M.A.S.H – MY CHEAP SHRINK

M.A.S.H. is a show I grew up watching and enjoying very much. It was a funny comedy I watched every week. There’s only one thing, at that point in my life I never really understood the underlying message – I didn’t realize it was an anti-war show meant to show the futility of war.
I’d been back from spending a year in Kuwait / Iraq in my war. After being home for some time, one evening I was watching TV and M.A.S.H. came on. At the end of the episode I was crying. I couldn’t find anything funny in the show, but again hooked – I had to watch more. I was lucky it being a rerun came on every night. So every evening I turned it on and watched. You can’t imagine what that show did for me!
Being an Army Reservists when I got back, we demobilized, spent a few days doing a physical and out processing then we were sent home, back into the civilian world. With me living in Denmark there were no veteran’s places I could go to have some guys to talk to, I was just out on my own. I was somewhat lucky as there was another American living south of me who was also a farrier and had been in Vietnam. It ended up about once a month or so I’d go down had help him for a weekend and we’d have a chance to talk. I started talking to him and he had a great ear. In turn, he started talking to me. I think he needed it as much as I did. But it wasn’t long until he moved and I was again alone, and that’s when I stumbled onto M.A.S.H.
The best part is they weren’t a combat unit. Even though I was a combat arms soldier, I was assigned to a headquarters unit. As I began to watch the show I soon found many of the things they went through was exactly the same for me! I’ll never forget the episode about mail. To get a letter and fold it up in your pocket, then pull it out later and read it was really special. Yea I had e-mail on the internet, but somehow for me it just didn’t cut it. There is nothing like hearing someone call out your name and handing you a letter!
We also had incoming fire to deal with right along with the boring times. Believe it or not, there are boring times during war! The food thing wasn’t a big deal for me. Food is food, no matter what it is I’d eat it, kind of like Radar. I remember the vehicles that would break down, pulling guard duty, and some of the officers I had to deal with, many of those were on M.A.S.H. as well. And there was death to deal with as well. Every time we went out on the road, you never knew if it was your turn or not. I even had my close calls! Proved to me there was Someone watching out for me.
It’s been over 11years since I got back and nearly as long since I began to watch M.A.S.H. again. Like I said, I never had a chance to decompress, maybe that was a good thing about the guys coming home from WWII, most of them came home on a boat, gave them a longer time to decompress. I’ve looked back at myself and wondered if I was normal. What a word! What is normal? I do know I’m not the same person I was before I went, no matter what you did down there, you’re never the same. I’ve read about a lot of Vets who’ve had problems adapting and coping with the real world, PTSD is what they call it. I guess for me M.A.S.H. is my shrink, my way to say, “I know how you feel”, “I’ve been there.” I guess I was lucky enough to be strong enough to know who my demons are and how to face them. I’ve learned for myself I go to war every day to battle the demons I know. As long as I’ve got control over them and know how to handle them everything is good to go. The internet has been great. I found a couple sites I visit once in a while and communicate with Iraq / Afgan Vets and it helps some.
Yea, I still watch M.A.S.H. and I no longer find it a comedy show. Yea, there are some funny things and I will smile at them, but I’m just glad it’s there. Cheap shrink, but it works for me.

4th OF JULY: REFLECTIONS

Today we celebrate the 239th birthday of my homeland, our great nation. Here where I am there is no celebration because it’s just another day, a Saturday. As I head out to shoe a couple horses my mind is spinning about 4th of Julys past.

It’s 0530 in the morning. A year ago I was sitting on the back deck of Delbert Douty’s house in Greenleaf, Idaho having a cup of coffee watching the day begin. Del has it great! His house is sitting on the rim overlooking the valley, facing east to see it all. It was a nice morning, still dark but one could almost make out the faint signs that the sun was going to muster its way over the mountains. Del had a pot of coffee already done by the time I enter his house so I headed for the cupboard, grabbed a cup and filled it. Del was already out on the deck so I pulled up a chair. We talked a bit, but mostly we watched the morning begin. We also listened to the morning sounds, the sounds of the day coming alive. I’d been at Del’s place for 2 days and each morning we’d celebrated the birth of a new day the same way. One thing that stood out was the lone, long train whistle as the morning freight train was moving east towards Caldwell. Even though the train was across the valley, in the crisp morning air it was fantastic. You can’t imagine the memories that sound brought back. Thanks Del for the memories and the sour dough pancakes for breakfast!

