Time To Bug Out

“Bug Out” was a derisive term that emerged out of the Korean War after the U.S. Army hastily retreated from it’s holding position during attack. We abandoned our positions and fled en mass as the Chinese overran our positions. They “bugged out” the same way a cockroach flees when the lights are turned on. Weapons, equipment and radios were all left behind in the hasty retreat. That retreat by the U.S. Army left our Marine Corps brethren totally exposed on their right flank, which enabled the Chinese to completely  surround the Marines.

Bug Out

The Marine Corps were able to extract themselves from this precarious situation by doing a retrograde to the Chosin Reservoir and narrowly escaping the Chinese horde. Had it not been for the Marines bravery and resiliency, the outcome would most likely have been a total disaster for them.

The term “bug out” came to mind as I sat watching the Twin Towers come down 0n 9/11/01. Earlier that day, I had been in Tower 5 , one of the buildings connected to the World Financial Center, and was able to escape with my life. Later that same afternoon, my wife and I, joined by friends,  gathered on the lawn opposite the Twin Towers to watch the inferno while trying to gain some understanding of what had just happened.

At the time, we lived in a community in Jersey City populated with many people from Latin America.  These were our friends…Brazilians, Argentinians and Mexicans to name just a few. For the most part, we all worked in the banking sector and our lives were connected by families and jobs. Since I spoke Spanish fluently, most had no idea I was an American or that I had served in the military. They all thought I was an immigrant, like them, who was here under a work visa.

While they were all dismayed and distraught by the events on 9/11, to a person they all had the same plan in mind, to bug out, to leave the country as quickly as possible. The day before they were all happy living and working in the U.S., thrilled that they had high paying jobs and great careers as they had been unable to find these opportunities in their home countries. Yet, on the day of the attacks, they were already beginning to pack their bags and head home to, what they perceived to be, safer venues.

In a sense I could understand their concern. They were foreigners in a foreign land and, consequently, had no horse in the race. The U.S was being attacked and they were not willing to risk their lives as they were not Americans.  They all wanted to leave. I get that…to a point. On the other hand, they were willing to reap all the benefits American society had to offer them as long as they didn’t have to assume any of the responsibilities that citizenship required.

In essence, this is the problem of immigration (illegal and legal). If the only reason people want to come here is to extract benefits, in the case of my neighbors and high paying jobs, how was is that group of people any different from the illegal aliens who come here for free government benefits?  Neither group is here to benefit the country, only themselves.

When I was in the Marines, I had the honor of serving with a Marine from Ireland and one from the Dominican Republic, both of whom had joined the Marines as a path to citizenship. They served with honor and would have paid the ultimate price for this country. However, when I worked in the banking sector I was surrounded by foreigners whose main aim was to make as much money as possible and then “head home.” Hardly any of them had any real interest in understanding the country and the sacrifices people have made to make this country an economic juggernaut.  Admittedly, not all of them were like this; but, the majority was.

There is clearly something awry with an immigration policy that allows in economic “hit-men” (and women) whose sole purpose is to get as much money as possible from the American companies they work for and take it elsewhere.

Part of the reason Donald Trump is doing so well in the polls is his “pro U.S. worker” message. The middle class has felt the economic squeeze via illegal immigration as these immigrants compete with the middle class for jobs. Yet these same immigrants don’t pay any of the taxes for publicly funded programs, such as education and health care. The middle class feels unduly burdened because they are taking the hit and paying for it, too.

The white collar worker has felt the brunt of legal immigration, especially in banking and technology sectors via the HB-1 visa program which now pits Americans against immigrants for these high paying jobs. Many corporations know these immigrants will work for less performing the same job. The recent Disney scandal where American workers were forced to train their foreign replacements as a precondition for receiving termination benefits shows the great lengths to which American employers will go to bring in cheap labor.

