from October 1, 2004
I was born on the Fourth of July. Let nobody, man, woman, or child, take that distinction away from me. I am, by definition, a patriot. Both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died on that date, in 1826, and neither has ever had aspersions cast on his patriotism to this beloved country. The fact that I was born on that date while my august predecessors died on that date is quite beside the point. What is not beside the point is that I died on that uniquely American holiday, Thanksgiving, as attested by my good friend and companion, Miss Molly Golightly.
As for my war record, what must be kept in mind is that I was born in the Year of Our Lord 1910. When World War I broke out, I was a mere lad of four and thus ineligible for the draft, which if I recall was introduced in 1916, but check that out. I would have served despite my ineligibility, but for the fact that the shack in which I lived back in Panhandle County had no mailbox. This explains why I did not know there was a war going on. Neither did we have a telephone. We were too poor to afford one and besides, the wires in our county had not yet been strung. Besides, I don’t recall that the radio had been invented. Even if it had, we wouldn’t have had one because many in my family thought of this newfangled device as the work of the devil and we couldn’t afford one.
On the day that shall live in infamy, December 7, 1941, I immediately took off for the Naval Recruiting Office with the full intent of signing on for a four-year tour of duty. I was 31 years old at the time and fit as a fiddle, except for the fact that, in my medical examination, the attending nurse discovered several slivers in my buttocks, probably from overuse of the rocking chair in my newly-purchased bungalow while advising neighbors on the art of begging off. I also did not know how to swim, having lived in the desert for my entire life.
I don’t remember anything about the Korean War. The day before it started I fell off my rocking chair and suffered a severe, lengthy concussion. I have the scars to prove it—or, more precisely, I had those scars until the day of my cremation, which I will never forget.
During the Vietnam War, which I supported to the very end, I begged my draft board to draft me despite my age. The chairman of the board listened intently to my pleas, and in the end, advised me that he would put me on the list. Disheartened by the length of the list, I began a correspondence course in needlework, offered by Panhandle University. I duly reported this academic work to the draft board and was dismayed when they granted me a student deferment. Disillusioned by this turn of events, when the needlework course was ended I signed up for a course in shoeing horses and received another student deferment. So disgusted by this action was I that I joined a student protest group. To this day I can recall the message on the needlepointed banner I carried as I was riding my newly-shod horse, Buck: “Let Us Old Guys Fight the Bastards!”
I remember the line of my hero, Nathan Hale: “I regret that I have but one life to give for my country.” To this noble, patriotic sentiment I would only add, “If they’d only let me give it.”