The reason I was at Del’s place is my graduation class planned their 40th class reunion for the 4th of July as Greenleaf always has a big blow out. I went to the breakfast and Larry showed up as well. We had a great talk as brother do. Soon people from Greenleaf, ones I hadn’t seen in 40 years started to come and we had a great time. After the breakfast was the parade and our class members road on a float driven by David and it was great! After the parade we were back at the lawn between the Church and School for the 4th Celebration. As I was walking to a booth where my books were being displayed, I saw a Marine Corps Color Guard and tears came to my eyes. I walked over to them, shook each of their hands and thanked them for taking the time to come. I’d retired from the military and it had been almost 10 years since I’d seen the Colors presented in person. As the ceremony began everyone came to their feet, the Color Guard posted and the National Anthem was sung. For me to be able to stand at attention and render a hand salute to my nation, well to this day I can’t express what I felt. This had to be the top of all 4th of Julys I’ve experienced.

Growing up, 4th of July was special. In preparing for it, the day before Dad would get a case of soda pop (in the bottles of course), orange, grape, root beer were some of the favorites. Chores were done, but after that the day was mostly free. The swimming pool was cool and filled. But the best part was Mom’s homemade ice cream! Larry and I’d get the ice cream machine out, cleaned it, get the ice out of the freezer and get it smashed into small pieces. Once we were ready, Mom would come out with the cylinder of her home made mix which we never knew what kind she’d made. Was it strawberry, cherry, raspberry, vanilla, we’d know when it was done. Once in was in the ice cream machine, we’d pack ice and salt all around the cylinder, put a gunny sack on top to sit on and while I was sitting on it, Larry would start turning the crank. When he’d get tired, we’d switch. The one sitting on top was also responsible for keeping the water drain hole near the top open so the salt water could run out. If not, the ice cream would be salty! Once it was done, Mom would come out and pull the center out. She’d always leave a little on the paddles for Larry and I to have just a little taste! One of our fresh farm raised chickens was fried for dinner along with potato salad, new peas and potatoes and our 4th of July meal was complete! Then in the evening we’d load up in the old ’54 Ford car and go to town to watch the fireworks.

2001 I was deployed to Kosovo as the Senior NCO of the U.S. National Support Element in Pristina, Kosovo which was NATO Headquarters. Being a Sergeants Major I was also the Senior NCO of all U.S. Forces assigned there, so I also ended up briefing an American General almost daily on things. After the Norwegians had a big party celebrating their national day, the General came to me and said, “SGM, I want you to plan a traditional 4th of July BBQ to feed the entire camp. And it would be nice to have some entertainment like the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders here.” So it was in May I began planning the event. The complete story is in my book “GUIDE’S LIFE”, so I won’t ruin the story, but I will say it made the most memorable list!

Living outside the United States had really made me appreciate more what our country was founded for. I have to ask permission from the police to fly my flag – think about that! The values, traditions, freedoms and way of life are like none other in the world! I’ve traveled to 23 different countries and believe me, what the United States has is not to be found anywhere else! It really hurts me to see all the strife and problems in our country today. I wonder, what would happen if everyone would stop thinking of themselves and begin to think of others? So many are trying to live in the past and not look forward to the future. If more time was put to helping others instead of dragging up old wounds and continuing to think they are owed something because of the past, then progress would be made. In the recent past I’ve see more racial tensions being hacked about and stirred up by the race baiters and those who in my opinion don’t love the United States. There are many who can see what these people are trying to do and have made a stand, but it’s going to take many more of us to do so.

I think maybe we all need to take a step back and forget about ourselves and start thinking of our fellow Americans. No one is perfect and our Country isn’t perfect, but it’s done pretty good so far. There are a lot of people in the United States who aren’t happy, who want everything changed. If you’re not happy with the values, freedoms, traditions, way of life we have in the United States, then why not move somewhere else? I really wish all the race baiters, trouble makers would move to another country and live for a while. It might make them appreciate more what we have. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.

So this 4th of July I’ll celebrate it in my own little piece of America. I got some ribs to slap on the grill and give a little reflection on the past and say a prayer for the future.