The United States was founded on principles of Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness. Many Americans and countless   families have paid the ultimate price for this great nation’s founding and its existence ever since. Today many people, especially the young, are attracted to the financial structure of socialism..being sold as an alternative to capitalism. But economic socialism is a derivative of a failed political system: Socialism. Capitalism is not. It is a purely economic model…one which has brought more wealth and innovation to the Western world, and more economic relief to the world in general, than any other in human history.

We were not meant to be a system of commerce where each and every transaction is to be judged by its optimal economic return. The immigration policies that the U.S has created, which incentivize illegal immigration by way of free benefits, undermines the ability of capitalism and free markets to self-correct.

Ultimately, the brilliance of the American citizen, and in particular the American worker, is that we are a nation that was built on showing up and staying the course…not bugging out. The path to citizenship should be one that honors that history.

Steve

sleeclark@gmail.com

Wandering in the Saudi Desert

We met in the desert of Saudi Arabia.

desert

I had not seen him in two years and, too be perfectly blunt, I thought I would never see him again.

He had been in my class in the Marine Corps called T.B.S (The Basic School), the school all Marine Officers must attend to learn everything you need to know about being a Marine Corps Officer.

Although the course only lasts 6 months, it feels like an eternity. The school’s curriculum is the equivalent in intensity of getting a four year bachelors degree. The days are long, the nights are longer and many days are spent in the field.

Lt. Wahleed and Lt. Khalil (fictitious names) were Officers in the Saudi military and were here as exchange soldiers/students in my platoon. In addition, they were in in my squad which had only 11 members. So in theory, we were supposed to spend every moment together during training, working together and helping each other pass the course. That intention never materialized because both of them did as little as possible.

Lt. Wahleed learned very quickly that he was only going to be evaluated with minimal supervision and, so, he did practically nothing for six months. He knew he was too important of a person in developing a relationship between our countries such that he would never be held accountable. Lazy to begin with, each day he did the least amount of work possible.

Our rooms were on the same floor and he was given a suite to share with his Saudi colleague. The rest of us slept four to a room and always had to keep it clean. The Saudi suite was always dirty and set up like a makeshift tent. In the middle of the room sat a huge Arabian rug where the two Officers would lounge on the floor all day drinking tea and smoking cigarettes.

Every day we had a morning formation and every day these two Officers were nowhere to be found. We had to scramble around to find them and every day they seemed to find a new evasive hiding place. They would disappear for hours on end, and generally made our lives very difficult in relation to our Commanders. My squad and I were continually harangued for not giving “the proper guidance” to our Saudi guests.

During field events, it wasn’t unusual for the Saudi Officers to leave the field at night to go rest in their rooms, taking their rifles with them. On one particular occasion, the whole company got locked down because Lt. Wahleed had forgotten where he left his rifle (we found it in his car).  Since I was in charge of him that day, I had a particularly nasty “ass chewing” from my Platoon Commander. Luckily, for everybody involved, the situation was resolved, however; losing any weapon in the Marine Corps usually results in a court martial and/or prison time. Not so for the Saudi soldiers.

After this incident, Lt. Wahleed was a hated man. All of the Marine Officers treated he and his cohort with outright disgust and disdain. I just made it a point to stay as far away from these two guys lest I get in trouble again. I was not mean to them. I simply treated them with indifference. The Battalion Commander, sensing the massive problem on his hands, had to plead with our company to treat these two Saudi Officers with something resembling respect and honor.  They were “our allies” with whom we might have to work if a Middle East war ever broke out.”  I had to suspend all belief when the C.O said that because I knew I would never see these clowns again once the course was over.

Well, as its said, “truth is stranger than fiction.”

A few months after I graduated The Basic School, Iraq invaded Kuwait and the Saudi’s pressed the U.S government to intervene. Sure enough, within a few months I was on a flight to Saudi Arabia with my unit to prepare for the coming battle to liberate Kuwait.

