Anthology – Peoples’ Plan for Life, Now and Forever …
The following entry is by a Marine wounded in Vietnam who has spent the rest of his life since then learning to cope with those wounds. His letter is to an open forum on-line newspaper that takes its name from the high school paper of Columbia High School in Richland, Washington; its editor, Maren Smyth. The school “mascot” – the Bombers, takes its name from the production of weapons-grade nuclear fuel at nearby Hanford. Mr. Maddy enlisted right out of high school. Before his post, a debate raged in the paper’s pages over the Iraq invasion by the United States. He begins his response with a short tale of how he missed the debate at the height of its furor.]
“From: Rick Maddy (’67) submitted to The Sandstorm, Nov 19, 2004
“Re: Weathering the storm
“Wow! I’m gone ten days and the Online Sandstorm got heated. I always miss the good stuff. I feel compelled to rant now for a bit.
Now, if I can just get it past Maren!
“I drove to Olympia on a whim to help my mother move into an assisted living home. I had a piece of my furniture in her apartment needing extraction. I have been blessed with the ability to jump up on any given morning and leave town, sometimes not knowing where I am going and return a week later. Some call it retired. I do too. I supervised while my brother and sister-in-law did all the work. Mother, Doris, is in a much better place. Three squares and twenty-four hour watch from the front desk. You don’t show for breakfast, they are knocking on your door finding out why.
“She has been having difficulty with walking, but still can motor around good enough on her own with her walker at a hair-pulling, nerve-wracking, teeth-pulling pace if you happen to be strolling with her. A lot more social life. Folks her age. It’s all good. Mom is a mellowing seventy-eight years old.
“I got back about four days ago. Gone ten days thinking I might get stuck on some Donner Pass coming and going in my two-wheel drive Ranger. Heavily laden with water, chips and dip, the trip went very well. The Redwoods are magnificent. Passed through in July but wanted to take another look. All’s well that ends well.
“The editing stir was interesting. I know I’ve done my best to be a burr under the saddle but Maren wouldn’t print it. I’ve said it before, sometimes she thought what I had written would upset the Christians. Sometimes she thought it would upset the Communists and the topics on sex were simply not going to happen. I personally didn’t care who it offended but Maren had the foresight to know.
And in hindsight I know she made the right call. IMHO, the Alumni Sandstorm is her baby and she can raise it however she desires…or end it. I don’t get involved with raising other’s “kids.” And I’m not starting here. Anyone’s opinion on that editing issue is useless fodder, including mine. I probably still owe her fifty or sixty bucks too, but have I paid? Nope. Soon, Maren.
“I do have to make a public mention of my beloved Marine Corps.
A belated Happy Birthday, but one that is heart-felt. And, by the way, is the only holiday the Marine Corps celebrates, no matter what they tell you. Marines in Iraq and other military services deployed there come to mind. I cannot respect more a person that joined our military for duty, honor, country or whatever personal reason they had to join the fight. Yes, even those of us that had the judge’s option of jail… or military. There is not one Marine or former Marine that does not know that the Marine Corps tells you where you are going and who you are shooting. This is not school. No Q&A time or complaint box. Only orders. And you go the course. I will assume all other services are likewise. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your sacrifices. One of those crystal clear sacrifices being what the Vietnam War should have taught everyone, but seems to keep on shocking people; the job can cause severe mental illness among those doing the killing for our country. Small story – I drove into Pismo Beach (the 101) on the way home and I thought about an incident there a year ago. Three high school boys drove by me and one of them pointed at me and said, ‘Look at that guy’s arm.’ They laughed. I was wearing a tank-top because it was eighty plus degrees. I gave them the stink eye. That’s dangerous if you are old and can’t run fast. At least I was good for a laugh that day. My left arm is two inches shorter than my right arm and fused at the elbow. Doctor Amber (Commander, U.S. Navy), my orthopedic surgeon, asked me what I wanted to do with my left arm (before fusion). He wanted to know if I wanted to have it fused straight for zipper problems and/or my golf shot. I told him I wanted to drive a car because I would figure out the zipper deal later. The doctors got a steering wheel and measured the angles of the dangles and that is the angle of my left arm. A bit odd looking, but useful. Those boys… at that very moment my PTSD kicked in and I wanted to throw a frag into their pickup, blowing off some limbs, so I could ask them if they thought my left arm was still laughable. I quickly came to my guilt ridden senses and just blamed our society for raising children that have evolved little from somewhere around the Darwinian monkey branch. Nevertheless, I will give those young naive boys the benefit of the doubt. If they are presently seeing any form of media about Iraq and possible escalation, they probably don’t think my left arm is as funny today as it was yesterday.
“Adults… a lady hands me change and since I cannot open my right hand on my good arm because of shrapnel passing through the forearm muscle, missing bone, destroying tendons, blowing off the top of my ring finger, a single trench digging piece traveling through the thumb muscle starting at the wrist and breaking the thumb joint, the thumb now fused straight unlike the left elbow… I drop the change all over the counter. She looks at me and says, ‘Why don’t you open your hand next time?’ I said, ‘I would if I could.’ I gathered the change and exited instead of jumping over the counter into the cage and onto this woman’s ignorant bird chest (you gotta love that, Phil). Okay, she made a simple misjudgment. I’ll give her that. Maybe she was the grandmother of one of those Pismo teenagers. I could go on and on and on about being a cripple… I mean disabled… I mean handicapped… I mean disabled with handicaps… I mean physically challenged… ahh, no matter what they call it I still feel crippled. What was wrong with the word crippled? I started this life-long trip being one. I still feel like one.