I was never in the military, but I grew up in military housing. From Sigsby Island, to Jim Creek to Murphy Canyon. My Stepfather was a career Naval Petty Officer. I’ve been on and off Naval Bases and Facilities in Washington State, Florida and California. I’m 54, which means I grew up during the Vietnam War and the Cold War.
Now I’m no expert, but that description does not at all match with my memories of what it was like getting onto or off a US Military facility. I was born in a United States Air Force Hospital (My Grandfather and my Father were in the (USAF). Two of my brothers joined the Navy, and growing up in Navy Housing as you can imagine, nearly all of my friends up also lived in Navy Housing. in other words, lots of friends who were in the Navy.
What Allen West is describing here takes my breath away. It like a gut punch delivered by Bruce Lee.
I remember when I bought my first car (Yea, it was used), how the thing that made me proudest about my new car ( 1969 MG1100 Sedan) was it came with a Base decal on it. Which meant that I could go pick up my friends older brothers (and a couple years later my own brothers) on base. ( Ok, it also meant we could go to the bars on base, but hey, where else is a 18 year old going to drink legally in California?)
What I remember is, driving on to , Naval Air Station North Island, Naval Station Coradano, 32nd Street Naval Station, Silver Strands Naval Station, China Lake Naval Station, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms.
Ok… So I’ve been on and off a couples of Military bases in my life. You ever fight with yourself over whether to have your car repainted or not based on the time it will take the dogs at the front gate to scratch that brand-new paint? Can you imagine a world where you rejoice because somebody came up with the idea of using a mirror to look under your car instead of having a dog scratch your paint?
I grew up in a world where military security was a given, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. The people doing it were firm but professional. They knew who was coming on and off their base at any time. They knew that the old lady in the wheelchair was First Class Petty Officer Walker’s mother. They treated her with respect, but they still looked under her car, checked its trunk and asked who she was coming on base to see.
A rent a cop at the gate just waving at anyone who drives by? This is so far beyond wrong it is difficult to even comprehend. You would be hard pressed to find anyone more anti authoritarian than me short of a brain damaged dope smoking anarchist. But like nearly everyone from my generation, the last people that my mind could conceive of betraying the American People are the US Military. I utterly and profoundly refuse to believe that the spirit of the United States Military that I grew up with could do this unless forced to by the American government.
The men and women I knew growing up knowing were individuals of Integrity, Character, and Morals. I trusted them implicitly because I grew up around them and knew what kind of people they were. I went to school with their kids, went to birthday parties at their house, ate BBQ with them on the weekends. When I needed to fix my car, or broke down somewhere, they were who I went to. My Stepfathers coworkers, my neighbors, my friends older brothers and sisters, my friends mothers and fathers.
I get an almost frightening feeling of being at home anytime I enter a 1950’s – 1970’s era US Military building. I used to go to the Bar at the old Browns Field Airport here in San Diego, I remember the first time I was there. The strangest sense of deja vu hit me. I walked out of the bar itself to use the restroom, and just instinctively knew where it was. As I walked down the hallway I could see the ghosts of Airmen standing in the offices, submitting supply requisition or reports, talking about whatever was current in the news. Lt Henry is telling Staff Sergent Buckaloo that he’s taking his girls to see the new James Dean Movie and Staff Sergent Buckaloo is lamenting how it would be nice if he could keep his five rambunctious boys from getting them thrown out of the theater.
I guess what distresses me here, is not so much that this jars against my own memories of how the US Military used to be like fingernails on a chalkboard, but that having never been in the military myself, I understand that what a career military man like Allen West is experiencing seeing this. Like Allen West, my grandfather was a Colonel (Air Force instead of Army), that’s is no small accomplishment. I see how Col West is responding, and can only wonder what my Grandfather who fought in WWI, WWII, Korea, and Vietnam would think of what Col. West witnessed.
If Col. West is bothered, I can only imagine what my Grandfather, my Father, or Stepfather would have been. Who would dare to disgrace their beloved US Military like this…