….more than likely, they are the ones who have never witnessed its horrors.
My time in the United States Navy is one of which I am most proud and for all the life lessons I learned, one stands out above them all. I was temporarily assigned to an LHA, one of two on which I served aboard, out of San Diego. During a WESTPAC tour we were called to what could have potentially been a hot spot not far from Vietnam. The war was over barely a decade. Being young, and both nervous and excited, I shared a view of similarly aged Sailors and Marines --- vocally hoping for a chance to see action and make right the loss in Southeast Asia.
It was sometime just after midnight . Into our area came the Marine Intel Officer. He was a Warrant Officer, a twenty plus member of the Corps. At that time, the very definition of his rank was that he had been an enlisted person. The ribbons on the chest of his service uniform told all he was one who had seen combat in Vietnam.
He was an approachable man, and we had many conversations over the course of our deployment. I didn’t feel at all odd, or out of place, or disrespectful when mentioning my eagerness that we may be engaging in battle. He said not a word, only giving a cursory nod and smile. I then asked if he was hoping to go back in and get some payback.
The smile disappeared.
His eyes intensified from light blue to navy.
Shoulders drew back, his head raised a bit higher.
“Petty Officer Leonardi.” It was the first, and only, time he used my rank.
I gave no verbal acknowledgement. I raised from my seat, and involuntarily stood at attention.
His voice did not raise a decibel, but his tone dropped an octave, maybe two, “Beware those who clamour loudest for war, more than likely, they are the ones who have never witnessed its horrors.”
Without another word, there was no need for any other, he rose, maintained his military bearing and exited the space.
I will never forget either his words, or the expression on his face, or the pain in his eyes. It was with his memory, and the many others who had, and will continue to experience those horrors, that I wrote War Springs Eternal.