So…Think You’re a Tough Guy, Huh?
By Jim Kuiken
A lot of the time, you’ll never know who the real one is, because they don’t draw attention to themselves. I find that a lot of self-appointed tough guys make sure you do notice them, mimicking the beards, baseball caps with the Velcro patch, dark wrap-around sunglasses, walking around with a hard look, etc…
And then there’s the Gameboy tough guys – the closest they’ve ever come to anything is on the TV screen, and in their fantasies.
It’s chic nowadays to be a real “Warrior”.
A rough-and-tumble “bad@$$”.
Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of true heroes out there…someone who puts other’s lives before their own. Some do it for a living (like the folks I write about – military, veterans, first responders (law enforcement, firefighters, EMS), etc.
But what I’m talking about are the individual heroes – some with a small “h”, and some with a big “H”.
There are lots of actual tough guys/gals, lots of heroes, etc. in this world. You probably know some of them, and a lot you’ll never know – the quiet guy just mowing his lawn, or sitting next to you in a coffee shop sipping his latté, and eating a spinach and artichoke quiche… They may have been a true Hero, or even a Warrior. But they’ll never tell you. Or try to prove it all the time…
So Kuiken, what the heck do you mean by Warrior? And why would you rather have a Warrior than a Hero?
Not quite that simple. In my mind, not all heroes/Heroes are Warriors. It kinda depends on what they’re a hero for – but similar to Pres. Reagan’s quote about Marines (“Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference in the world. But, the Marines don't have that problem.”), Warriors don’t have to worry about that…all true Warriors are heroes.
It comes down to Heraclitus, who in my opinion (and in my experience, from decades in the military – including combat – and as a former firefighter, EMT, and career law enforcement officer/agent), hit the nail right on the head. I’ve seen this…and lots of you have too if you’re honest with yourself. I know this isn’t politically correct in a lot of folk’s eyes, but then again, neither is combat. Suck it up.
Here’s his definition of a Warrior. Spot on, dude!
“Out of every one hundred men, ten shouldn't even be there, eighty are just targets, nine are the real fighters, and we are lucky to have them, for they make the battle.
Ah, but the one, one is a warrior, and he will bring the others back.”
A true Warrior is a real tough guy. Who has the skills of a real fighter. But who cares for their brothers/sisters with all their heart – ahead of themselves – and brings them all back. Physically, if possible (alive or dead), and spiritually if not (keeping their memory and legacy alive – and caring for their loved ones).
So, back to my original question. How many tough guys (in their own mind) do you know? How many real tough guys? How many real fighters?
And are you privileged to know one real Warrior?
By Jim Kuiken
After I got off active duty in January 1977, I transitioned over to the reserve component, and stayed in the Marines…but with a twist…
I was coming from 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, where I was a Recon Marine, and transitioning over to C Company, 4th Tank Battalion… Talk about a transition! Recon to Tanks? What the H#!! was I going to do in Tanks? I didn’t know anything about tanks!
And besides that, the unit I was coming from was “squared away”…everyone in shape, looking sharp and all “gung-ho”! All these guys were bigger, and way dirtier – wearing greasy coveralls, etc. What the heck had I done?
It didn’t take me long to see that Marines are Marines – Recon or Tankers – and were focused on being the best Marines they could be. The tankers were dirty because they were working on big, greasy tanks! If they weren’t greasy and sweaty…it was because they weren’t working…and boy, did those guys work! I quickly became close friends with my fellow Marines, and felt right at home – except, I still didn’t know anything about tanks!
Never fear, I knew about weapons, and as a Staff Sergeant, they put me in the armory as the Company Armorer working on M-16 rifles, .45 caliber pistols, M-240 co-axial machine guns (basically an M-60 7.62mm machine gun), the big, beautiful M-2 .50 cal. machine gun, and other miscellaneous weapons. I was in heaven!
After a couple of years I was promoted to Gunnery Sergeant…but as a Gunny, I had to leave the armory and became the Company Tank Leader (which is like a Company Gunny to most non-tank units). The only trouble was…once again…I didn’t know anything about tanks, except their weapons. And as the Company Tank Leader, I had to know about tanks!
