by Richard K. Munro
The kind who do the dirty, dangerous jobs no one wants to do.
NEWS FROM AFGHANISTAN AUGUST 26, 2021
Right now one of the dirtiest and most dangerous jobs is security at Kabul Air Port. There are US Marines there, US Airborne, British, Turkish and Australian forces. 97% are probably men though in the support sevices, today on board ships and in rear echelons there are a smattering of young brave women too. Sometimes they too are in harm’s way. I know because a Hispanic woman Marine (MP) was killed in Iraq. I have lived and worked in Bakesfield (mostly rural Kern County) for over 30 years. I have personally known hundreds of young people (95% male) go into the military. Many came to see me after serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. Many were decorated. Some were critically wounded. Some whom I knew by name and had long conversations with made the supreme sacrifice.
One Marine I knew came back to attend his grandfather’s funeral. He had already completed two combat tours in Iraq. I met him as he marched down the rural highway to the 500-acre national cemetery near Bakersfield, California. It is located near Arvin, California about 25 miles east of SR 99. The young Marine returned to duty and was killed only a few weeks later. NE OBLIVISCARIS….do not forget.
THE YOUNG DEAD SOLDIERS DO NOT SPEAK
Archibald Macleish (1940)
Nevertheless they are heard in the still houses: who has not heard them?
They have a silence that speaks for them at night and when the clock counts.
They say, We were young. We have died. Remember us.
They say, We have done what we could but until it is finished it is not done.
They say, We have given our lives but until it is finished no one can know what our lives gave.
They say, Our deaths are not ours: they are yours: they will mean what you make them.
They say, Whether our lives and our deaths were for peace and a new hope or for nothing we cannot say: it is you who must say this.
They say, We leave you our deaths: give them their meaning: give them an end to the war and a true peace: give them a victory that ends the war and a peace afterwards: give them their meaning.
Yes, the Tommies and the Robertos and the Joes and Nato Turkish Askers or Mustaphas (may Allah protect them) are still out on the job stoically doing their duty to their Regiments, the Corps and the Colors of their nations. Some one always stays. Someone gets the job done. I thank God for them all. I pray for them and remember them with gratitude. NE OBLIVISCARIS…do not forget. It’s not just their lives they are risking but their young manhood and limbs and sight and health. Remember that. I remember the stories of the Princess Louise Scottish Hospital for Limbless Sailors and Soldiers (Erskin House). My Scottish grandmother, my father, my aunt and uncle visited many times 1917-1923. They visited friends and comrades of my grandfather. They visited blood relatives (my grandmother’s nephews among them). For many the Great War did not end in 1918 or 1919 but in 1920 (many died of the Spanish Flu) , 1923, 1927, 1931 and some into the 1940s. NE OBLIVISCARIS. These were the orignal “basket cases”. Those who could speak and see considered themselves the lucky ones. They could hear music. People could read to them. Some were from the Royal Navy but the majority were infantryman from the Scottish Regiments of old such as the HLI (Highland Light Infantry). Argylls, Black Watch, Cameron’s, Seaforths, The Gordons etc. Now most of these regiments are part of Yesterday’s Seven Thousand years and are fading in memory.
NB The author is right to mention Latinos as a big part of our labor force in construction, agriculture, mining, restaurnts and the hospitality industry. He says ” This is not to slight the Latino contribution to hard and dangerous work, especially in the Southwest, but Latinos are not the ones whose demise is being celebrated.” When I worked in the construction industry (chiefly in Washington State) 99% of the workers were White Males from the ages of 17-45. I will never forget the 40 some workers who migrated from flooring, tile laying and carpeting because their knees were shot. For many the goal was to get Social Security disablity and then work at something less strenuous such as driver for Enterpirse Rent a Car. I thing I learned from those men was 1) make hay while the sun shines 2) quien joven no trabaja , viejo duerme sobre paja (if you don’t work when you are young you willl regret it when you are old i.e you could end up sleeping on straw.)
I still have reasonable strength and health but I don’t have 50% of the strength and stamina I had in my 20’s and 30’s. Heck I remember doing PT and the daily three mile run in twenty some minutes with OLYMPIC runners who did it in ? thirteen or fifteen minutes. Anyway I was always exhausted and had only about 5 minutes to rest before we marched off -they were not even winded. I never missed passing my PT and physical score but it was only by sheer determination I scored in the mid 70s. (69 was failing no ifs ands or buts). I never dropped out of any 20 mile or 30 mile hikes either. I still bear scars on my body from those early years.
I consider myself forunate that I never experienced a serious injury though once while digging a 90 foot trench under a public house project YESLER TERRACE in the semi-darkness of an underfloor with a 17 year old kid I had a somber moment or too. We had no phones of any kind. Only a worklight on an extention cord (over 100 feet) and I always carried matches and candles in my pocket just in case.
I was asked by the kid ( I was all of 26 years old) “What happens if there is an earthquake?” I thought for a monment and said, “Then we die and they will never find our bodies. Maybe hundreds or thousand of years from now they will find our skeletons like at Pompeii and Herculanueum.” “What’s that?” the high school drop-out said. “Ever hear of Mt. Vesuvius the volcano? ” “Yeah”, he said.
