Dale A. Dye considers war and peace, and the many ways that peace sucks.
by Dale A. Dye
During the two turbulent decades I spent on active military service, I never thought about peace much. I confess to being a little unclear and ambivalent on the whole concept beyond what it meant to me personally and that was mostly how likely I was to catch another trip to a combat zone thus risking getting shot or blown up…again.
To me – and to a lot of other military folks I suspect – peace was just an often boring respite between deployments. The larger, geopolitical meaning of the word – the one politicians and preachers use to try and convince people that war is not a regular, inevitable glitch in the course of human events – was lost on me. I was in the business of fighting wars of one kind or another as directed and it was always hard to see peace as the end result of my efforts down in the dirty trenches where wars are mostly prosecuted.
War was the focus of my existence when I was serving. Peace was just the other thing, the thing that forced me to deal with life in garrison. And for folks who spend a lot of down and dirty time in the field fighting wars garrison life with all its detail-oriented spit-and-polish can be disorienting. It’s a mind-bender when all of a sudden ironing uniforms and marching around in formations is deemed crucial as performance on the battlefield.
I remember once living in a barracks with a bunch of Vietnam veterans waiting for discharge. We were a ready pool of handy labor and every morning the First Sergeant would muster us to pass out work assignments that included such crucial tasks as lawn mowing, rock painting and truck washing. These were guys who just a short while before had been living hard and laying their lives on the line in Southeast Asian jungles and the make-work did not sit well. I was standing next to one of them in the head one day and watched him express his sentiments on the freshly-painted wall above a urinal: “Peace sucks.”
And I sort of ran with that sentiment until I got a little older and a lot wiser concerning war in general and the cost in human life and national treasure more specifically. It was around that time when I started to realize that the business of my business was bloody and brutal. That didn’t turn me off of my chosen profession. It simply made me realize that the courage, selfless performance of duty and willing sacrifices I observed at war where the cost of peace. That was a hard, cold lesson but it wasn’t the only insight I gained thinking and reading about war over a lot of years.
Another epiphany had to do with the inevitability of wars or bloody conflicts that masquerade as formally-declared wars. Tribal human beings seem only able to tolerate so much peace before some friction –real or perceived – leads them to an armed struggle. General George Marshall had it right at the end of World War II when he said “If man does find the solution for world peace it will be the most revolutionary reversal of his record that we have ever known.”
There are still folks around today who believe true world peace can be achieved but I’m not one of them. I guess we might have a brighter future as human beings if we would all just join hands, dance around the maypole and sing Kumbaya, but my experience in both peace and war tells me that it’s not going to happen and recent world events have confirmed my estimate of the situation among human animals. While we wait for peace to break out around the globe, I’ll just keep my sword and do without the plowshare.
Dale Dye is a Marine officer who rose through the ranks to retire as a Captain after 21 years of service in war and peace. He is a distinguished graduate of Missouri Military Academy who enlisted in the United States Marine Corps shortly after graduation. Sent to war in Southeast Asia, he served in Vietnam in 1965 and 1967 through 1970 surviving 31 major combat operations. Appointed a Warrant Officer in 1976, he later converted his commission and was a Captain when he deployed to Beirut, Lebanon with the Multinational Force in 1982-83. He served in a variety of assignments around the world and along the way attained a degree in English Literature from the University of Maryland. Following retirement from active duty in 1984, he spent time in Central America, reporting and training troops for guerrilla warfare in El Salvador, Honduras and Costa Rica. Upset with Hollywood’s treatment of the American military, he went to Hollywood and established Warriors Inc., the preeminent military training and advisory service to the entertainment industry. He has worked on more than 50 movies and TV shows including several Academy Award and Emmy winning productions. He is a novelist, actor, director and show business innovator, who wanders between Los Angeles and Lockhart, Texas. His latest novel is Run Between the Raindrops. He is also the author the Shake Davis series.