Again, easy fix. They sent me to Tank School in Ft. Knox, which is run by the Army. Even though the Army was transition to their new M-1 tanks, the Marine Corps generally got the Army cast-offs, and we were moving from the M-48’s (from Korea and Vietnam days) over to the refurbished M-60A3’s that the Army was getting rid of…
Lots of interesting things happened with me (as a Marine Corps Gunny) on an Army base, but I’ll save those for future “Frontline Tales” episodes. This one is about what happened in the actual classroom training that I attended there at the school.
As the senior Marine in the class (there were several PFC’s through Corporals, a couple of Sergeants, and one Staff Sergeant in class with me…along with a whole passel of Army soldiers), I automatically took charge of the class – and especially the Marines. I made sure I sat in the back of the class so I could see if any of them were goofing off or starting to nod out. With the Army guys, the instructors would ask them to stand along the side wall if they started to fall asleep, but with the Marines… Well, let’s just say we had our own way of doing things.
I had a sock with sand in it, tucked up into a ball, and if I saw any Marine heads start to bob, I’d bounce it off the back of their head to get their attention (which always freaked the Army instructors out – but they didn’t say anything), then had them come stand in the back (and bring me my sock full of sand in case I needed it again).
When break time came along, if we had any that had been drifting off during that session, I’d take all the Marines out back (because if one fails, we all fail…so we all pay with the one) and do a bunch of push-ups, sit-ups, jumping jacks, mountain climbers, or whatever I felt like doing during that break (and yes, as a Marine leader, I did them with my men), and after they really had their blood pumping and were all woken up, we’d head back in and see if they could make it through another of the scintillating classroom sessions without them bouncing their forehead off the table in front of them or getting whiplash from their heads snapping back as they lost consciousness.
After one of the non-sweat inducing breaks (i.e., none of the Marines had fallen asleep during the preceding class), we had been sitting out back on the grass enjoying the fresh air and some sun, when it was time to go in. The Staff Sergeant and I got up to head back to class with the rest of the Marines trailing behind, when I started to come around the corner of the building, saw an opportunity and jumped back, pushing the Staff Sergeant back behind me.
In order to get to the class from where we were, we had to come around the corner and walk along a long loading dock on the back side of a warehouse with multiple loading bays (doors), go around the other side, and go into the classroom attached to the other side of the warehouse.
What I had seen was an Army Major stepping out from one of the bays onto the loading dock – along with an Army Master Sergeant, probably to get some fresh air and a couple of minutes in the sun.
I lined all the Marines up and stood next to the corner, and at about 5 - 10 second intervals, sent them around the corner to walk down the dock, past the Major and back to class.
Of course, I first instructed them to make sure they gave a good, crisp Marine Corps salute and rendered a good, loud verbal greeting – “Good Afternoon Sir!” as they came within 6 paces of the Major.
For about the first 4 or 5 Marines, the Major stood there, and returned each salute and verbal greeting…but then he looked to his left and saw more coming, and stepped back into the loading bay under “cover”, and took his uniform hat off, so he didn’t have to salute. Each Marine continued to salute and greet him as they went by. “Good Afternoon Sir!” “Good Afternoon, Marine.” “Good Afternoon Sir!” “Good Afternoon, Marine.” Etc., etc.
After all 20+ Marines has passed, the Staff Sergeant and I came around the corner, in step, and marched past him, also rendering a good, crisp Marine Corps salute and greeted him. “Good Afternoon Sir!!!” He returned the greeting, and after we were more than 6 paces away, stepped back out, put his uniform cover back on his head, and said “Hey, Gunny!”
That should have been a red flag, because most of the Army guys just call everyone from E-5 up “Sergeant”, regardless of their actual rank. He knew the Marine Corps rank and protocol…
I stopped, turned, and said “Yes Sir?”
With a slight twinkle in his eye he said “Next time don’t space them so evenly…” He knew exactly what I had been doing.
With a smile, I said “Roger that Sir!”, turned, and went back to class…
Who Cares? I Wasn’t Even Born Yet!
By Jim Kuiken
Of course, I’m assuming most people even know what Agent Orange is…my personal bias showing again. Just because I happen to be somewhat of a military history buff doesn’t mean everyone is.