Saudi Arabia, at least the part I saw, is just sand…an “ocean” full of sand. No landmarks, hills or water; just sand. I spent months training and living there. One day, I was summoned by my Company Commander to go to a meeting with the Saudi’s with whom we would be working.

We boarded the Humvee and traveled for hours to get to our destination. Driving across the desert with a map and a compass, we navigated to a predetermined point on a map. That we found the place at all was nothing short of a miracle. Yet. in the middle of the desert, there at our meeting place was a huge tent and nothing else as far as the eye could see.

Lt. Wahleed was in charge of the meeting!  There in the tent, just as I remembered him back in The Basic School, he was sitting on a huge Arabian rug drinking tea and smoking cigarettes! Now, however, her was surrounded by other Saudi officers. Upon seeing me, he reacted as if I were his long lost brother! Given that I had treated him, back then, with only a modicum of decency, I thought his greeting odd at best. But I came to believe that in his mind, because I had treated him humanely, he was going out his way to help me and my unit.

Wahleed gave us everything we asked for and more. It meant a lot to all involved because, at that time, we had no idea what the Iraqi’s had planned or how long before the conflict would end.  So, any help from the Saudi’s was welcome and well received. In the end, I was even given high praise by my Battalion Commander for my efforts.

Life is strange.

We plan, we prepare and we give our best for a favorable outcome and still fate turns on us. Many times it is the human connection, and the helping hand of others, that makes all the difference in the world.

Wahleed sure brought that lesson home.

Steve

sleeclark@gmail.com

 

 

 

Jedi Mind Tricks

When I first entered the Marine Corps at Officer Candidate School, I had one particular Drill Instructor who used tortured me unmercifully.

usmc

When I first walked into Quantico,VA I was completely unprepared for what was to come. The things you take for granted, like walking or tying your shoes, can be an ordeal when confronted with a Drill Instructor screaming in your face. Even the most mundane task can seem impossible when you have two or three men berating you.  It’s why every single person who goes through boot camp is, at some point, a blubbering idiot. For some reason, all common sense leaves your body under those circumstances.

The Marine Corps prides itself in weeding out candidates.  Under normal conditions, most companies champion their completion rates; yet,  in the Marine Corps they champion their failure rates. The more “disgusting civilians” they can kick out before they get to enter their beloved Corps…the better.

It’s not the physical training that gets you. It’s the physiological abuse that does it. There were some really sharp guys in my platoon and the process to simply be invited to Officers Candidate School isn’t an easy one. It’s also definitely not easy to become a Drill Instructor. The Marine Corps only takes the best. But the other side of that picture of excellence are some of the most villainous people you will ever encounter. Their sole job is to make your life miserable.  My former Company Commander ,who was a former Drill Instructor, actually had a call sign in the Marine Corps of “The Evil One”… due to his sadistic streak.

The Marine Corps has numerous ways to have you doubt your own abilities, break you down, and isolate you from your peers so that you will quit. In my case, upon arriving, my Drill Instructor told me my medical records had been lost so I was not able to fully participate in all of the training.  As all the other members in my unit got their haircuts, uniforms and began training, I was forced, for one week, to wear the same clothes I arrived with. By the end of the week, my clothes stunk and were frayed by the intense humidity. I stuck out like a sore thumb. By this time, my peers were way ahead of me in their training and I was falling behind in my goal of becoming a Marine Officer. The Drill Instructors were delighted because I was easy prey. It got so bad, Drill Instructors from other platoons would harass me.  Some of the comments that were thrown my way during that week were:

“Clark how has it possible that everyone can get their medical records straight but you can’t.”

“Clark everyone knows you are too far behind the training; you should quit now.”

“Clark your whole platoon thinks you are a quitter because you aren’t doing any of the training”

“Clark how is possible that the rest of the unit is progressing and you can’t get your f–king hair cut?”

