Thursday, February 4, 2010

Hot Smoke

I watched a mental hygiene movie aimed at Marines. In Cover Me, it looked like a chaplain working his way down the ranks as he took both hands of each Marine in his, saying, "you're gonna make it." With ceremoniously crossed arms, he gripped their hands firmly, offering words of encouragement. It was apparent that his moves were well-rehearsed. Looking them in the eye, giving it all he had by way of religious witchcraft, he cast his spell of faith, hope and apple pie. The chaplain did his best to put the military hocus-pocus on gullible youth. Those poor boys swallowed it hook, line and sinker. Then marched off to war.

Vietnam all over again, yes? You should read the freak postings of that faceless, nick-named nurse on one of the medical forums. He/she goes on about the field medicine practice opportunities in the blood-bath of Afghanistan. Oh how sweet it is to get the chance to saw somebody's leg off, right? Their stuff reads like a scene from Fangoria. Screw the Hippocratic Oath, let's just compare horror stories. The giddy, o'-so-delightful listings of goodies from the war zone include tales of battle wounds, exotic infections and other "fascinating accounts" of blood and guts.

I don't think these people are Angels in Green. They won't list their real names. I file them in the genre of the emergency medical technician who couldn't wait for his next ambulance ride so he could take Polaroids of the dead people from high-speed car crashes. Then trade them like baseball cards with his paramedic pals later in the snack room.

This long war, like Vietnam, is attracting vultures, ghouls, morgue freaks, opportunists and "dee-fence" contractors who are making a killing off of killing. In the mean time, Stateside, you have suicidal recruiters who are tired of telling lies and blowing hot smoke at high school boys.

There are legions of "professions" skimming more than their share off the war machine. The medical mania looks like a swarm of cat-eyed reef sharks tearing into fresh meat. They can't get there fast enough to rip off their piece of the action -- so they can brag about it. I just wanna slap them down. They shall never stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Navy corpsmen I have known. Never.

I have felt the jagged fingers of Lewis Puller, Jr., as he shook my hand from a wheelchair. He was an advising lawyer on the General's Staff back then. When he wheeled out from behind his desk, I was shocked. He was missing both legs from the hip. The Marines in his Platoon told me that Puller stepped on a booby-trapped Howitzer shell. It was from these Marines that I learned the value of a corpsman. And the value of a man who is thrust into war on a half-asst whim. Sent back a fragment. And is expected to get on with his life. Puller gave it a shot. Gave it all he had. Then he shot himself. (photo from the handsome Webmaster @,

It is heartbreaking to see how many psychologists, behavioural scientists, grief counselors and psychiatrists are cashing-in on analyzing the suffering of America's fighting man. They matter-of-factly lecture their crafts and regurgitate what they have been taught in their fancy schools about aggression and fear hormones. They have teased apart the brains of lab rats with tantamount clinical detachment to be sure.

Taking the cake is one Ph.D. of Psychology and Research. Luxuriating in her pearlescent eye-shadow, she calmly describes the horror of combat for today's sacrificial lambs who are taught to think of themselves as wolves. What qualifies her to talk about such things? The Red Badge of Courage? As she smiles, basking in the focus of her videographer, they cut to scenes of a wounded Marine writhing on a helicopter litter as he is being med-evac'ed. With another lipstick smile she says, "You can't control what your body does during a traumatic or stressful event." Duh. No kidding. And what of those might she have known?

Then another brilliant comment from yet another cosmetically-assisted Dr. of Psychology, "It's okay if you're not okay." The Sgt. Major of the Marine Corps had this to say, "Get them help -- so we can get them back in the fight."

They wrap up this pep-talk with a corny song (Calling All Angels) and a quote from Rudyard Kipling, "The strength of the wolf is in the pack. And the strength of the pack is in the wolf." After watching the "film" you can send your comments to Director/Producer Norman Lloyd.

Clearly they are worried about another case of "maxed-out and pist-off." Traumatic stress is hard on the body and the spirit who is jailed for a term within. Pop some corn and gather 'round for this sure-fire Oscar pick.