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Break down the history of the baby boomer years and one thing stands out.

Pentagon Holds Departure Ceremony For Rumsfeld

The earliest group born between 1946-52 carried the burden.

They played Cowboys and Indians, Cops and Robbers, Army.

It was good clean fun for outdoor play time.

Being the good guy in those games meant having a bad guy to chase around.

The bad guys, though temporary, got into it.

How bad were they?

Some of the games they played turned into lifestyles.

The key to successful games is finding the right people to battle. The more vulnerable, the smaller and younger, became the bad guys. They were easiest to vanquish.

Dad’s of baby boomers saw it as the natural pecking order. Younger and smaller took abuse until they grew up and gave back to others.

That’s when complications set in.

The fathers and father figures in the 50’s had WWII and the Korean War on their resume. The first was all out war determined by unconditional surrender. Korea was a political stalemate based on the Domino Theory that stated if one nation fell to communism others will fall until an entire region, perhaps the world, all fell.

In many ways nothing has changed. Innocent people are still slaughtered while attention goes elsewhere. Korea was called The Forgotten War. Since then everyone tries to forget the effects of every other war.

Portland baby boomers, along with boomers all across the country, found their war in Vietnam. Like the island hopping strategy of The War In The Pacific, boomers marched in steamy jungles. Why?

The old men of WWII, the admirals and generals in charge, gave way to younger men, also known as the dads of the boomer generation. You’d think the blood and guts and gore they saw on the fields of Europe and beaches of the Pacific would have been enough. It wasn’t, not when their Domino Theory said otherwise.

Every transition of leadership brings a similar action. New guys need to show they’ve got what it takes, and the old guys are watching. War is good for reputation building, career enhancement, and making a pile of money for government contractors.

How many parents of boomer kids stood up when the draft notice arrived and said, “Enough?”

Not enough, so boomers did it themselves.

When President Kennedy said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country,” he didn’t mean military officers scrambling out of the academies to get their combat command ticket punched to stay on the fast track for promotions.

That was part of the system then if an ambitious 2nd Lt. saw himself on the Joint Chiefs Of Staff with stars on his shoulders instead of bars. They needed to show their commanders they could cut the mustard early on.

Vietnam was the testing ground for the career military man, and the obligation of draftees. It was also the line in the sand separating government from civilian life more than ever. WWII vets needed to say war is wrong in the loudest voice possible. Their kids did it instead, and they said in rhyme with, “Hell no we won’t go.”

Not every boomer got drafted or joined, and not every service man or woman went to Vietnam. It just seems that way.

The generational torch got passed forward, as it always does, but not the wisdom of the elders. Young people still go to war on their elders’ orders. The first President Bush mobilized the armed forces for the first Gulf War. The second President Bush did the same for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The younger Bush, a baby boomer, couldn’t hear advise from his cabinet to avoid the sort of war his own father avoided. If he listened to Vice President Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, he got the thumbs up talk.

If he listened to his own dad, he may have acted differently. Leadership isn’t a play act with words like evil doers. It’s not pointing a finger and calling out nations as the Axis Of Evil.

Little boys in the fifties playing Cowboys And Indians, or Cops And Robbers, or playing Army, might use such descriptive words. Leaders say things like, “We’re working to solve the problems we face in remote parts of the world,” and count on the rest of us to fill in the blanks.

Serving in the American military is a time honored tradition, not a last ditch attempt to make more of a floundering life. Men and women in uniform deserve respect, not contempt, from their civilian leaders. Can anyone understand what Mr. Cheney meant with, “I had other priorities in the 60’s instead of military service?”

The interpreter working for boomerpdx thinks he was confused between reality and imagination, that he wanted to play in a sand box with his new toys as the basis for invading Iraq.

Yes, military service is a step up for some, a discipline for others, and an adventure for all. The main difference between success and failure comes with the leaders. If you have someone in charge who couldn’t cut the mustard when it mattered and spend the rest of their life licking the lid, it doesn’t go well.

Setting priorities and living up to them? That’s the golden rule for 2014.







About David Gillaspie
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