If you examine the comments, you can see how they all have the intention of showing how my actions were not the norm and, therefore, I had to be the problem. This abuse went on for a solid week as the Drill Instructors successfully isolated me from the other marines. The other marines knew the end was near for me so they avoided me like the plague. Unbeknownst to me, my Drill Instructor had purposely hidden my medical records as well as those of two other guys, because that technique always got candidates to quit. And, once again,  it worked. Two of my peers dropped. However, I stayed on. Just like that, as fast as they disappeared, my medical records reappeared and I started training with the unit. The mental abuse continued for the rest of my training; but, that brutal spotlight never returned to me again. I had passed his test and he began culling the ranks by focusing on other candidates

However, that mental abuse or, more kindly, mental training that I endured stayed with me forever. Unbeknownst to me, my Drill Instructor had opened my eyes and given me a way of thinking about how people can isolate and target their opponents through words. When I left the military to start working on Wall Street, I saw many of the  same verbal wars take place between salesman and traders as they fought over trades that needed to be done. In that arena, I did quite well because they were all amateurs compared to the Drill Instructors I had survived. Hardly any  of these Wall Streeters could have tangled with that Drill Instructor’s verbal acumen and come out alive.

In the political realm, the freezing out and isolating of opponents is a well known tactic. The Left is much more adept at this and you can see it in many of the causes they promote. For example take a look at these statements made by the Left regarding Global Warming:

  • “All the science is in on global warming, we need to act now.”
  • “All across the world, in every kind of environment and region known to man, increasingly dangerous weather patterns and devastating storms are abruptly putting an end to the long-running debate over whether or not climate change is real. Not only is it real, it’s here, and its effects are giving rise to a frighteningly new global phenomenon: the man-made natural disaster.”

    The underlying message of these two quotes is that if you disagree with the premise of Global Warming, then you are an idiot and in the minority because the debates has been settled.

    Or take the arguments by the sycophants for Barack Obama and this image that gets regularly circulated by his supporters:

Obama

Let me break down what really happened:

  • Health Care. Obamacare was passed without one single Republican vote and the architect of Obamacare, Jonathan Gruber, publicly admitted on the record that he knowingly lied about the plan to pass the bill. He stated that the bill was able to pass because the American people do not understand basic economics.
  • Jobs. We have a lower unemployment since he took office, and that is what his administration regularly flaunts. What the administration does not tell you is that we have the lowest labor participation rates in 30 years with close to 100 million people out of the work force. “These people don’t count” when factoring in the unemployment rate.
  • Marriage Equality. This was decided by the Supreme Court overturning many states’ laws that had already passed legislation banning gay marriage. You can’t favor a constitutional republic, or democracy as it is often mis-characterized, and have the unelected setting your laws, which is what happened here.

The political Left are quite adapt at isolating their opponents with false arguments and half truths, but it works. These arguments are meant to isolate you and feel bad for not seeing the truth; but, they are based on lies. The Left uses specious arguments on the weak willed to advance their cause.

I received my Masters Degree in verbal warfare from the Marines and it left me wide-eyed to the many forms of mental manipulation that the Left uses it to push their agenda. I find the Left’s arguments juvenile at best; but, in the end I am under no illusion as to how effective they can be if you don’t posses the mental fortitude to stay the course.

Steve

sleeclak@gmail.com

 

Women: Its Time To Sign Up For The Draft

As society continues to push the notion of  equality between the sexes, the feminist finally got their wish granted with our armed forces opening up all combat positions to women. Until now, all males age eighteen and older must register for the selective service, the precursor to the draft.  However, with women now eligible for combat positions, I anticipate that they too will have to register in the near future upon turning eighteen.

women in combat

Given the United States penchant for war, along with our global commitments, there is a continual demand for more bodies. This establishes the need for more soldiers; hence, the decision to open our armed services to women.  I believe the general public does not fully comprehend the ramifications of this policy.  Only when we begin to see women maimed and killed on the battlefield will the public finally understand the end to which the feminist movement has led us.

