Tuesday, 11 March 3 p.m.
Finally we’re on the road, just when gas prices reach a new American record. I’m typing away on the Apple as Cathy drives. I have some things burning to be said.
Gas isn’t really a surprise to Jack, as I’ll call him, a young veteran I talked with yesterday. You’ll see Jack around the county. He’s got a cool new business…
A pushcart. Yes, chrome and everything, reportedly…
Jack’s selling hot dogs and related New York-style deli food. He takes the cart to a local factory then to Big Lots later in the day.
We talked in the Giddy Goat coffee-shop, it wasn’t a good time to meet. I was in the middle of getting ready for this trip and Jack was cooking up a business deal.
He was a student in the last Political Science class I had at East Central College, one of the better students.
“I did eight years active duty as a Marine,” Jack said. “I was seriously thinking about re-upping for another time. But my second tour in Iraq made me think twice,” he said or something to that effect… normally I show articles to people I interview before they are published – for accuracy. In this case, I won’t be able to do that. I don’t have Jack’s e-mail. But I trust myself and Jack enough to know that he will be comfortable with what’s written here.
Jack didn’t hold it over anyone that he was 10 years older and 100 times more experienced than most of the kids – and maybe his instructor too…
Wow, just passed a row of blooming jonquils in woods along U.S. 60 outside Paducah, the first we’ve seen this year. Cath says, “Let’s get out the veggies, I need a break….”
She’s listening to a Nero Wolff mystery… I don’t need a break…I’m glad to have this chance to write… we just passed the Paducah Information Age Industrial Park, which is right across the highway from the Blandville Executive Estates or something like that… America, where everything is possible.
Jack is like that. He did everything right... he went to Afghanistan right after 9.11... chased Bin Laden in the mountains… then later to two deployments in Iraq.
But first he was sent to New York, Ground Zero, a few hours after the towers came down. He was a trained Marine firefighter and spent weeks working cleaning debris that was still burning when he arrived.
"They told me not to wear a mask of any kind,” Jack said. “Don’t worry about the air quality. I know now that was wrong, totally wrong.”
VA doctors have told Jack he has boron-tungsten fibers in his lungs. Unlike other particles he may have inhaled, the boron-tungsten won’t ever come out and it cuts through his lung tissue slowly and steadily. He has lost roughly a third of his breathing capacity and loses a few percent more every year when he is tested. Partial payments for service-connected disabilities help , but it is not enough.
Jack worries whether he will be here to see his young son reach high school. He also wonders why he and all those he served with were sent to Iraq. In his gut he feels it was to keep gasoline prices high, and to enrich President George W. Bush and his corporate supporters.
“I put myself in harm’s way for a war I see as a lie. I also believe we haven’t been told the whole truth about what happened at the Twin Towers,” Jack said.
We finally reached D.C. about 9 a.m. on Wednesday, the 12th, after a great drive thru the Blue Ridge, stopping only briefly at Seneca Rocks where the10th Mountain Division trained before going overseas during World War Two... an awe-inspiring place as was the traffic on the I-495 beltway to Silver Springs where Winter Soldier 2 is to start tomorrow.
Already it is inspiring to see a few old veteran friends, esp. Willie Hager who we met at Lubbock when I presented a paper on the Winter Soldier 1. We had several presenters who there, at the Texas Tech Vietnam archive, showed how the whole process of soldiers speaking against the Vietnam War were patriotic and as accurate as humanly possible.
Some people consider both the original Winter Soldier in 1971 and the event to begin shortly in D.C. questionable on several levels… that war has always been hell and immoral… and that testimony against it in someway may affect the safety of American troops presently fighting overseas. Do people forget our President Harry S. Truman first rose to national attention when he conducted hearings on war profiteering during World War Two? That was not considered unpatriotic. Veterans who are working to expose the immoral and illegal practices in Iraq are not much different. The veterans will be speaking out on a variety of topics in our current war…
All I can do is urge you to check it out on the live feed the web, or get a copy of Iraq Veterans Against the War’s DVD of WSI 2 which should be available soon. It will shock you more than cost overruns or kickbacks, small potatoes comparatively. But maybe our financial system is falling apart even as we talk.
My student has managed to leave his anger and frustration behind. He won his Associate’s degree at the community college and has begun as business that is paying off. It was great to talk with him… I’d like to do a longer interview with him and other vets who have managed to survive and move on.