Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A mother's glance

On this Veteran's Day, I want to acknowledge the service of my family members I know to have served.  My grandfather in the Navy in WWI (escort duty in the Atlantic) and my father and three uncles served in the Marines and the Army in WWII (Peleliu, Okinawa, China; several Pacific naval engagements; Philippines; Mediterranean Theatre).  My brother Jack served in the Marines during the Beirut deployment.

The Marines were handled roughly in Beirut, losing a couple of hundred men, most in one night to a suicide bomber who crashed his truck loaded with explosives into a Marines barracks and blew it up while the Marine sentry tried to load his duty rifle as the truck careened past him after approaching him because the stupid rules of engagement called for the sentry to be patrolling with an empty rifle because he might inadvertently harm a civilian.  He had full magazines in ammo pouches on his belt but that's not the same thing in a crisis in the dark as having a loaded rifle with a live round in the chamber a mere bolt-action away.

My brother, a squad leader for a machine gun unit on the Regimental Combat Team, had been rotated out of Beirut by then but after that devastation his unit went back in, taking a few casualties to snipers and explosive ordnance during the two details.  In the summer of 1982 I was visiting my parents when Newsweek magazine came out with a story on the Marines' deployment, accompanied by a picture of a Marine marching with an American flag, flanked by two Marines with shouldered rifles, one left-handed and one right-handed.

The Marine on the right in the picture with his M-16 on his left shoulder, rail thin with his face half-obscured by the shadow thrown by the brim of his campaign hat, cleft in his chin, looked awfully familiar.  "Is that Jack?" I asked my wife.

"No," she said with certainty.  I asked my father the same thing.  "No," was his answer after a long scrutiny of the photograph.

Then I showed the picture in the magazine to my mother.  She glanced at it and immediately said, "That's Jack."  She was right.

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