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Memorial Day Reflections

On Memorial Day, we’re supposed to thank a vet for freedom.  We’re supposed to think about fidelity and sacrifice.  We’re supposed to honor the dead. 

I honor the dead by refusing to pretend they died for anything.  I honor the dead by hating those who lied to them.  I honor my good friend Brian Slavenas by saving others from the murderers.

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People are always surprised to learn that I was in the Army.  They infer from my hatred of the Military Industrial Complex, that I simply lack an understanding of the Army.  They assume that anyone who understands that modern military service is based on lies has never served. 

It never occurs to people - who themselves never served – that my understanding and hatred of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney comes not from uninformed bigotry, but from a deep sanguine understanding - informed by experience, sacrifice, and loss.

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When your sons and daughters were enjoying their last summer vacation in high school, my 17-year-old self was at Basic Combat Training.  I was so eager to serve my country that graduating high school couldn’t stop me: I’d attend Basic the summer before high school, graduate high school, and then do my Advanced Individual Training – Split Ops, it was called.  Thus I enlisted in the Army National Guard.  While my high school classmates were smoking pot, random drug tests meant I didn’t light up for the 9 years I was the Guard and Reserves.  When high school – and then college - students were out hanging out on Friday, I lost one weekend a month for military service.  I lost two weeks of every summer.

I did all of this because I believed the lies.  I believed that I was serving my country.  My high IQ didn’t save me from the culture that made me a dumb hick – the perfect patsy for the power elite.

During college, I began Officer Candidate School.  It was in OCS that I met the most amazing male specimen.  Brian Slavenas was scientific experiment gone right.  Biologically he was perfect.  Culturally, he was flawed.  Like me, he believed the lies.

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Brian Slavenas was my classmate in Officer Candidate School.  He was a couple of years older than I, and while it’s common to canonize the dead, he was someone we admired while living.

A New Yorker article described him thusly:

Among the people I talked to in Illinois, in fact, there was a remarkable consistency in how Brian was remembered. He was methodical, working slowly and patiently on whatever skill he was trying to acquire; at the gym used by the University of Illinois weight-lifting club, he didn’t miss workouts. His passion for flying was so strong that, even after his engineering degree was in hand, he didn’t completely rule out a career in aviation; for him, the practical appeal of the Guard had included not only tuition support but pilot training. He was the sort of student who studied hard preparing for an exam, was always pessimistic about how he had done, and almost invariably turned out to have done very well. He was thoughtful—someone who would always insist on taking the most cramped spot in the moving van. He had a modesty so profound that it sometimes seemed to shade into a shortage of self-confidence. His friends in the weight-lifting club didn’t learn until after his death about the trophies he’d won in out-of-town tournaments. When I asked Jennifer Lasiowski why she and Brian had eventually broken up—I don’t really know what made me think I had a right to ask that question—she said, “He thought I could do better.” 

Gentle giant has become cliché, but how would you have described someone who dead lifted over 500 pounds, took two stair steps at a time as his normal stride - while earning an “A” GPA in Engineering while being terrified of approaching women? 

Brian was so gentle and humble that our mutual friend and OCS classmate, Bob, and I would ridicule him about his fear of women.  When we’d go out, Brian had the worst approach anxiety of any man I’d seen – and totally unjustified given his alpha physical characteristics, wit, and intelligence.  

Brian wouldn’t believe that women were eyeing him.  “Stop teasing me, guys,” he’d say.  “You guys are just trying to get me to go talk to that girl so you can laugh at me!”

Even with my high self-regard, there’s no way of denying that he was more of a man than I will ever be. He was bigger, stronger, smarter, and humbler.  He is the kind of person society needs.

We graduated Officer Candidate School together before serving at an aviation unit.  I moved to California for law school, while Brian remained to fly helicopters.

We lost touch for a few months.  That was all it took.

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I’ll remember getting the call:  “Slavenas is dead.”  I couldn’t comprehend the loss until I called Bob.  Like me, Bob had gotten out once realizing that cowards intended to sacrifice our flesh for the profits of oil companies and construction companies.  We would have died for our country, but not for Halliburton.

Bob took Brian’s loss hardest.  “I begged him to get out before Iraq.  He wouldn’t believe it.  He just wouldn’t fucking believe me.”  When you fail to persuade someone that they are about to die, it’s hard not to blame yourself for his death.

Kind-hearted, Brian believed the lies people who never served told him about service.  He trusted his leaders.  Why would anyone send people like Brian Slavenas to Iraq?  Surely there must be a reason to send off people like Brian?

There was a reason.  The trillions-of-dollars that disappeared was the reason.

My friend is dead, because Memorial Day parades and public-school educating indoctrinated him into believing that wars are fought for the interest of the country rather than the interest of a few power elites.  If only Brian had attended law school with me.  He would have met his leaders.

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Immediately after 9/11, my classmates started talking about invading Iraq.  I was anti-war, realizing that a War with Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11.  Many dared to call me anti-American.  To my face – proof that masculine virtue in America died years.  People would call me a coward to my face, because they would never receive the punch to the face they deserve.  The first to call you a coward is the last to fight, and the first to the police station.

Naïve and lacking an understanding of the character of people who prattled an about a desire for “public service,” I would pull out military ID.  I was a commissioned officer.   Attempting to shame them, I asked for their military IDs.  They gave me not the look of shame.  Those who want to send others off to war, sociopaths they are, lack shame.

They were the worst people in the world.  Meeting them is the reason I’m alive.

Discussions with my classmates led me to an epiphany.  These people who sat in the law school atrium plotting their political campaigns were Dick Cheney and George W. Bush.  No service, no fidelity, no honor – simply personal enrichment and self-aggrandizement.  “You can serve I other ways,” was the closest thing to a coherent argument they’d make when I invited them to attend a weekend military Drill with me.

In 20 years, these same people who refused to become soldiers themselves would be sending other young men off to fight in other wars. 

I wouldn’t fight for them. 

Fortunately I was able to resign my commission – the equivalent of an honorable discharge.  It was a challenge, but the Army taught me to overcome challenges. 

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I have close friends who serve, and while I respect their profession, you won’t hear me say: “If you love your freedom, thank a vet.”  My discussion with military friends is always about how the Army can use you, or you can use the Army.  The Army paid my college tuition, gave me $319 a month in tax-free cash for the GI Bill, taught me discipline and mental toughness.  I lived to tell about it.  I got over on the Army, and encourage everyone to exploit the Army.  Trust me, they’ll exploit you.

At the time, college and the GI Bill provided zero incentive.  I really did believe the lies and flag waving.  Looking back, it all worked out.

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The military exists as play things for people who avoided service, instead enriching themselves with the blood of soldiers.  My law school classmates with grand political aspirations were out getting drunk and sleeping with L.A. cock sluts while my friend Brian was flying helicopters over Iraq.

These people feel no remorse, or shame, or guilt.  In 20 years, they’ll see no irony in sending young men off to fight in wars that they themselves avoiding fighting while as young men.  The cycle will repeat, and another Brian Slavenas will die.

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Until we stop waving flags on Memorial Day, we Americans will never be free.  Those who terrorize American citizens do not live in Afghani caves.  They live in Wall Street palaces and on Texas ranches.  The real terrorists work at Goldman Sachs and Halliburton.  The terrorists are not attempting to cross the border through Mexico: They are already here.

If you want to honor a veteran, kill a Wall Street banker or Texas oil man.  After all, they are the reason Brian Slavenas is dead.

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