the attacks on Pearl Harbor

    “Some people live an entire lifetime wondering if they’ve made a difference in the world, Marines don’t have that problem.” ~ President Ronald Regan

    “Marines I see as two breeds, Rottweilers or Dobermans, because Marines come in two varieties, big and mean, or skinny and mean. They’re aggressive on the attack and tenacious on the defense. They’ve got really short hair and they always go for the throat.” ~ RAdm. “Jay’ R. Stark, U.S. Navy

    “A ship without Marines is like a garment without buttons.” ~ Admiral David D. Porter, USN

    “I have just returned from visiting the Marines at the front, and there is not a finer fighting organization in the world!” ~ General Douglas MacArthur, US Army

    “The man who will go where his colors will go, without asking, who will fight a phantom foe in a jungle and mountain range, without counting, and who will suffer and die in the midst of incredible hardship, without complaint, is still what he has always been, from Imperial Rome to sceptered Britain to Democratic America. He is the stuff of which legions are made. His pride is his colors and his regiment, his training hard and thorough and coldly realistic, to fit him for what he must face, and his obedience is to his orders. As a legionary, he held the gates of civilization for the classical world…he has been called United States Marine.” ~ Lieutenant Colonel T.R. Fehrenbach, US Army in “This Kind of War”

    “Marines are about the most peculiar breed of human beings I have ever witnessed. They treat their service as if it was some kind of cult, plastering their emblem on almost everything they own, making themselves up to look like insane fanatics with haircuts to ungentlemanly lengths, worshipping their Commandant almost as if he was a god, and making weird animal noises like a band of savages. They’ll fight like rabid dogs at the drop of a hat just for the sake of a little action, and are the cockiest SOB’s I have ever known. Most have the foulest mouths and drink well beyond man’s normal limits, but their high spirits and sense of brotherhood set them apart and , generally speaking, of the United States Marines I’ve come in contact with, are the most professional soldiers and the finest men I have had the pleasure to meet.”
    ~ An Anonymous Canadian Citizen

    “The deadliest weapon in the world is a Marine and his rifle!” ~ General Pershing, US Army

    “The Marines have landed, and the situation is well in hand”. ~ Richard Harding Davis, war correspondent (1885)

    “The safest place in Korea was right behind a platoon of Marines. LORD, how they could fight!” ~ Major General Frank Lowe, US Army

    “Do not attack the First Marine Division. Leave the yellowlegs alone. Strike the American Army” ~ Orders given to Communist troops in the Korean War; shortly afterward, the Marines were ordered to not wear their khaki leggings to keep the enemy from immediately fleeing

    “Marines know how to use their bayonets. Army bayonets may as well be paper-weights.” ~ Navy Times

    “Panic sweeps my men when they are facing the American Marines.” ~Captured North Korean Major

    “The Marines are careful, brave fighters…they were like hunters, boring in relentlessly without fear. I never heard a wounded Marine moan.”
    ~ The U.S. Army General Staff

    “They told (us) to open up the Embassy, or “we’ll blow you away.” And then they looked up and saw the Marines on the roof with the really big guns, and they said in Somali, “Igaralli ahow,” Which mean “Excuse me, I didn’t mean it, my mistake.” ~ Karen Aquilar, in the U.S. Embassy; Mogadishu, Somalia

    “We have two companies of Marines running all over this island and thousands of Army troops doing nothing!” ~ General John Vessey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs

    “This will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave” ~ Elmer Davis (1890-1958)

    “Bravery is the capacity to perform properly even when scared half to death.” ~ Omar Bradley

    “To observe a Marine is inspirational, to be a Marine is exceptional.” ~ Unknown

    “The Marines I have seen around the world have the cleanest bodies, the filthiest minds, the highest morale, and the lowest morals of any group of animals I have ever seen. Thank God for the United States Marine Corps!” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

    “I come in peace. I didn’t bring artillery. But I’m pleading with you, with tears in my eyes: If you fuck with me, I’ll kill you all.” ~ Marine General James Mattis to Iraqi tribal leaders

    “To observe a Marine, is inspirational. To be a Marine, is exceptional.” ~ GySgt Charles F. Wolf, Jr.

    My personal unofficial favorite: A Marine reporting to St Peter at the Pearly Gates, “Pfc Murphy reporting for duty, I’ve served my time in Hell.”

  3. 4


    @Skookum: #3
    I saved your quotes, and am sending you some info from actual training manuals:

    US Army Field Regulations (1861)
    Coffee tastes better if the latrines are dug downstream from an encampment.

    US Air Force Manual
    It is generally inadvisable to eject directly over the area you just bombed.

    Naval Ops Manual
    Any ship can be a mine sweeper, once.
    If it’s stupid, but it works, it isn’t stupid.

    Multi-Engine Training Manual
    When one engine fails on a twin-enging airplane, you always have enough power left to get you to the scene of the crash.

    Lead-in Fighter Training Manual
    You know that your landing gear is up and locked when it takes full power to taxi to the terminal.

    Infantry Journal
    Five second fuses last about three seconds.
    If the enemy is in range, so are you.
    If you see a bomb technition running, try to keep up with him.

    Army Ordnance Manual
    Tracers work both ways.


    Non-training manual quotes:

    Paul F. Crickmore (SR-71 Blackbird pilot)
    You’ve never been lost, until you’ve been lost at Mach 3.

    David Hackworth
    If you find yourself in a fair fight, you didn’t plan your mission properly.

    General MacArthur
    Whoever said, “The pen is mightier than the sword.”, obviously, never encountered automatic weapons.

    Ghengis Khan
    The greatest pleasure is to vanquish your enemies and chase them before you To rob them of their wealth and see those dear to them bathed in tears. To ride their horses and clasp to your bosom their wives and daughters.

  4. 5


    @Smorgasbord: Some of our guys in uniform had a sense of humor. I am sending those on to my wife, and she will read them to Carl. He will get a kick out of them after all those years in the air.

    It was obvious the movie, A Few Good Men, was another Leftist composition, but Colonel Jessup’s pivotal lines in the movie eposes something more than we care to admit, even to ourselves:

    “You can’t handle the truth! Son, we live in a world that has walls. And those walls have to be guarded by men with guns…. I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom…. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives….You don’t want the truth. Because deep down, in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall. You need me on that wall.

    We use words like honor, code, loyalty…we use these words as the backbone to a life spent defending something. You use ‘em as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it! I’d rather you just said thank you and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon and stand a post. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you’re entitled to!

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    @Skookum: #5
    I have the greatest respect for the ones who do the front lines fighting, but when they are at home, you wouldn’t even think they were in the military if you didn’t know them, because they act like the average person.

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