Rough Men

“We sleep soundly in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.”  There are several versions of this oft quoted adage.  Wikiquote suggests it is usually incorrectly attributed to George Orwell and may originate with Winston Churchill, although Orwell expressed a similar idea in his “Notes on Nationalism”.  In the movie, “A Few Good Men”, Jack Nicholson portrays Colonel Nathan Jessup brilliantly, but in a negative light.  His speech resonates:  On the wall   (Use back arrow to return from links.)

Rudyard Kipling in “Tommy” reproves those who may tear down the contribution of our warriors, “Yes, making mock o’ uniforms that guard you while you sleep”.  Sometimes the left intelligentsia disparage with clever arrogance those who guard our lives and freedom.  I have no interest in futile quarrelling with those weary and specious arguments, nor do I want to get mired in awkward politically correct gender neutral foolishness.  Let’s stipulate that “men” in this post refers to all those dedicated to our defense, both male and female.

“Rough” seems a woefully inadequate adjective to illuminate the complex nature of the men who serve our country today on the tenth anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attack that murdered almost 3,000 of us.  Dore Gilbert is the father of Marty Gilbert, the future husband of my youngest daughter, Meg; Dore is a successful physician in the Laguna area of Southern California.  Last year he enlisted in the Army to do what he could do to help the military he so admires.  Dore, a former college football player, remains remarkably fit for a man entering his seventh decade.  He is now deployed with the Massachusetts National Guard in Afghanistan as a Lt. Colonel responsible for the well being of around 8,000 military men. His son, Kevin, is also in Afghanistan serving as a Marine in harm’s way.   Every so often, Dore sends out a private email blog; he graciously gave me permission to share it.

Here is the closing paragraph of his most recent post:  This is serious business and I am very confident based on the level of professionalism I have seen so far.  I doubt there is any other country in the world that could carry on both a war against despicable people and a humanitarian effort to help less fortunate at the same time.  We are building schools, hospitals, infrastructure and partnering with the Afghans in law, professional police forces and an army for self defense.  What a colossal effort.   I love my country.

His whole post is entitled “What do we do with sinks and toilets?”  It is well worth your time to read and is posted here:  What do we do with sinks and toilets

 Here also are some pictures he sent, as well as one sent to me by a friend  taken by his son Dan, currently serving as a helicopter gunship pilot in Afghanistan. 

Afghan Plaza
Traffic Jam
Patch Ceremony

Gunship View of an Afghan Village

 While Dore is not your typical recruit, he exemplifies many who have put their lives on hold and at risk on our behalf.  All come with the same imperfections and messy history that every human being carries, and every one of them is deeply imbued with the dignity of the individual human person – all singular, all a first time and forever unique creation, all with varied motivations, intellects, abilities and personalities: Each one an irreplaceable treasure and on occasion an irretrievable loss.

“A Few Good Men” is a better descriptive than “rough”.  “Good” in spite of or perhaps because of the very human flaws they share with all of us.  Abigail Adams, our second First Lady, wrote to her friend Mercy Otis Warren after the Battle of Trenton following the disastrous defeats for the Continental Army in Brooklyn and Fort Washington.  Trenton and the crossing of the Delaware River on a frigid December night was a pivotal moment in American history.  Indeed without Trenton, there may have been no American history.  She wrote of the commander, George Washington, but I think her letter applies to all who serve their country.  In her letter she quoted the poet, Edward Young, “Affliction is the good man’s shining time.”  May God bless and protect the good men who keep us safe in their time of affliction.  Please keep a moment of quiet reflection and prayer for every one of them today.

We shall  not fail or falter; we shall not weaken or tire. Neither the sudden shock of  battle, nor the long-drawn trials of vigilance and exertion will wear us down.  Give us the tools and we will finish the job.
Winston Churchill


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3 responses to “Rough Men

  1. Rita P

    Thanks darling for this inspiring post. With the imperfections that accompany any human endeavor, the American army is indeed special.

    It makes me think of the many stories that were told to me and my brothers as children by my father who served in WWII as part of a medical team that cared for the wounded who were brought back to the US on the huge hospital/troop ships used during that time. One story stands out in my mind as an example of why we are a different army.

    It was Thanksgiving and my Dad had arrived in NYC with a ship full of wounded. He was working at a hospital for wounded soldiers as well as wounded prisoners of war, who, by the way, received the same wonderful care as our own soldiers were receiving. The soldiers who were able to walk to a large cafeteria were able to enjoy a Thanksgiving dinner with all the fixings. This celebration included a table of German soldiers. One of the German soldiers had lost both of his arms and so was unable to feed himself. His fellow soldiers passed the platters of food around and began to eat. The soldier without arms sat there with his head down.

    My Dad had discovered that one of the German officers who were overseeing this banquet could speak English. My Dad went up to him and pointing to the German soldier who was downcast and not eating, he said, “See that soldier over there? In the American army, that soldier would be fed first.” And that is what makes the American army special.

    That was a story that taught us the value and dignity of all human life. It and many other stories like that were what gave us kids the values that inform and inspire us to this day.

    Thank you Dad for your service and for those wonderful “army stories”!
    Rita, Dave, Rob and Mike


  2. Francesca

    Thank you, Jack, for the reminder to pause and remember those who have risked and given their lives for the freedom I enjoy in this great country of ours. And Rita, your father was a beautiful man, which explains how his daughter came to be who she is.


  3. Steve Linsky

    Jack, Good work as usual.. You do paint a picture with words…. I loved the movie “of Gods and Men” the fact that is was true and written very close to the real situation was terrific! Why do men kill each other? I guess the “pack” mentality has still not been driven out of us as animals. i.e. the Milgram experiment (see Stanley Milgram)

    Your “old” Roommate, Steve


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