Only a small percentage of the population (about 1%) has ever served in the military so most people have no idea what it entails. They see the commercials and news reports and think they understand military life. They don’t.  Any veteran who has ever served in harm’s way will tell you that real evil exits in the world.

A lot of people navigate the world in deliberate ignorance of the evil that surrounds them. Veterans know it’s out there because they have seen it . . . and shot it in the face. They believe in the adage that ‘the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing’ because they’ve seen it happen. They are willing to go to great lengths to make sure that evil can’t touch something that they love.

In the sake of gender equality, the U.S government is willing to sacrifice our teenage girls to the horrors of war. Our daughters, sisters and future mothers and wives are going to be sacrificed at the alter of gender equality.

My daughters, all five of them, will never serve.

I am a former Marine. I was an Infantry officer and fought in the first Gulf War. My father was a Marine Officer and was stationed in Okinawa as a Tank commander prior to the Vietnam War.  My uncle was a Marine who served in Korea. I can say with full confidence, the Clark family has done its part in serving its country

Now older and wiser and and a father of five girls, I would never ever want them to join the military or, for that matter, the Marines. War is a brutal business and the U.S continually pounds the drum looking for more conflict.  While we have not fought a battle on our homeland in over one hundred years, we none-the-less export our young people to foreign lands and ask them to do the politician’s bidding.

During the oath of office, all Marines are sworn to uphold the Constitution from all enemies foreign and domestic. But just look at our southern border. We have no troops there. We are not protecting our borders from enemies intent on crossing them to do harm. We have a small contingent of border agents with a massive border as illegals continue to flood into the country. We have no way effective means of vetting friend or foe, as the invasion continues.

A safe border is clearly a national security issue and one that our military is equipped to meet and enforce yet we aren’t allowing them to do their job. Instead, we have elected to have massive military bases in Germany and Korea to protect their borders but not our own.  Let’s not forget that those bases were built for wars that ended sixty years ago.

If you go to any foreign country and ask the generals how they would defend their country, they will explain how to defend the terrain, the key choke points, as well as the easiest places to defend. They can do so because that is how they have been trained: to protect their country. Now, go ask any U.S general how they would defend this nation from an enemy invasion and I guarantee you they would have no idea because it is not mentioned or taught in any of the three branches of the service. But ask them, how they would invade Russia, Iran, Iraq, etc.. and they will have a  plan to do so. That is what we do and how we train our military: to attack not defend. The whole notion is so absurd and irresponsible that were it not so disastrous it would be comedic. Under the guise of gender equality we are going to export our female citizens to attack other countries.

The fact is that the U.S engages in wars with no hope of winning or justification for so doing.  Personally I do not trust the leadership in Washington to know how to fight or protect the troops once engaged in combat.  Just look at the rules of engagement that our troops are burdened with and the countless limbs and lives that have been lost because of them.  General McCrystal, U.S.Commander in Afghanistan, had a minor mutiny on his hands when we he explained the rules of engagement to his troops (as detailed in the book The Operators).

Additionally, we have a real disconnect between the leaders in Washington and the military. Bill Clinton actively evaded the draft but had no problem sending other people’s children off to war. The fantastic film Black Hawk Down will give you a good idea of the sacrifices made by the troops he sent to do battle. George Bush and Dick Cheney led us into Iraq and Afghanistan, yet both found ways to avoid going to Vietnam.  I find it totally inappropriate that our leaders spend time golfing and vacationing while our troops are at war. President Obama has been the worst of the bunch. To his credit, George W. Bush actually quit playing golf once the Iraq war began.

