Veterans Day: Of Movies and Memorials

When I was a little kid, I was nutso for war movies. Guadalcanal Diaries. None But the Brave. The Longest Day. Combat. The Battle of the Bulge. I would sit and watch them with my web belt and canteen, Army surplus WWII helmet and clutching my plastic Mattel Thompson .45 sub gun close, ready to step through the TV and into the battle should they need me. My imagination took me too far off shores and continents to the meat-grinder war theaters of our nation’s past.

I’d organize the neighborhood kids into a platoon, and at night, guided by our coded flashlight signals, we’d sneak out our windows for ‘midnight maneuvers’. Many an enemy mailbox was destroyed by cherry bomb. By day, we’d bravely assault enemy strongholds of hapless neighbors’ rose bushes, doghouses or Volkswagen’s. I always lead the charge, throwing dirt clod grenades and, leaping up, charging, blasting roll caps from my Thompson in a mad suicide sprint, firing wildly, taking hits from heavy imaginary enemy fire and always, gravely wounded, staggering forward to claim victory for the Allied troops. Trampled roses, filthy cars and busted mailboxes were a small price to pay for freedom and the American way of life. (Yeah, I got in trouble. A lot.)

John Wayne, Anthony Quinn, Robert Mitchum…these guys taught me about valor and grace under fire. But they weren’t my heroes – the men they were playing were my heroes. Our little after-school war games were just a young boy’s way of paying them honor.

Many years later, I found myself on location in the former Yugoslavia running through an ancient monastery next to Telly Savalas, firing a ‘grease gun’ – magazine filled with blanks — at a squad of Nazis in the TV movie, Dirty Dozen: The Deadly Mission. They all went down – but Telly and I, never a scratch. What marksmen we were, firing on the fly and from the hip! Amazing!

I still do like war movies. Not just for the intensity of conflict, but for the expression of valor and courage. And those sometimes forgotten virtues of honor and self-sacrifice. Missing that, it’s just useless carnage.

People fighting for Good; fighting and risking and/or losing life and/or limb… these are virtues every good society must cherish…or it ceases to be Good.


In the oft-prevailing attitudes of Political Correctness I think too many in our good society have forgotten one very simple truth – we are the good guys. We don’t stand for subjugation; we stand for freedom. We don’t nurture vendetta and thousand-year-old grievance; we bury the hatchet, we start anew. We don’t hide behind women and children and slip out of uniform and blend in with the townsfolk when the enemy nears; our military wears its uniform proudly for all to see. We seek clarity over agreement; and our aggression is tempered with restraint. And in the theater of war and brutality, we don’t slaughter indiscriminately and carpet bomb, though we could; ours risk their lives being highly discriminate of non-combatants and, at further immense cost to us, our smart-technology pinpoints and removes targets with surgical precision to further lessen collateral damage.

News flash for those of you who may still labor to understand the ridiculously understandable: WE ARE THE GOOD GUYS.

Lo, these many years past my playground games, I am humbled …no, that isn’t strong enough a word; I am grateful and indebted to the ‘nth’ degree… by those who have stormed the enemy position for real. They, with their real lives on the line…and, in everything they do, day in and day out in military service… offer it all up for the freedoms and security you and I take for granted every day.

Last month I was privileged for my band to play for the Ride2Recovery group that John Wordin has headed up in the Golden State Challenge bicycle ride from San Francisco to Santa Monica. The G. Graham Garage Band played 22 rockin’ cover songs for the Wounded Warriors making the arduous trek the night before they pedaled off on their final leg to the Santa Monica pier. Those guys and gals, tired as they had to have been, rockin’ and dancin’ to our music is a joyful sight I will treasure. (One of my dreams is to fly around the world, entertaining our troops with my band, just to let ’em know we care and we’re grateful.)

My biggest thrill came when my daughter stood up before 200 wounded warriors and vets and delivered a touching tribute, ending with the words, “…you all here…you who fight for us…you are my heroes.” The very next day at her school she petitioned the dean to start Students for Vets Club…and then came home and created the website, so that people can send in their video tributes for our military. Yeah…there’s plenty out there who get it.

Happy Veterans Days, Vets.

And thank you.