Conversations with a Marine and a pessimist; eights shots to the zero

Today I went down to the range

Thinking my sights I would change

     In eight shots I was zero’d,

     I’m a vet, not a hero.

With benefits, well, rather strange.

I showed up at the gym an hour later this morning than I usually do and struck up a conversation with the fellow on the stationary bicycle next to mine.

We graduated high school the same year.  He loves watching his career-long project, thirty-two years of work, coming together. He’s looking forward to retiring.  He has a National Guard pension, his wife has a pension as well.  When they get to retirement age they’re planning to work because they love it.

I mentioned that I get VA benefits.  He’d served with the Marines in Viet Nam, and he wanted to know what branch of the service I’d been with.

Most people can name the five uniformed services in the Department of Defense: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard.  Our nation has two other uniformed services: National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Public Health Service (PHS).  A uniformed service runs on a military model and has a uniform; I finished my time with a rank of O-6 and I never wore the uniform though it still hangs in my closet.

Contrast as the essence of meaning: though the government calls us both veterans, clearly the word means two different things when applied to us; I never carried a weapon in my five years of service.

I started owning firearms as soon as I could afford them.

Late in the afternoon I took my muzzleloader down to the range to sight it in.   Shot by shot, I poured powder down the barrel, rammed the projectile home, placed a primer under the hammer, and took careful aim.  I adjusted the sights and after eight shots I hit an inch above the bull’s eye at a hundred yards.  When I retrieved the target, all eight shots were in a four inch group, though I’d moved the point of impact two inches left and two inches high.

Projectile weapons enthusiasts in our country tend to be conservative and anti-government.  I showed off my target to another range member.  He asked me if I hunted, and I said I did.  “Yeah, you know, I don’t hunt, but the way this election went, boy, I don’t know, it’s a bunch of crooks in Washington.  You know, you get rid of one bunch of thieves and put another in.  I don’t care what you call ‘em, Democrats or Republicans or Independents, they’re all the same.”

I couldn’t disagree with him.  But I pointed out that survivalists need a botany book more than they need a gun; in the absence of government, hunters will take the animals quickly, but plants will offer a longer-lasting food supply. 

Then I said that even if the government consists of crooks and thieves, we’re better off now than we ever have been; quality and availability of goods, services and information continues to improve yearly.  A depression in 2010 beats the best of times in the ‘50’s.

He couldn’t disagree with me.  As I walked away he thanked me for putting a positive spin on his day.


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