Agent Orange is a toxic herbicide that most people think was just used to spray around Vietnam from 1965-1972, to kill the jungle during the war so the enemy had fewer places to hide…and that those who were exposed to it got very sick or died because of their time in the Vietnam War.
Like I said…ancient history! Most folks now-a-days consider Afghanistan and Iraq as the main (current) wars, and even those are getting old! What does Agent Orange have to do with anyone except a few old veterans?
Don’t kid yourself… This is a LOT MORE than that! Toxic exposure to servicemembers has been going on since war began, and still goes on today! Just going back to WWI, there was Mustard Gas, WWII had many more, including radiological exposure and bio-weapon exposure to our own military, Agent Orange (and White, Blue, and others) during Korea and Vietnam, multiple exposures (chemical, biological, radiological) during the Gulf War (developing into Gulf War Syndrome and more), Burn Pits in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with more radiological exposure, asbestos exposure on ships from WWI to now, etc., etc., etc…
And do you think our Government (including both houses of Congress, the Military or Veteran’s Affairs, and others) actually helps, protects, or proactively treats and cares for those exposed!??!
If you do, you have never been exposed and had to deal with multiple decades of neglect, denial, and downright refusal to even recognize the issues that HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of veterans are dealing with every single day – if they’re not one of the many actually dying from the results of those exposures, again, every…single…day.
And let’s not forget the many miscarriages or birth defects from the genetic damage suffered by many of these exposures. Or the hundreds of thousands of caregivers who have to deal with their loved ones slowly fading away right before their eyes, long before their time; or dying from cancers and other diseases or maladies caused by their time in service to this Nation.
If you or anyone you know served in the military in any war from WWI on, they have very likely been contaminated with some toxic substance. Let’s just use me as an example. Here are just some of my known or likely exposures:
1973 – 1975, Guam
1991, Gulf War
2005 – 2006, Iraq
And there were other exposures during my 30 years of military service, and subsequent years of federal service in many places around the world – as I served my country.
So what? “They knew what they were signing up for…”, right? Well, yeah. Those who stepped up to protect and serve our country did so with eyes open – BUT – we also did so relying on the promise by our country, government and its citizens that if we did so, and if we suffered harm because of that service, that we and our families would be taken care of. We relied on that solemn promise – which in all too many cases, has not been honored.
I’m not just here to whine and complain about broken promises and victimhood. I’m asking each and every one of you to actually do something to help make sure those promises are kept – specifically as to toxic exposure – the silent but extremely deadly killer, not only of those who served, but their children, spouses and caregivers, and loved ones who not only watch what happens as those affected suffer and die, but who themselves may very well be directly affected by those contaminants and toxic exposures. (see the picture of the leaking Agent Orange barrels on Johnston Atoll, where my own father was stationed – which also had radiological material contamination on the beaches and other areas…).
A small group of representatives from Blue Water Navy Association, the Agent Orange Survivors of Guam, and myself (and Freedom, of course!) spent all last week and are spending all this week up on Capitol Hill, making the rounds and talking to almost 80 (or hopefully a few more) Representatives and Senators and their staffs, as well as the staff of a couple of committees (like the Senate and House Veterans Affairs Committees, the House Appropriations Committee, the House Oversight Committee, etc.) – and – participating this Friday in the GAO (Government Accountability Office) investigation / hearing on Agent Orange on Guam.
We’re asking for everyone’s help. It is very likely that during this or previous (and subsequent) extended trips to the Hill, we will be talking to your Representative and/or Senator.
Please help keep the promise that we relied upon when we signed up to serve our country and its citizens…and CALL OR WRITE your Representative and / or Senator, and ask them to support these three bills:
H.R.809 - Fighting for Orange-Stricken Territories in the Eastern Region Act
(Agent Orange on Guam and in Micronesia)
H.R.299 - Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2017
(Agent Orange in the coastal and territorial seas of Vietnam)
H.R.4843 - To modify the presumption of service connection for veterans who were exposed to herbicide agents while serving in the Armed Forces in Thailand during the Vietnam era, and for other purposes.
(Agent Orange on the bases in Thailand)