It’s really sad what small newspapers who never really had a huge circulation to begin with will print for attention these days. After all, bad press is better than no press at all. Somehow I came across an article by a writer named Bill McClellan at the St. Louis Dispatch here: http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/columns/bill-mcclellan/mcclellan-one-last-call-to-service-end-military-funeral-honors/article_8495bfa5-33b5-5fd0-bfd9-9415fde97e13.html
In this article McClellan suggests that because not all veterans are heroes we should save the money of veteran’s organizations and state’s money and only give a military funeral to those who received a purple heart or some other combat medal. I cannot stress how much this outdated and clearly wrong statement sickens me. I cannot believe that the newspaper’s editors and publisher could be this desperate for attention. And it did get a lot of attention from vets and veteran organizations all over the country. He even got a spot on TV.
I understand that as Americans we have the right to freedom of the press, but the fact that McClellan himself is a Vietnam veteran and he made this statement is even more appalling. Many of us are uncomfortable when being called heroes, but I think that joining the largest and one of the most fierce fighting forces in the world has to count for something.
Obviously McClellan wasn’t paying attention to his surroundings much while in the military, but I was. After all, I was in for six years on active duty. The point is that it might not seem heroic to some people to get up every day and do my job as a cook, but consider what would happen if all the cooks on my ship, the USNS Mercy TAH-19, decided that we should all go AWOL in the Philippines and not return to the ship. The next morning about 1,200 crew members would wake up and have no breakfast. They would wake up very hungry, wanting at the very least a cup of coffee and there would be nothing. The coffee would not be hot and filling the messdecks with that pleasant java aroma. There would be no eggs to order, no sausage or bacon, nothing. That might be okay for breakfast, although I’m sure the skipper would not settle for no coffee on his ship, but lets say for Bill’s sake there’s no coffee or breakfast in the galley because all the cooks like me decided we were not heroes and therefore nobody needed us and we’re all going home.
Now it’s lunch time and the entire ship is hard at work and salivating for lunch. They are certain that whatever SNAFU caused the breakfast incident has to be cleared up because after all – they had never had it happen on their ship, and most likely never in the history of the Navy. They shuffle in from the laundry room after pressing the shirts and slacks, from the flight deck where they were running around trying to direct traffic for the helicopter pilots bringing wounded to the ship, from the operating rooms where they are busy repairing soldiers so that they may walk again or not, from the bridge where they are busy running the ship (you know, all those minimal non-heroic jobs that people do for no apparent reason) and what’s this…nobody in the galley still? Not even the smell of meat cooking or vegetables steaming, not a single stitch of food.
Chaos rings out across the ship. Senior officers and enlisted men are busy trying to calm the sailors down, but they are hungry too and confused. First there is a run on the ship’s store. The formal line down the hallway to try and get sodas and potato chips was orderly, but now there is a wave of guys trying to fight there way in and grab whatever they can. The storekeeper is trying to shut the gate, but is punched and wrestled to the ground where is trampled to death minutes later by a stampede of combat boots.
An hour later the ship is on fire and most of the crew has escaped to the shore to find a restaurant. Some are hoping to escape justice for the various crimes they committed. Several are transported to the operating room or trauma departments for treatment, six lay dead after various altercations. The Captain and the Supply Officer are busy trying to find out where there cooks went and working on getting people to make sandwiches. The ship was supposed to pull out that day and attend to seriously wounded men on the front near Kuwait, but because of this incident they are unable to make it and therefore several soldiers die in Kuwait and millions of dollars are lost due to this terrible incident.
The President is notified of a terrible outbreak of violence on a hospital ship named the Mercy and instantly the story goes viral. All the major networks are trying to figure out what happened. After the smoke clears the non-heroes of the ship go on talk shows and they can explain how a guy named Bill McClellan said they were not heroes because they had not been shot and when they died their families would not even be able to drape a flag on their coffins, let alone have a bugle player or twenty-one gun salute. The honored tradition to honor ALL those who served in the American military.
My suggestion to Mr. McClellan is that if you don’t want military honors at your funeral then don’t tell people you’re a veteran at all. In fact, I would suggest that nobody go to his funeral at all and that nothing special at all be done that day except an old man gets buried in a box and that will be that for his poisonous ideas.