While the law mandating registration for females has not yet been changed, it seems inevitable that it will be.  For some reason, there has been very little coverage  and therefore, little or no outrage.  Part of me thinks that people are not connecting the dots. The depth of our government sickness continues to show no limits. It is an unspeakable disgrace that our country would be prepared to send young girls off to fight. Pondering this latest intention by our government has lead me to the point where I have lost all faith in our leaders and those who serve their administrations at every level. Military leaders know this plan to be absurd. The Marine Corps has gone on record saying it thinks this plan is insane and have yet to find one female able to complete the Marine Corps Infantry Officer program. The Navy has been integrating women onto their ships for years with disastrous results.  It is common knowledge within the Navy the integration of men and women on ships has resulted in an untold and under-reported number of pregnancies. It is not uncommon for war ships to make continuous stops to send back impregnated women to the States for treatment.  Aside from the pregnancies, yet more children will end up being born to single mothers; the economically and socially most disadvantaged demographic.

The old adage of “women and children first” was a siren song to protect our most valuable assets in times of emergency or war. Yet we stand on the precipice of sending that treasure not only into battle but also on the front lines of combat.  They will be sent not to protect our freedoms but to attack our latest enemy.

The feminists and their ilk who promote this nonsense will never be on the front lines. Neither will the privileged political class. Do you really think the Clinton or Obama daughters will ever join the military? It will be my daughters and your daughters who take up those battles and whose lives will be forever and irrevocably altered.  My daughters are not feminists and have not asked for this reality. But it will be them who will be told to pay the price.

This time, the Clark family will not be going.

Steve

sleeclark@gmail.com

Brutal Honesty

honestyMy old Company Commander (CO), Mike, was a former Drill Instructor who could cut someone to pieces with words.  Lance Corporal Jones, although tough, was in downward spiral and Mike needed to get his attention. After his counseling session with Mike, Jones was broken.

Lance Corporal Jones only had a year left on his contract but was looking at a less than honorable discharge for his multiple infractions. Mike was the type of guy who made sure everybody paid the price for being a Marine. He wasn’t going to let Jones walk out of the Marine Corps as a dirt bag and allow him to claim that he was a good Marine.

It is well known in the military that a less than honorable discharge from the service is a death sentence in the civilian world. Lance Corporal Jones had a police job lined up and he knew that without that honorable discharge he was doomed. Mike verbally abused and yelled at the Jones for close to 30 minutes, the only way a former Drill Instructor can…and Jones was shaken.  After that meeting Jones, shaped up and got his honorable discharge.

Mike was not a proponent of the Dale Carnegie school of “How to win friend and influence people.”  He was in the business of training Marines and making sure they were well trained. He was a combat veteran and had won 2 bronze stars for heroism in combat. So he knew that training Marines well today meant less casualties tomorrow.

My relationship with him at the time was rocky at best but I had to admit I’ve never  met a better leader than he. I needed to be better and he made certain that I was.

Whenever I think of Mike it reminds me of the quote, “The person who is brutally honest enjoys the brutality as much as the honesty.” That was Mike. He loved the brutality of life and the disciplining of oneself. So whenever Mike felt I wasn’t measuring up to my responsibilities, he let me have it. No one was spared his wrath.

When Mike left the unit, I think the whole unit breathed a sigh of relief at not having to deal with him anymore. His presence was all encompassing and suffocating although the results spoke for themselves. A few years later I left the service and ended up working on Wall Street but took with me the lessons I had learned form him.

My first few years on Wall Street were a struggle and I knew I needed help. Although I was making money, I was not able to get the next job that would advance my career. So I hired a linguist who was expert in communications.  She was a short, stout, older Filipino woman who had been a Doctor at Stanford. Her demeanor and appearance suggested a gentle and caring soul but boy was I in for a shock.

Our first meeting was very informal in nature but when I went to the second meeting she ripped into me for the sloppy way I wrote and spoke. She had me write a one page letter about my job and with that one letter she was able to completely analyze me for who I was. I came to the unfortunate conclusion that  she was right on all counts.

In many ways, she reminded me of Mike. This became second encounter with someone being brutally honest.. Our counseling sessions were quite painful as learning under Mike’s command had been. At the time, I wondered what was it about me that made me attract these experiences? Or, perhaps, was  the universes preparing me for what lay ahead?

