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Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Joining Up 

Currently, I am in the application process to join the US Army as an Officer Candidate.
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Sunday, January 09, 2005

I'm Back 

I have decided to start updating this blog again.

Richoi

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Thursday, April 29, 2004

Dishonoring the Honorable 

Pat Tillman is not a hero: He got what was coming to him
By Rene Gonzalez
April 28, 2004
http://media.dailycollegian.com/pages/tillman_lobandwidth.html
When the death of Pat Tillman occurred, I turned to my friend who was watching the news with me and said, "How much you want to bet they start talking about him as a 'hero' in about two hours?" Of course, my friend did not want to make that bet. He'd lose. In this self-critical incapable nation, nothing but a knee-jerk "He's a hero" response is to be expected.

I've been mystified at the absolute nonsense of being in "awe" of Tillman's "sacrifice" that has been the American response. Mystified, but not surprised. True, it's not everyday that you forgo a $3.6 million contract for joining the military. And, not just the regular army, but the elite Army Rangers. You know he was a real Rambo, who wanted to be in the "real" thick of things. I could tell he was that type of macho guy, from his scowling, beefy face on the CNN pictures. Well, he got his wish. Even Rambo got shot in the third movie, but in real life, you die as a result of being shot. They should call Pat Tillman's army life "Rambo 4: Rambo Attempts to Strike Back at His Former Rambo 3 Taliban Friends, and Gets Killed."

But, does that make him a hero? I guess it's a matter of perspective. For people in the United States, who seem to be unable to admit the stupidity of both the Afghanistan and Iraqi wars, such a trade-off in life standards (if not expectancy) is nothing short of heroic. Obviously, the man must be made of "stronger stuff" to have had decided to "serve" his country rather than take from it. It's the old JFK exhortation to citizen service to the nation, and it seems to strike an emotional chord. So, it's understandable why Americans automatically knee-jerk into hero worship.

However, in my neighborhood in Puerto Rico, Tillman would have been called a "pendejo," an idiot. Tillman, in the absurd belief that he was defending or serving his all-powerful country from a seventh-rate, Third World nation devastated by the previous conflicts it had endured, decided to give up a comfortable life to place himself in a combat situation that cost him his life. This was not "Ramon or Tyrone," who joined the military out of financial necessity, or to have a chance at education. This was a "G.I. Joe" guy who got what was coming to him. That was not heroism, it was prophetic idiocy.

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Tillman in his own words the day after 9/11:

"I was dumbfounded by everything that was going on. In times like this, you think about how good we have it and what kind of a system we live under, what freedoms we are allowed. A lot of my family has gone and fought in wars and I haven't really done a damn thing as far as laying myself on the line like that."

Pat Tillman, R.I.P, died fighting terrorists. He is not a victim of war, but a fighter for peace. For the people such as Gonzalez who fail to realize that peace has ALWAYS been fought for by the blood of our soldiers, shame.

It is fine to have disagreements with the policy of the Bush Administration. I can understand that, but to dishonor the proud man who defended our freedom is wrong and worthy of treason.

Here is my definition of hero: Anyone that is willing to put their life on the line not only for their loved ones but for the unloved ones as well.

I can say that I am not an hero. I have not done anything close to Tillman, but I do recognize one when I see one.

Pat Tillman died defending his rights, my rights, and even Gonzalez's rights. He died defending the freedoms we are privileged to have and it is a privilege.

As we said since 9/11: NEVER FORGET. Let us live by our words as Tillman lived by his.

Richard Choi
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Friday, April 23, 2004

Pat Tillman: The True All-American 

Privileged to Serve
In this war, not only the sons of the poor are enlisting.
Peggy Noonan
http://www.opinionjournal.com/columnists/pnoonan/?id=110001975
Friday, July 12, 2002 12:01 a.m. EDT

Maybe he was thinking Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country. Maybe it was visceral, not so much thought as felt, and acted upon. We don't know because he won't say, at least not in public. Which is itself unusual. Silence is the refuge of celebrities caught in scandal, not the usual response of those caught red-handed doing good.

