Author: Steve Traywick
In 1979 at the Reception Center at Fort Knox, Kentucky, we were put in the care of a grizzled old Sergeant First Class. We were brand, spanking new. We hadn’t had our hair cut yet or drawn uniforms.
We had time between the hurry up and wait and Old Sarge held an informal BS/question and answer session. He let us ask whatever questions came to our minds such as what to expect, what to do or not to do, etc. Somehow the question of race came up.
Old Sarge told us “Look to your left. Now, look to your right. See the guy sitting next to you? He is NOT a nigger, honkey, spic, mick, kike, or chink! Pretty soon, no matter what your skin color, you
will all be GREEN! Someday, you may be laying on the ground in some shitty part of the world bleeding out. Will you really care what the skin color is of the guy who comes crawling out under fire to save your ass? I don’t think you will. If you don’t learn anything else today, you better learn this.”
I’ve never forgotten that lesson. I think a lot of the guys who served when I did learned the same lesson one way or the other. We learned to live together; work together and play together. We learned the Old Soldier’s lesson that we weren’t in it for Old Glory, the folks back home, or Mom’s apple pie. We learned to trust and depend on each other regardless of where we were from or what we looked like. Our crew, squad, platoon, company/troop were family, period. Everyone else was strangers.
We were the Military that Uncle Ronnie built. We did our part to topple the Soviet empire. We went into Desert Storm and kicked ass and took names. We brought most of our brothers and sisters home.
We also watched the Army we had grown to love bleed out in operation Iraqi Freedom. We agonized over every flag draped coffin that came home. We wanted to salute and thank every veteran, regardless of color, for their service.
And now, here we are. Somehow we’ve been transported back in time to the days of the Civil Rights movement. Then the lines between right and wrong were very clear cut. Now, not so much.
Now, we’re so afraid of each other that one group of people think they have to go out in public armed. They insist that it’s their constitutional right. The other group is so busy slaughtering their own young people that they don’t pay attention to the other group until they collide. And when that collision comes, one side or the other are automatically labeled as racist.
It doesn’t matter that what happened in Sanford, Florida was a case of two idiots colliding on a rainy night. It doesn’t matter that the one carrying the firearm was a moron who had no business going anywhere with a weapon; or the other was a border line thug who wasn’t about to back down from anyone; they did collide and one ended up dead.
It never should have happened, but it DID happen. And it happened on a slow news day. Suddenly, it was all about race. We immediately divided ourselves into different camps based on race. It’s started a fire that the media on the left and the media on the right are more than happy to stoke because it jacks up their ratings and brings in money. Race baiters are happy to help stoke the fire because, yes, it keeps their face on television and brings in money.
Somehow, my country has unlearned the lessons that we worked so hard for so long to learn. We are so polarized that the least little thing will still divide us. No, Treyvon Martin’s death isn’t a little
thing, but it should have been handled in the courts and not in the editorials, and it should not have divided us so easily.
I think…I hope and pray that those of us of all races that sweated and bled together in service to our country still remember the lessons we learned. We may be all that ultimately holds the country together.
Editor’s Note: Steve Traywick was born in Union City, Tennessee on April 11, 1958 but grew up in Houston, Texas. Steve went into the Army in June 1979 as a 19E10 (M60A3) Tank Crewman. He arrived in Fulda FRG, Germany in November 1979. Strategically important during the Cold War because it was an area where tanks could invade, The Fulda Gap is situated between what used to be the East German border and Frankfurt. Steve was assigned to B Trp 1/11 ACR and served there until January 1984 when he was transferred to A Co 2/8 Cav, 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood. Steve continued his service with the 1st Cavalry Division until he left the service in 1989.