I met an elderly gentleman in the pharmacy waiting area the other day--for those of you civilians who don't know, the pharmacy is the military's great equalizer...I sat next to an elderly retiree who happened to be a general, and behind me was a three-star active duty Army general, waiting patiently, number in hand, for his prescription. Now, I know what this guy is making. I know what his responsibilities are. I also know he is issued more than one adjutant who will do this type of penny-ante waiting for him. Mind you, this was a working day...and a three-star waited over a half hour to get medicine. His choice. Poor use of time, if you ask me.
Anyway, I digress. The gentleman I met was a lonely and loquacious gent; at 93, he deserves my respect by merit of his age, if nothing else. He was a 1937 graduate in from an R.O.T.C. program at a major Northeastern university who had planned to go to medical school, but was commissioned just prior to that little conflict we call the Second World War. Apparently, he stayed in the Army long enough to be a general, and I imagine he had at least two or three stars, from the way he spoke.
Now, I was raised to respect my elders, and as a military spouse and a volunteer for various WWII veteran organizations, I am generally solicitous and respectful of those who served. This fellow was a young lieutenant when the War interrupted his life. Hitler's aggressions sidetracked him from his plotted path and brought him to the military brotherhood.
I write about him here because he betrayed that brotherhood.
In the course of our conversation, one-sided though it was, I listened as he spoke of his family, his service, his life experiences...
I listened as he told me of meeting Gen. Eisenhower; that the General's son had worked with him in Belgium. I listened to a lonely old man speak ungenerously of the younger Eisenhower's alcoholism; his betrayed wife. I listened to a lonely old man speak negatively of President Bush, not politically, but personally. He said he had never met President Bush.
I listened to him speak fondly of his relationship with General Powell...and then I listened as the lonely old man spoke of how in 2003, he, with a number of other old retired generals, had worked "subversively" (his word, not mine) to undermine a sitting president and the Commander in Chief of the armed forces. He spoke of his efforts and his "behind the scenes" (his words, again, not mine) activities as he spoke secretively to the media against his own country and his own president. I listened as he spoke of acting in concert with others as he did so; specifically, that he acted in concert with other retired generals, tacitly including then-Secretary of State and fellow retired general Colin Powell.
Colin Powell, the sellout.
Colin Powell, who should have had the moral courage to resign his position as Secretary of State BEFORE acting directly against the goals of the administration.
Colin Powell, the man who endorsed a candidate based upon the color of his skin, not the content of his character.
Because of the gentelman's advanced age, I disagreed with him in soft words, while he maligned a president, admitted to near-treasonous behavior, and sold out his fellow soldiers.
I know his name, but I will not share it. I, at least, respect his service.
He has been awarded, by a gift of birth or citizenship, the freedom to hold and express his opinions as he sees fit. I respect that gift and enjoy it myself.
He earned the right to speak publicly and directly as he sees fit, by merit of his 30-plus years of service to his country in her armed forces. I respect that right and honor his service.
What he seems to have forgotten is the code of honor by which I assume he must have, at one time, lived...a code that demands that he stand behind his statements; a code that demands more of a man, more of a leader, than spreading half-truths, opinions, and outright lies to the media whilst hiding one's identity behind monikers such as "a confidential source," a "retired general," or a "group of retired generals." A code that demands a man look another in the eye in challenge, instead of whispering and plotting behind his back.
A man speaks openly, thoughtfully, and stands behind his position.
A general should abide by a code that demands respect for his Commander in Chief in a time of war.