All we know is that 25-year-old Pat Tillman, a rising pro football player (224 tackles in 2000 as a defensive back for the Arizona Cardinals, a team record) came back from his honeymoon seven weeks ago and told his coaches he would turn down a three-year, $3.6 million contract and instead join the U.S. Army. For a pay cut of roughly $3.54 million dollars over three years.

On Monday morning, Pat Tillman "came in like everyone else, on a bus from a processing station," according to a public information officer at Fort Benning, Ga., and received the outward signs of the leveling anonymity of the armed forces: a bad haircut, a good uniform and physical testing to see if he is up to the rigors of being a soldier. Soon he begins basic training. And whatever else happened this week--Wall Street news, speeches on the economy--nothing seems bigger, more important and more suggestive of change than what Pat Tillman did.

Those who know him say it's typical Tillman, a surprise decision based on his vision of what would be a good thing to do. When he was in college he sometimes climbed to the top of a stadium light tower to think and meditate. After his great 2000 season he was offered a $9 million, five-year contract with the St. Louis Rams and said thanks but no, he was happy with the Cardinals.

But it was clear to those who knew Mr. Tillman that after September 11 something changed. The attack on America had prompted a rethinking. Len Pasquarelli of ESPN reported last May that the "free-spirited but consummately disciplined" starting strong safety told friends and relatives that, in Mr. Pasquarelli's words, "his conscience would not allow him to tackle opposition fullbacks where there is still a bigger enemy that needs to be stopped in its tracks." Mr. Tillman's agent and friend Frank Bauer: "This is something he feels he has to do. For him, it's a mindset, a duty."

"I'm sorry, but he is not taking inquiries," said the spokeswoman at Fort Benning. She laughed when I pressed to speak to someone who might have seen Mr. Tillman or talked to him. Men entering basic training don't break for interviews, she said. Besides, "he has asked not to have any coverage. We've been respecting his wishes. And kinda hoping he'd change his mind." Mr. Tillman would, of course, be a mighty recruiting device. The Army might have enjoyed inviting television cameras to record his haircut, as they did with Elvis. But Mr. Tillman, the Fort Benning spokesman says, "wants to be anonymous like everyone else."
Right now he has 13 weeks of basic training ahead of him, then three weeks of Airborne School, and then, if he makes it, Ranger School, where only about a third of the candidates are accepted. "It's a long row," said the Fort Benning spokesman, who seemed to suggest it would be all right to call again around Christmas. Until then he'll be working hard trying to become what he wants to become.

Which I guess says it all.

Except for this. We are making a lot of Tillmans in America, and one wonders if this has been sufficiently noted. The other day friends, a conservative intellectual and his activist wife, sent a picture of their son Gabe, a proud and newly minted Marine. And there is Abe, son of a former high aide to Al Gore, who is a lieutenant junior grade in the Navy, flying SH-60 Seahawk helicopters. A network journalist and his wife, also friends, speak with anguished pride of their son, in harm's way as a full corporal in the Marines. The son of a noted historian has joined up; the son of a conservative columnist has just finished his hitch in the Marines; and the son of a bureau chief of a famous magazine was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Army last month, on the day he graduated from Princeton.

As the Vietnam-era song said, "Something's happening here." And what it is may be exactly clear. Some very talented young men, and women, are joining the armed forces in order to help their country because, apparently, they love it. After what our society and culture have been through and become the past 30 years or so, you wouldn't be sure that we would still be making their kind, but we are. As for their spirit, Abe's mother reports, "Last New Year's, Abe and his roommate [another young officer] were home and the topic came up about how little they are paid [compared with] the kids who graduated from college at the same time they did and went into business.

"Without missing a beat the two of them said, 'Yeah--but we get to get shot at!' and raised their beer bottles. No resentment. No anger. Just pure . . . testosterone-laden bravado."

