Today the whole post had to go wait around for the Vice President, Dick Cheney, to show up and give a welcome home speech to the 101st. We got on buses at 9AM and went over to the Air Assault school, where it had already started raining along with chilly winds. My unit got there before the 101st did, who I believe had to WALK there. We snuck inside a classroom to get out of the cold rain and hid out there.
No one wanted to be at this damn thing. That’s the main point about all these “special” people around the world. When they want to hang out with normal people, it causes such an inconvenience so as to be annoying. Like when Bush went to serve Thanksgiving dinner to the troops for a few hours in Iraq before fleeing back to D.C., I’m sure there were a ton of soldiers who couldn’t get inside the DFAC and who were pissed off.
We had FIVE HOURS to kill. The arrival of Cheney wouldn’t happen until 2PM at least. Luckily there was a good country band that set up inside the classroom to play for us. The lead guitarist had face-melting solos. There was also a bass guitar, the acoustic guitar/lead singer (who was the big ol’ hick singer stereotype and seemed to be pretty cool), a steel guitar, drums, and a fiddler.
It must’ve been pretty intimidating to play in front of a classroom full of cold, wet soldiers who were not happy to be there, but by the time they played “Sweet Home Alabama”, soldiers were singing along and getting into it. Then Miss Virginia 2001 got up there and sang also with the band. When the band left so she could sing, everything got quiet so she spiced things up by sitting on soldiers’ laps. That got the privates and sergeants riled up. One of the soldiers was blushing pretty hard as she sat in his lap! Dumbass!
Soldiers being what they are, the guys around me were hoping she would start stripping down out of her heavy coat. Enlisted soldiers are hilarious to be around — they just don’t give a fuck.
Eventually Cheney was on his way so we formed up in this big set that was staged to look all hooah and important. There were parked Apaches, anti-aircraft batteries, and the big air assault rappel tower with big banners of the screaming eagle and an American flag.
I got a photo next to the Apache, joking when friends made fun of me that this photo would show my grandkids the Apache that I used to fly when I was in the Army.
All the generals from the post came out for the event, along with the political leaders, who must have felt elated to be part of the military. Everyone loves to think they support the troops even if only for a couple hours out of a year. Eventually Secret Service guys came out and took their places everywhere in their horrible high-and-tights and black trenchcoats and clear earpieces. Cheney came out and we were supposed to cheer a lot or something when he waved.
It was like one big militaristic circlejerk. I never liked these things because when civilians come, it seems too reminiscent of police states.
Cheney gave a canned speech about how it’s good that we’re re-enlisting for the War on Terror, where the terrorists seek to claim Iraq as a launching ground for more attacks (untrue), where they fight with no respect for the laws of warfare (why can’t they fight us like a regular army??). He added, “This nation harbors no illusions about the nature of our enemies.” Right.
“By your openness and your decency, by your honour and your kindness to others in thousands of interactions, you’ve built bonds of friendship that are very important to our two countries.”
My friends who have just returned to Iraq say it is worse than when they left at the beginning of the year. There is also the 101st’s alleged massacre incident.
The bottom line was that this speech really doesn’t have much content. I have heard a few speeches in my days in the Army and to be honest, almost every speaker has sucked. It’s very rare that I’ve felt motivated and proud after hearing a speech in the military. Mainly that is because they just aren’t honest.
As an example, our first sergeant gives awesome speeches. He has served in direct action tactical teams in more than a handful of deployments in Special Forces. He is one of our most hardcore green berets. He walks around the halls at work and flips out the blade of his knife out of habit. He loves to speak of shooting people in the face. He pushes us to do team-building in unorthodox ways such as river-crossing and building-climbing.
But when he speaks to us, he tells us the truth. This is why the enlisted side of the military is great. I can usually trust a sergeant major or first sergeant to say, “Yeah, this fucking sucks, and I don’t agree that we should have to do it, but we’re going to do it because that’s what we’ve been ordered to do. So we’re going to do it right.” Instead of treating us like little babies who can’t handle the truth, he talks to us in the terms we speak to each other in. And for enlisted types, that usually involves plenty of griping about nonsensical planning and outsiders’ wasting of our time. I’d be proud to fight in battle for this guy.
So Cheney finished his speech. The general on stage with him called us to attention and presented the Distinguished Flying Cross to a female chief warrant who had helped save troops on the ground in her Kiowa helo, taking a round through her ankle in the process. I gave her a big round of applause because that seemed something genuinely good to clap for. She looked to be very proud and happy.
Cheney then shook hands of soldiers around him while Secret Service closed in and surrounded him. He walked by me on an elevated platform and reached down to shake hands with our side. He remarked about how it was harder to reach us on this side than on the other. I didn’t reach to shake his hand.
We took buses back to our unit immediately and left for the day. I got out of my cold, damp clothes, and took a nap with a warm sweater on. Meanwhile, I’m sure there were some e-mails with tasks for me to do in order to support our people in Iraq. Oh well. Thank you, Mr. Cheney.