Thursday, October 30, 2008

There Could Be Modifications

There Could Be Modifications

I could be that guy you see in the supermarket, or the parade, with the pins all over his hat.

Not the Wal-Mart Guy, or the NASCAR or Sturgis Motorcycle Rally devotees who wear pins all over their vests. Veterans wear all their shit on their hat. Maybe you’ve seen the guy with the aircraft carrier, the ‘USS Something Or Other’.

Let’s see here. First of all, the appropriate headgear, the standard baseball cap, but this one, a gift from Bro Tom from an Iowa casino gift shop*, boldly emblazoned in yellow letters with ‘Vietnam Veteran’ like a billboard, with a row of service ribbons underneath it, even without the pins, should get you through the first-level security at most U.S. airports. As a standard practice, I wear it into Pine Ridge Village, where it gets enormous respect, and since the rectal examinations by Denver and Seattle security, at any U.S. airport.

Above the vet declaration, I’ve got a set of wings that go right proudly in the middle of the billboard, and only once in twenty or thirty years elicited a comment, when a young man in…where was it…outside a convenience store in Chadron…flashed me a salute and held the door open and said his dad was an aviator.

Then there’s this little purple heart pin for being in the wrong place at the wrong time is pretty much what that says. But people recognize it. It’s purple, in the shape of a heart, with a profile of some guy…lemme check…George Washington…so, many people, expecially U.S. citizens, know that one when they see it.

Annnnnd I gotta little combat medic’s badge I can pin on there somewhere, even though most people wouldn’t know what it looks like or care enough to ask, like, ‘Excuse me Sir, but could you tell me what that pin means?’ Or, like asking that biker about his patch. People don’t do it.

You can be standing right behind him in line at the checkout, staring at the patch ‘STURGIS 2002 - Rockymore, MT Harley Davidson Motorcycle Club’, and you could ask him about the patch, or Rockymore, but you won’t.

And somewhere, at the memorial wall in D.C. back in the 80s when I took Mike Shoemaker up there to see it in the dead of February at seventeen below zero, and Mike hadn’t been out of the state of Indiana for twenty years, dropped everything, left a note under the door of his boss, filled the coffee thermos and headed out around midnight.

They were selling bumper stickers and little trinkets under a tent, a navy seal under a tent. Him and another guy, freezing and stomping their feet, and they had all the names there in big volumes and you could look up your friends and find them on the wall. I bought a pin that day, a ‘Vietnam / Laos / Cambodia War Games Participant’ pin with a peace sign, and our tears froze on our faces.

Up in Rapid City at Prairie Edge you can get those cool little rectangular pins with an eagle feather and the green and red stripes on a yellow field, representing the flag of Vietnam, and I’ve got one of those, stuck up there on the wall.

And what else? Let me have a look around here once.

They should give you pins for degrees.

Ahhhhh, here’s a miniature DFC, a distinguished flying cross, like McCain got for getting shot down, and a rare Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry for…for…for being gallant, I guess, during a sticky nighttime mission under fire, ours or theirs, I never found out which, because it was, like I said, dark, and everything was whooshing around in the sky every whichaway and the helicopter was going all haywire. It was inappropriately awarded. There was nothing gallant about my fear.

Yeah, well, all this is war shit. There’s an Order of the Eagle Feather, and the Red Feather Society that Uncle Joe got me inducted into out at an Oglala pow wow a few years back, and some other stuff, but I never wear any of that shit. It hangs on the wall over my desk, not the least dissuasive to the thieves who twice broke in and ransacked the place.

Well, they didn’t exactly ransack the place. They merely stole everything of value. I sat beside the guy in lodge recently, and second round, he asked to use my drum. Yeah, so in case I had gotten to the place where I could let it go and forget about it, here’s a reminder FOR YA. Yeah, enormous respect out here on the rez.

They should give you pins for your degrees, and that way, you could wear your education on your hat, or your sleeve. A paralegal associate, an OCD truck driver, a BA in philosophy, an MA from the Harvard Business School, a PhD. from Ivy Tech, Doctor of Neurosurgery, University Online.

Nobody cares about a pin unless it’s the flag on your lapel.

It’s too heavy. All that metal hanging from your hat is too heavy. Besides a delirious old veteran in a parade, who would want to wear it around on their head? It’s bad enough to carry it around on the inside.

- end

*Indians can’t just blow through a state without at least one stop. Even with a tailwind, it can take several days for an Indian to cross Nevada.