Fred Tomasello Jr.
Before serving in the military, my beliefs about heroism and manhood were fully rooted and taught to me in John Wayne war movies. If one survived combat, one was honored for the rest of their life. If one was killed in combat, one was honored for the rest of their life.
“To this day, I still harbor anger at the mythical ‘John Wayne’ bullshit promoting the nobility of war.“
So, to fulfill my destiny based on this simple lesson, I joined the US Marine Corps, sought Infantry as my military specialty, and I volunteered for the biggest war we had going at that time. I served in Vietnam from October 1967 to August 1968. I was wounded once each year and quickly learned it was safer to get out.
The fundamental lesson I learned was that every biological organism on Planet Earth needs nourishment and replenishment to survive. So does every organizational group of people, even the Marine Corps.
Combat completely trashed my beliefs about heroism and manhood. To this day, I still harbor anger at the mythical “John Wayne” bullshit promoting the nobility of war.
I find it timely that the Academy Awards will formally apologize to “Little Feather,” the Native American woman who refused Marlon Brando’s academy award because of the way Hollywood misrepresented America’s indigenous people in cowboy movies. Reports from that evening say John Wayne was so incensed at her words he angrily moved to assault her and had to be held back by cooler heads.
My beliefs about the the Marine Corps were also trashed and I can clearly see some myths that were perpetuated then and still are today.
One heavily hyped battle myth is “We leave no one behind.” Noble as this concept sounds, the actual practice is not sane. Why get even more people killed to save a few?
I don’t know how many times this actually happened, but I can assure you it did. Marines laid out by themselves far too long, sometimes for weeks, until their bodies were recovered.
After each battle, an “After Action Report” is written. Often, to save face, little to no mention is made of these incidents.
Like a human organism, the Marine Corps wants to survive. To survive, volunteers are needed. Therefore, myths must be protected.
Who would volunteer to join a military group that would leave you behind in battle? So, hype the myth and hide the truth.
Another lesson I learned in the military was the value of discipline and appropriate punishment. In Boot Camp or Officer Candidate School, the Drill Instructors were “judge, jury and executioner.” Everyone could see what happened to people who screwed up or made mistakes, the timely and effective punishment they were given and how everyone soon began working as a team, sacrificing individual rights for the greater good of the group. Coming from a strict Catholic School run by Salesian sisters, discipline in the Marine Corps was just a continuation of common sense.
After ending my three years of military service in 1970, I became a civilian and witnessed the gradual decline of discipline in our society and the uneven distribution of punishment among people.
Corporal punishment evolved to a crime of violence, replaced by “time outs,” appeals to logic, intellectual common sense or the application of verbal guilt trips.
As a result, many people today are unafraid to exercise their desires for personal gratification at the expense of others. How many laws have been passed that remain unenforced? When these laws are enforced, is everyone treated the same? Do some people avoid punishment while others do not?
My last and most painful lesson concerns the destruction of my firmly held belief contained in our country’s “Pledge of Allegiance,” specifically the part that reads we are “indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Until recently, these words were a mockery of my fervent prayers and beliefs. But, things are changing.
Today, I’m seeing hope for the future as an ever-growing group of “we the people” muscularly flex their beliefs every chance they get for the good of our country. Myths are being challenged every day and evidence about how “we the people” were fooled for years is finally being exposed. We are moving in a good direction.
Today, my wife Kathy and I have a brand new granddaughter and that motivates me to investigate, track and review the lessons that will be taught to her. I look forward to the satisfaction of sharing the lessons I’ve learned that will benefit her and all the kids of her generation.
And that will make life and all the lessons I have learned worthwhile.