Heaven Knows Mrs Noonan
Our gal Peggy gets a letter from Frank Capra, USMC (Ret.):
So, I was driving down I-20 from NE Columbia [S.C.] toward the city when I began to pass this huge convoy of Army trucks, Humvees, etc. The convoy was in the right lane. I was driving in the left. The convoy vehicles were loaded with tough-looking young soldiers, and each of them had the familiar “AA” (All American) patches of the famous 82nd Airborne Division stitched on their sleeves. Of course–being such an enormously long convoy of these young paratroopers traveling west on I-20–it was obvious they were from Fort Bragg, N.C., and they were heading toward the Katrina damaged Gulf Coast, where other 82nd paras had already been deployed.
The convoy took up the entire right lane of the interstate for several miles. . . . But what made it such a wonderful sight was that in the left lane, civilian drivers and passengers (young, old, black, white, some driving Mercedes, some driving smoke-belching old rust-traps) were slowing by each Army vehicle and waving and giving the thumbs up. And the soldiers were waving back . . . some smiling, some trying to look tough, a few were drinking Cokes.
A few months ago, these same guys were fighting in Iraq. . . . Now they were roaring down the highway in a long green line in central South Carolina . . . in the lane next to me. They looked tough, but most looked as if they were barely old enough to shave. Some of them probably had tubes of Clearasil (or whatever teenagers use today to fight acne) stowed away in their field packs. I briefly thought about the fact that they had not been back from Iraq for very long. And for a second, I even considered the fact that–though they were all wearing their helmets and their battle gear–none of their vehicles had any armor plating. But why should they? No one was going to shoot at ’em or hit ’em with an IED . . . not here in central South Carolina. Not ever.
I looked at one of the soldiers as I passed. He looked at me, and smiled through the sweat of his smooth and freckled face. My eyes began to well up . . . and I didn’t really know why. Best, Me
Yup. There was Sarge, the grizzled veteran with the half-chewed cigar in the corner of his mouth who was gonna get these ‘wet-ears’ through this damn, dirty war even if he has to throw his body on a live grenade. He also says “nuts” a lot.
Vinny – The fast-talking quick-tempered Italian from the Bronx who’s as fast with a deck of cards as he is with a knife.
Ray Bob Harry – The freckle-faced corn-fed farmboy from Indiana with a picture of his high school sweetheart in his wallet that he shows to everybody. He’s gonna marry that gal someday and take over Ma & Pa’s farm and raise him a “passel” of kids.
Booksie – The college graduate who always has his head in a book when he’s not killing Krauts. He will eventually quote Shakespeare making everyone quit their horseplay for a moment in between battles.
Doc – He gave up his medical practice to go fight the good fight. He will eventually say, “You’re not gonna die on me, kid! You hear me?”
Samuel – The son of a sharecropper, he is the only black soldier. He plays the harmonica and someday will earn the respect of….
Peckerhead– The company sniper from Alabama who will learn that a black man bleeds red just like he does, changing his heart.
Ski– The strong silent Pole from the Pennsylvania coal mines who carries the heavy caliber weapons and whose job it is to lay down cover fire.
And finally Jonah, the Jewish kid from New York who will be the first to die when an enemy sniper takes him out while he’s stuffing his pockets with doughnuts at an abandoned Krispy Kreme.
Yeah. I’ve seen that movie too….