Wanting to and Willing to

Falling through the universe at the speed of life

By David Glenn Cox

My uncle Pete thought he’d come up with a novel way to pick up some extra money, by joining the National Guard back in 1941. He was trained and ready for business by the time Pearl Harbor occurred. He fought the whole war, and my aunt said he fought the war almost every night of his life. He had nightmares about these events, and she’d seen him hide behind the nightstand with his imaginary rifle, just waiting for the Japanese to attack.

The horrors that could cause those impulses are inconceivable. Events the human mind is simply not equipped to process or to deal with. Pete told the story about diving into an open pit latrine to avoid being strafed by a Zero. He was never wounded physically but suffered terribly from just about every disease a North American could catch in combat in the jungles of the South Pacific.

He served his country honorably; he served his army and command honorably. He served his comrades honorably; he didn’t flinch or fail. I think it was Lt. Spiers in Band of Brothers who advised, You still think that you’re alive. Once you forget about being alive, you can lose the fear that holds you back from being a good soldier. We are all wired the same way, Fight or Flight, without a neutral zone.

The real reason George Washington was advised to always keep the (Well armed and regulated) militia out in front. No one knows, and no one can judge how they would react to being shot at, with or without result. The moment of truth that we all face with either bayonets or basinets. A moment of personal crisis, ball point pens or quarter acre lots. Not the momentary sound of thunder which changes our lives in an instant, but the sound which could end it all instantly. One false move and it’s all over.

Greg (Bubba) Abbott tells a press conference that he’s shocked (Shocked!) that the police would lie to him. Then leaving to prepare his video speech to the National Rifle Association Convention. A man without a human soul. A man Satan himself would say, “Get the fuck away from me!” Unbelievable and inconceivable, I’ll just wade through the blood of children and make my little speech. “Texas welcomes you with open arms and ammunition!”

I don’t know what happened and a timeline only frames the picture without explaining it. How could they wait forty minutes with gun shots going off inside the building? One story said they didn’t know there was an active shooter, despite the gunshots coming from the school? Another story says they were waiting for back up. They were waiting for another tactical team to arrive. I don’t know if either story is true, but it looks beyond bad. I don’t know if it’s true, but it sure  looks like someone pulled the chicken switch.

“I’ll stay here and do crowd control, besides the assault helicopters won’t be here for another two hours.” General McCellan once drove Lincoln to distraction because he always saw the enemy as bigger and stronger than it was. He was afraid to get in a fight lest his generalship come into question if his army were to somehow get a bloody nose. McClellan always had good reasons not to fight. Out numbered or undertrained, not enough supplies or bad weather. He was more of a marching and polishing type General.

Audie Murphy attacked a German position single handedly. Easy Company took out an artillery battery while under machine gun fire from three directions. Nobody asked about the numbers or the weather. They had a job to do. My uncle Pete had a job to do. His nightmares came only from the Japanese, not the nightmares that come from not doing your job. Facing a critical life crisis and freezing at the moment of truth.

There are worse things than dying. Living with the memory of that failure, the sights, and the sounds. Never ever being able to look into the face of a child again without being reminded of that failure. Whatever the orders were, someone should have disobeyed them. Let him shoot at cops in tactical armor instead of kids. Keep him busy, make him use his ammo up shooting at cops. Don’t give him a second of peace.

If you thought that there was no active shooter, why weren’t you inside immediately? You don’t have time to wait for back up! You have a job to do! The same as the Marines on Pointe du Hoc. I have always suspected that many SWAT teams are nothing but sops to throw some extra money at the new guys. Let em play dress up and pretend. Get their photos made and impress their family and friends.

A failure of law enforcement certain to live on as legend. Certain to be used as a basis of case study in Federal reports for decades to come. “The Failure in Texas.” When the good guy with the gun hides and waits for back up.

My buddy Kenny Parker earned a Bronze star in Vietnam. They were on patrol, when they were pinned down by machine gun fire. Stuck with the Lieutenant stuck out in the rice paddy being shot at. The sergeant punched Kenny in the shoulder and said, “Parker, go get him!” Shouldn’t we wait for back up? Kind of late in the day, don’t you think?

Kenny said when he got to the Lieutenant; he could hear bees flying all around him. The lieutenant was in a fetal position against the berm and didn’t want to get up. Kenny said, “I punched the living shit out of him and shouted, Mother Fucker Get UP!” Then began to drag him by the lapels, until he got up.

Kenny found it ironic that he was given a medal for just following orders. For doing his duty for facing down his natural born fear and saving the life of a fellow soldier. He was a decorated war hero, who also lived with nightmares. But he never had to live with his own conscience about cowardness or failure. His actions saved a life, his inaction would have cost one.

“There’s a big difference between wanting to and willing to.”
– Bear Bryant

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