Friday, December 13, 2013

Captain Lee

"Ahoy Kintala."

I looked up from whatever it was that I was doing. Close aside was a decrepit dinghy that appeared to be held afloat by the string of fenders laced around its perimeter. I recognized it as having been tied to an equally decrepit little sail boat anchored nearby.

"Ahoy" I replied, "What can I do for you Captain?" (Everyone around boats seems to call everyone else "Captain". When it Rome...)

Captain Lee (that's exactly how he introduced himself) had come by to suggest that we had anchored too close to his vessel, particularly with the wind about to shift to south. I was pretty sure that we were okay since the tide has changed several times since we arrived, swinging all of the boats through 180 degrees each time. But I suggested we would keep a close eye and, should it seem a problem, would surely pull up our hook and move. He seemed satisfied with that and then shared that he was retired military. Sadly that didn't surprise me at all.

In our short time as cruisers we have seen dozens of truly sad, barely floating little boats moored or anchored in places where they have obviously been sitting for months, or years. Many are lacking sails, others even lack masts, all show neglect and reek of poverty. Almost inevitably, when one of these dilapidated hulls is occupied, the resident is a veteran living alone. The ones we have run across have a stubborn air of pride; they are also care worn, unkempt, with bad teeth, weary eyes, and bodies used hard and neglected. Share just a few words and it is quickly evident that many of them have spirits and minds used equally hard, and equally neglected.

This nation should be ashamed of how it has treated these people. It should be, but it isn't. Instead it offers a cheap sort of pity even more offensive than the original arrogant neglect. These men (they have all been men so far) deserve better but you, I, and they, know it is never going to happen. Some of them have come "out here" to do the best they can with what remains.

I don't understand a society that would do such a thing and am not sure how close to it I want to be, which is a part of the reason I am "out here" myself. Regardless of how poor these men are, how ill, how unkempt, or stoned, drunk or just plain crazy, they are still better human beings than those who used them up and tossed them away. I would rather share an anchorage with them than any elected official I can name.

6 comments:

John Frederick said...

As a veteran myself, I agree whole heartedly.

Alex Rooker said...

Download a copy of the 1935 book "War is a Rackett" by retired Marine General Smedley Butler. He was the most decorated Marine of his time. The book will reveal why veterans are discarded. Read the book with a sharpe eye and you will understand why we were in Iraq. One of the prominant names of today ties to the "Bannana Wars" in South America of the early 1900s.

Robert Salnick said...

Amen!!

Latitude 43 said...

Agree. The corporate wars are wearing us down to the point where we don't care anymore, so it seems.

Chardonnay said...

Often times, while on active duty, I would question why we (military) were doing certain things, adopting certain policies, or changing the customs and traditions that inevitably assisted us with our rise to the most powerful military on the planet. On more than one occasion, it was noted (and I eventually learned that it is true) "We (military) are a reflection of our society." True, the military is often antiquated in several aspects. Yet in other ways, the military leads the charge (technology, tolerance for culture and race, advancement of women, etc). Often, I've thought of the simple statement that "the military is a reflection of society." And though it can be argued from multiple views and opinions, I've found it to be very true on most subjects. So what does that mean? I wouldn't be surprised if you notice the derelict boats multiply and their occupants more often describe a history other than military service.

TJ said...

Maybe, but making the choise to live on a boat ia not the easy choise. I think Vets, even broken and abandoned ones, have a reserve of strength most of us who never served, never developed. I agree that this is, for whatever reasons, the society most appear to want; gun laws, vet issues, education priorities, abandoning reason and grasping fundamentalism ... I don't understand what happened but clearly I am in the minority.