The linguist counselor died three years later. In those three years, she taught more about language, speech and the power of influence that have stayed with me until this day. After a particularly long session with her one night I said, “I finally understand what you have been  trying to say to me.” She glared at me and replied, “Never tell anybody that you understand them. To understand something means to “stand under’ them. That word takes away your power and gives power to them.

What I learned during these sessions, that although language can be subtle, the cumulative effect of using words that are not precise can leave the person hearing my words to doubt the power of my message.  Now that I have worked on trading desks for the majority of my life, I can attest to the power of using language that is concise and to the point.

The fact is both of these people had a huge influence in my life.  I do believe it was my willingness to stand naked in front of them and receive their instruction that benefited me.  I was fortunate enough to have had people willing to correct me and point the way.

I see this every day in my kids schools where parents go out of their way to protect their children from the harsh realities that await them in the real world. Grade inflation in the school system is so prevalent that it has its own section in Wikipedia.  We now have a whole class of students and parents that are unwilling to hear the truth that their children are not “measuring up”. So instead of opting for the truth, we just raise the scores for everyone

The only way to move forward in any endeavor in life is by having people in your life who are brutally honest. Short of that you’re likely to be surrounded by sycophants,who support you in living a fantasy devoid of reality and growth.

Steve

Death By Accident

His body was blown to bits.

warThe Marine had been on top of the armored vehicle. At the moment he was handing down his equipment to his Lieutenant, one of the grenades got caught on a clip and detonated. Seconds later the Marine’s life was over and the surviving Lieutenant’s life forever changed by the accident.

 

Although the Lieutenant suffered minor injuries the scars of that accident, which included feeling partially responsible for the death, would stay with him forever. It seemed the Lieutenant had failed to correctly  secure his gear.

The dead Marine had survived months in the desert during Desert Shield as well as the attack on Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm. He was merely months away from discharge and had plans to become a minister. As one of the more popular Marines in his unit, his peers were left seething at the Lieutenant’s negligence.

I heard later that the fallen marine’s parents could not get beyond the circumstances surrounding their son’s death. They were prepared to live with the fact that their son might die gloriously on the battlefield ins service to his country, but not by the random grenade of a fellow Marine’s negligence.

At the time, I could only imagine how those parents must have suffered from the tragedy of that random, senseless accident. I was 23 when it happened. Single with no children.  With no perspective or personal experience, I had no idea what would have gone through their minds and hearts.

Today I have six kids, two of which are teenage daughters. I can finally relate to those parents and how they must have felt upon hearing how their son had died. When I look at my daughters, I see them through the totality of their lives thus far: as my babies, toddlers, young children and now…young women. I see them for who they have become but I never forget who they were. I also, at times, see the direction in life they have yet to take.

I think it must be the loss of that futuristic vision that is so painful. The loss of their son was so intolerable because he would never marry, have a family, hold a baby, or have grandchildren. His life, and future life, were destroyed in an instant. No amount of compensation or could ever recoup or console that loss.

Whenever I run into my former comrades, I ask them about their kids. Its the rare occasion when one of their kids is in the military. Having  lived the effects of war watching young men dying in battle, we who have served tend to go the distance (consciously or unconsciously) in laying the groundwork for heading off such loss of our own children.

I lost contact with the Lieutenant years ago. But I imagine that tragic death stays with him every day. It is important in life to move ahead and press on but the reality is much more difficult. We have regrets and tragedies that befall us all.  How we live with them shapes who we become. Hopefully, as Holocaust survivor and author Viktor Frankl writes in his book “Man’s Search for Meaning“…we bring meaning to the seemingly senseless and incomprehensible occurrences in our lives which then allows us to move forward.

In the last scene of the movie “Saving Private Ryan‘, Ryan turns to his wife and asks her to tell him that he is a good man. He needed to know the person he had become was worthy of all the sacrifices that his comrades made for him.

I pray that the Lieutenant was able to find such meaning and moved on to live life as a better man.