The Abes and Gabes join a long old line of elders dressed in green, blue, gray, white, gold and black. Pat Tillman joins a similar line, of stars who decided they had work to do, and must leave their careers to do it. They include, among others, the actors Jimmy Stewart, Clark Gable and Tyrone Power in World War II; sports stars Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio in the same war; and quarterback Roger Staubach in Vietnam. It is good to see their style return, and be considered noble again.
And good to see what appears to be part of, or the beginning of, a change in armed forces volunteering. In the Vietnam era of my youth it was poor and working-class boys whom I saw drafted or eagerly volunteering. Now more and more I see the sons and daughters of the privileged joining up.

That is a bigger and better story than usually makes the front page. Markets rise and fall, politicians come and go, but that we still make Tillmans is headline news.

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Monday, April 19, 2004

Excerpt from my Vietnam Generation Paper (Tribute to my Dad) 

The Vietnam Generation: From America to Korea and Back

My father was born on January 20, 1947 in South Korea. As a child, he lived through the tragedies of the Korean War. He lost his father and several brothers during the war and was raised by his mother. He was the youngest in his family.

In 1967, at the age of 20, my father enlisted in the Army of the Republic of Korea. He was not drafted. By law in Korea, all males have to serve in the army for three years. So after he graduated from high school, he enlisted in the army. It was not a volunteer army, but not a draft army as well. By this time, the Vietnam War was in the phase of escalation in the United States. The Korean Army had a Dove Unit and a Capital (Tiger) Division in Vietnam since 1965.

In the summer of 1969, my father’s division was called up to go to Vietnam. The soldiers were handpicked by the officers as to what position they would fill in the army. My father was selected to serve as a journalist/photographer in the army. He was standing in line for selection when someone, he does not remember whom, pulled him aside and handed him a camera and gave him his assignment. He does not know why he was chosen out of the group. If he was not chosen to be a journalist, his fate in the war may have been different, according to him.

After being selected to report the war, he had to make the trip over to Vietnam. The method of travel was by boat. The time of travel took eight days from the shores of South Korea to the shores of South Vietnam. He describes his experience on the boat with a smile saying, “Everyone was puking and it was the longest boat ride.” After eight days of travel, my father arrived in the town of Qui Nhon in the province of Binh Dinh.

Being a journalist, my father was not attached to a specific platoon. He was given the freedom to jump from platoon to platoon to do his reporting. He remembers the helicopter rides he took to get him to the battlefields. He would spend a week in the jungle with a platoon and then fly out with the supply helicopters. Returning back to Qui Nhon, he would give his reports of casualties and battle fights. His reports would go the Korean Army News cycle and eventually to the Korean News cycle.

In describing the war, my father explains elaborately of how the Viet Cong fought and how the Korean Army defended from the fight. He was adamant in explaining the method of guerilla warfare. He explained how the Viet Cong would live during the day in tunnels and would come out at night to attack. My father compared the atmosphere as confusing in defining friend from foe. He said during the day, the Vietnamese people were harmless, but at night, they were the ones attacking.

Another aspect of Vietnam my father found intriguing was the pay. His regular Army pay was out of his control and regulated by the American and Korean Army. All of the Korean soldiers were paid by the American Army. The monthly paycheck was $500. Of the $500, about ninety percent was taken by the Korean government. The money, according to my father, was used by the government to industrialize South Korea. It helped create highways and buildings. My father was proud of this fact. The remaining ten percent of his pay was $50. Of the $50, seventy five percent was taken by the army to put aside toward the soldier’s family. Therefore, about $33 dollars was given to the soldier’s family back in South Korea. After all the calculation was done, my father had about seventeen dollars left to spend in Vietnam per month. He said luckily the food was free and only the beer cost money.

In the summer of 1970, my father left Vietnam. He took the boat back and returned to Korea eight days later. He was discharged from the army after his return for having fulfilled his three year requirement. In the year my father spent in Vietnam, he lost many friends and has consistently said, “A lot of soldiers died in Vietnam.”

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