We Keep Losing Good Stuff

by Bob 'Dex' Armstrong

Someday, some progressive-thinking child of modernization will take a good look at the impractical white hat and consign it to the big lucky bag in the sky. Don't laugh… Call the Psychic Hotline and ask Madam Fifi… The sonuvabitch is out of line when it comes to the fashionable naval forces of the world and they sure as hell don't cost enough to make whoever makes the damn things, rich. So, it will go like 13-button blues, Mammy Yokum boots and canvas foul weather jackets.

They'll go for something foreign. We seem to like to substitute homegrown, American winner stuff for overseas loser stuff like berets and goofy short-sleeve uniforms. It is hard to maintain tradition anymore.

Did you ever take a good look at the naval legends of World War II… Nimitz, Halsey, King, Morton, Cutter, and their like? They wore a handful of very meaningful ribbons over their left breast pocket, possibly accompanied by a set of gold aviator wings or Dolphins and a Combat Patrol pin. Now, take a look at a no-combat flag officer today… The sonuvabitch has ribbons and assorted badges, geedunk and meaningless horseshit bumping up against his gahdam shoulder boards… For what? Do you get the idea that the guys in the peacetime 'do nothing' forces spend far too much time pinning bullshit decorations on each other? What does all that crap stand for? Hell, the badges have proliferated at a rate that they have now spread over to the right side of the uniform. What happens when they run out of space? Trouser ribbons? Sock badges? Jeezus, will they start hauling around an E-3 with an awards bulletin board on wheels?

Any of you know what all that stuff means? I've seen Packard touring cars with hood ornaments smaller than the SEAL badge.

Remember the old days… You would see some foreign officer boogying down the pier all decked out in high collar whites with ribbons and worthless geedunk running from his neck to the vicinity of his belly-button.

"Hey chief, what'n the hell is that?"

"Dex, I think he's a Peruvian messcook… Either that, or something that fell off a gahdam Mardi Gras float."

And we all laughed.

Not funny anymore.

We've not only won the Cold War, we've won the World-Wide Naval Silly-Shit Awards Race. By this time, we must be leading by a wide margin.

You can be a doofus commanding a canned goods supply depot in East Jeezus and look like a Napoleonic field marshal. But are the bastards wearing all that hokey garbage, fooled into thinking it makes them a high flyer in the competency game? Do the medals make the man? Are the raghats impressed with all those doo-dads? Or does 'big-ears' turn to 'wingnut' and say,

"Are they going to pin another gahdam bingo badge on Ensign Wet B. Ears at morning quarters, chief? What'n the hell did he do for this one?"

"Hell, I don't know, kid… Maybe he remembered to brush his teeth regularly, or something. Who cares? The damn things don't mean shit."

That would be a shame because once upon a time, they did… They meant a lot. They were worn by men who earned them. They were more than 'been there, done that' souvenirs.

We have diminished the standard for so much that was once so meaningful to Americans. Our leadership has become complacent and has stood by uncaringly while many important things have been cheapened or whisked away like so many leaves in the wind.

For example, not so many years ago, our coinage stood for something… It was silver… Real, honest to God silver. When a bluejacket tossed a four-bit piece on a marble-top bar, you could hear the sonuvabitch ring as it danced its way across the top. We used to laugh at the clunky sound of other nation's money… The crap sounded like somebody tossed a handful of fishing sinkers on the bar.

First, it was chrome-plated base metal currency… Now, some kind of fake bullshit anodized gold one buck piece is in circulation. And we'll accept it… We always do. Vending machine designer currency. What has become in the buzz parlance of the 'what the hell' generation as the 'wave of the future'. To hell with the future… I miss a fifty-cent piece that rings.

I miss a lot of stuff. When I left the navy I love, a foreign car on the highway was a novelty. You took a good look at the damn things because you didn't see one that often, except for VW bugs that folks bought because they couldn't afford a real car.

You never saw big chunks of rubber and whole tread sections of tires littering the shoulders of the nation's highways. We made real tires back then. When you bought a car, the damn thing came with a real tire in the trunk… Not a piece of crap, wheelbarrow tire that came with instructions to drive at turtle speed to the closest gas station…. And no car came with a toy jack that couldn't properly lift a toaster oven.

I guess if you accept shit, the world gives you all you can handle. Then one morning you wake up and find a draft-dodging, worthless, good-for-nothing bastard in the White House getting nationally discussed hummers in the Oval Office and it's no big deal… You find you can pick up a presidential pardon for dope trafficking at your local Wal-Mart. In the near future, you will get silver Dolphins in cereal boxes and Purple Hearts for herpes.

It's sad, boys and girls… No, it's more than that. It is the legacy we are leaving future generations. They will never know the pride we had in what once was.

So one day, some high-priced, twinkle-toed star gazer will come up with a 'maritime fashion statement' hat. Some fancy 'glow-in-the-dark' creation with bells and fancy 'look at me' hardware, and the raghat will be history. Soon, the only place you will be able to find one will be rotting away in the sidelockers of sunken naval vessels, rusting away in the ocean depths. We will have lost another piece of our precious heritage and no one will care… And there won't be any raghat bluejackets any more… No sailors with white hats cocked down over one eye with that 'mothers lock up your daughters' look and money in his pocket that 'rings' when it hits the bar. It'll be gone. Why? Who the hell knows?

And submarines will be taking idiots on fun rides… Servicemen and ladies will be pinning meaningless bullshit all over their uniforms and sensitivity to everything will take the place of 'call 'em like you see 'em' folks with personal selective convictions.

The army has a new slogan… 'I AM AN ARMY OF ONE'. What in the hell does THAT mean? How do you make a functioning team out of a unit of individuals who are armies of one? Who does an army of one report to? Himself? Do they operate as a team when and only when 100% of the, whatever it is, agrees to join in some mutually agreeable voluntary partnership? Come on now, if you can't recognize that for pure, unadulterated horseshit, check into the Betty Ford clinic and get the hell off whatever it is you're lighting up.

There is a memorial in Washington for the sailors of the United States Navy. It is a lone sailor, wearing a white hat with his peacoat collar turned up and his hands in his pockets. A typical American raghat… He's standing there with his seabag. Ray Stone and I worry about him… He is so out of step with the modern navy. We've considered going down some dark night and giving him eight rows of reflector tape ribbons, bolting on a G.E. refrigerator emblem, a chrome Mack truck bulldog, a Harley ornament, and a couple of Buick hubcaps to make him currently acceptable to the present day navy.

The last time I saw the poor bastard, he had three inches of snow on his white hat and shoulders. If you are driving through DC, you might consider giving the poor devil a ride back to Norfolk before he freezes to death.