“What’s Mt. Ranier?” “A mountain of course!” “Yes, and also a volcano. If it blows and we are here we are goners” “So what do we do?”
I said “GET CRACKIN”, dig this trench, move the earth stock the Certainteed Insulation and install it as quick as possible. If we finish in two-three days the chances Mt. Rainer will blow are minumum.”
Sadly, that kid did not survive the summer. His pride and joy was his car. He used to go on joyrides with friends on Saturday nights. He would do wheelies in the Park N Rides. One night the cops caught him and chased him down in Kirkland. He knew if he were caught he would lose his licence and if he lost his licence he would lose his job and his car. I remember his name was Vic. He didn’t get caught. His car crashed and he, a friend and two young girls were killed. I will never forget it. And he was worried he might get buried by a volcano! When your number is up it is up, as Auld Pop used to say. He always said, “Save your luck for when it counts because sooner or later everyone rolls snake-eyes!”
Of course, I have always worked. I didn’t go to my college graduation. I had a job to do and places to go afterwards. I was in the military and worked five years in construction (insulation installation retro and new construction). I never saw a single female in my work experience outside of an office. Teaching was different; 90% of elementary teachers I met were female and about 60% of secondary teachers. I switched to working in a bank (for 1/2 the pay as I recall I was paid $7.23 an hour) because
1) for once I would have full medical benefits for my family
2) The bank offered flex time.
3) it was across the street (at that time) of Seattle University.
I knew if I were to advance my career I would need advanced degrees and expertise. At first I did not think of leaving the Bank but after five years and many outstanding performance reviews I began to realize there was no future for me at the bank either. I started studying accounting and computers for a possible MBA but realized the 5th Year Teacher Certification was a better fit for me. The first thing I did was take the CBEST (California Basic educational test in English and Math -in Washington State. I passed it the first time.
But I realized it would make it easier for me to get a job in California if I needed to go there. I never planned to leave Kirkland, Washington where we lived for seven years. But the taxes were too high (Bill Gates lived five miles a away). And my job opportunities in teaching were marginal.
Of course, I had been an honors student at NYU in history, political science, Spanish and English literature. So I rapidly passed National Teacher’s Exam in Social Studies, then English then Spanish. I was recruited at the Tacoma Dome by the Kern HS District. They express mailed me a contract April 26, 1989.
The next day I got a $10,000 bank loan (not a student loan) so I could start my MA in Spanish literature in Spain. (I didn’t work from late May and did not get another paycheck until September30 1989 but we saved and planned ahead). I paid my own way for graduate school kepting debt to an absolute minimum and paying cash whenever possible. When I moved to California in 1989 I took the test certification for the Bilingual Certificate of Competence (usually taken after an MA in Bilingual education). I passed the first time. Then I studied three summers in Spain (plus one-course independent study on Don Quixote) for 30 credits and a MA which gave me a big salary bump AND meant I could teach at Bakersfield College (which I did for summers and nights for four years) and also grade AP Spanish exams for ETS ( I did that for 14 summers).
By the way no one ever offered me a job or asked to see my resume ONCE from 1978-2017 until Rosalie Pedalino Porter asked me to submit my resume to be a candidate for the Board of ProEnglish (I was on the board of advisors for about 20 years). I was at that time almost 60 years old.
I never had a free lunch or any special privilege except what I earned (such as the title of US Marine by going through “The Quigley” and other ghastly and olorous adventures.)
Because I had savings and good credit I bought a condo in Kirkland in 1984 (which I sold in 1989 for a handsome profit) and then bought our first Bakersfield home in 1990. We moved to our present home (with central air conditioning, a library for me, shady trees, garden, patio, and pool) in 2003. We are on our way to paying it off and have the protection of Prop 13 As long as Prop 13 is the law we will stay in California. If it is ever rescinded we will put our house on the market immediately if not sooner. If I do not live to see this I have told my wife that is what she should do. I have no regrets.
The 20th century was tough for me but I survived by dint of hard work and working summers and nights(sometimes in dangerous neighborhoods). I sometimes had five or more preps in three subject areas but I never said no because it I filled a need. Others got promotions but I saved my overtime and put it into an annuity which I now have to give us some security.
I never had any preferences or “ins”; the only thing I had was a reputation for diligence and hard work and absolute reliability in over 34 years of education.
My first nine years in education I did not miss a single day. And of course I coached sports, substituted for Special Education, gym, ROTC and so forth. It is worth mentioning I also did numerous Adjunct Duties (evening concerts, basketball or soccer games) for teachers who were young mothers without asking them to take my adjunct duties and without any pay or recompense at all.
I also taught Sunday school for over 20 years (without pay or recompense). I also tutored college students and AP students on countless Saturdays without out any pay or recompense. Hundreds of these students passed AP tests in Spanish, Spanish literature, European History, AP US Government, and AP US history (including my own children I am proud to say who were all AP Scholars). I support testing and high standards. Challenge and response. Students who pass proficiency tests and AP test gain pride and self-confidence.
If you pass out diplomas like toilet paper you get Biden’s Phantom Afghan Army.
Auld Pop told me years ago “A soldier will die for the Colours but not an extra two bob a day.” I also learned that a lot of wisdom is to be found in dirty jobs and wet trenches.