An old warrior friend of mine commanded this and commanded that and flew all over Vietnam.
I can't see him ever being challenged, even if friendly eyes and a love of literature seem out of place with his commanding voice made deeper by cigarettes.
We were talking about something for another column when we landed on Rudyard Kipling's poem "Tommy."
In it, Kipling uses common language for the common grunt in uniform, a composite character all the English knew as Tommy Atkins.
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Later that night, the old warrior emailed me the poem.
He couldn't help but sprinkle it with some personal commentary.
He's not a complainer; he's a doer. He's done more for society in uniform and out than 90 percent of us will ever do. He's a little worried. Should we be?
"David," he wrote, "suggest the attached Kipling poem says it all ... way back when and again today, because as he points out, military men have been 'politically incorrect' for time in memoriam." Here's Rudyard Kipling's poem with "politically incorrect" commentary: "Tommy"
I went into a public-'ouse to get a pint o'beer,
The publican 'e up an' sez, "We serve no red-coats here."
The girls be'ind the bar they laughed an' giggled fit to die,
I outs into the street again an' to myself sez I:
O it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, go away";
But it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins," when the band begins to play,
The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
O it's "Thank you, Mr. Atkins," when the band begins to play.
I went into a theatre as sober as could be,
They gave a drunk civilian room, but 'adn't none for me;
They sent me to the gallery or round the music-'alls,
But when it comes to fightin', Lord! they'll shove me in the stalls!
For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, wait outside";
But it's "Special train for Atkins" when the trooper's on the tide,
The troopship's on the tide, my boys, the troopship's on the tide,
O it's "Special train for Atkins" when the trooper's on the tide.
"But unfortunately, we still struggle with what to do with our wars' casualties (service members and their families) ... been that way forever (i.e. Revolutionary War; War of 1812; Mexican-American War; Civil War; Spanish-American War; Banana Wars; WW I; WW II; Korea; Vietnam, Gulf Wars I and II) ..."
Yes, makin' mock o' uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an' they're starvation cheap;
An' hustlin' drunken soldiers when they're goin' large a bit
Is five times better business than paradin' in full kit.
Then it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy how's yer soul?"
But it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll,
The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
O it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll.
We aren't no thin red 'eroes, nor we aren't no blackguards too,
But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;
An' if sometimes our conduck isn't all your fancy paints:
Why, single men in barricks don't grow into plaster saints;
While it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, fall be'ind,"
But it's "Please to walk in front, sir," when there's trouble in the wind,
There's trouble in the wind, my boys, there's trouble in the wind,
O it's "Please to walk in front, sir," when there's trouble in the wind.
You talk o' better food for us, an' schools, an' fires an' all:
We'll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
Don't mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
The Widow's Uniform is not the soldier-man's disgrace.
Will hasten to say that our country is far better at recognizing and addressing service members' sacrifice and trauma than during and immediately after the Vietnam War.
American wars and campaigns (war by any other name): Irony is that few Americans, to include those in the military, have a clue as to the extensive scope of our fledgling country's combat engagements! Please see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_wars.
Finally, just wait until we hit "sequestration" in January 2013 ... or shortly thereafter if Congress manages to delay it ... which will be meaningless. The current and future Congress probably won't even be able to agree to that!
Sorry, but I couldn't be more disappointed in our elected officials ... aka "our civilian masters."
For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Chuck him out, the brute!"
But it's "Saviour of 'is country," when the guns begin to shoot;
An' it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' anything you please;
But Tommy ain't a bloomin' fool -- you bet that Tommy sees!