The Pennsylvania license plate read “11B-CIB” and it transformed me back some 40 years when I was in the army infantry running a platoon in Vietnam as a first lieutenant.
The “CIB” stands for Combat Infantry Badge, perhaps the one medal servicemen of all ranks and persuasions have looked up to. It means that the bearer of this award or badge had faced enemy fire, or had been in combat.
Although I abhor war, I am still proud that as a young man was forced to engage in it. I didn’t want to. I don’t know of anyone from my generation that liked war, except some gung-ho types who ended up in West Point and often didn’t know their ass from a hole in the ground. Or the one I served with who ratted out me and the company commander when we all snuck into Saigon one night and spent time with the ladies of the night.
We got caught and rather than go along with whatever the CO (commanding officer) offered as a lie, the West Point lieutenant could not tell a lie. He owned up to leaving the basecamp to see the harlots.
Well, the commander and I got no reprimands, but we never fully trusted that junior officer. He probably went on to become a general and got his rocks off in the first Gulf War under the first Bush presidency.
I kind of feel sorry for the guys who were never in the military. Not the ones that protested the war by escaping to Canada or signing on as a conscientious objector. They’re heroes in my book. No, the ones I have compassion for are those that got a deferment because their father knew someone who could pull strings on their behalf.
They knew someone in government, or they could get a doctor to claim a sports injury was more than what it first appeared on paper or in an x-ray. It sure kept them out of harms’ way.
But, I wonder what they did when the next life challenge occurred? When they got married and had to support a kid they weren’t quite ready for, or discovered the marriage to the cheer-leader childhood sweetheart wasn’t what it was all cracked up to be and she asked him for a divorce.
Challenges in life make one stronger. They also build character.
And while you couldn’t ever pay enough to get me back into a war zone, I wouldn’t give up my experience – or my badges of honor – for anything in the world.