War Gets Ugly
by James Glaser
August 19, 2009

I stopped by the Tallahassee VA Clinic yesterday to make sure of the date on an upcoming appointment. You don't want to miss an appointment, because it will take months to get back into the rotation. I was sitting in the truck making a call on my cell phone, and this guy pulled in next to me. He had a Marine Corp sticker on his truck, look about my age, so I got out to ask his serial number. It is kind of a dumb thing, but Marines will ask each other their number, and if your number is smaller than theirs, then they are a "Boot," and you are and Old Salt. If it is the other way around, then you are the Boot, and he is the Old Salt. Old Salts get a bit of respect. Really it is just a way to start a conversation.

This guy was the Old Salt, having been in the Corps two years before I joined up. I didn't notice it when he was in his truck, but when he looked front on to me, I could see he was missing about 25% of his lower face. Like somebody took out half of his jaw from the chin to below his ear.

I didn't have to say or ask anything, he said it was either a 50 caliber round or a big hunk of shrapnel. He talked OK, but it sounded like he lost a big part of his tongue. I had to ask about plastic surgery, and he said he had had all he could stand, and that his wife was happy to have him home alive. They are still married, but he did say it was a bummer.

So, this guy is reminded every day about his time in combat. He said his looks were hard on his kids when they were little, but later on they became a source of pride for them.

There are thousands of combat veterans like this guy all over America. There are thousands more in VA Hospitals who are injured so badly they never really make it home. A lot of the real bad ones die early.

It all depends on how you look at it. For some veterans, wounds are ugly, and for others they are a source of pride. It is however hard, to see a veteran who has had to suffer most of his life with the wounds he or she received in combat. It makes war pretty ugly.

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