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  • Life is full of paraoxes (or, is that paradoxi?) Here’s one for you. I have expressed my stance on being dedicated to peace, and on my own personal feelings about guns – you might notice that I have not put that on anyone else, other than asking the simple question, “What does anyone need an automatic, or even semi-automatic, weapon for?” That’s one I still don’t understand, but that’s just me. These are just my own beliefs that have evolved and developed through time, for me. I don’t put them on anyone else. Do what you will. Live and let live.

    And yet…and yet….one of the descriptions of myself on my profile page lists me as a “warrior”, and I am that, too. I voluntarily enlisted in the U.S. Navy, a military outfit, while we were still engaged in the conflict in Viet Nam, swearing to defend and protect my country, and I would have done whatever was necessary to do that. I am a bit of a Civil War buff. On my way home from South Carolina yesterday, I stopped to visit the Stonewall Jackson Shrine, when I was getting a bit loopy behind the wheel and needed a break from the road about an hour and a half out from home. I was deeply moved by the story I learned there of this great warrior and “enemy” General’s last days on earth. On a football field in my younger days, I was a warrior. I was ready to do battle. If my body could still withstand the physical punishment of a game of tackle football, I’d still be out there, today. I am a warrior on a softball field. I come to play, and I put everything on the line when I cross that line from the dugout.

    I was asked by someone I respect a great deal, after posting my story about my feelings of peace and nonviolence, if I thought it was wrong that we fought Hitler and Japan in World War II. He pointed out how Neville Chamberlain’s strategy of “appeasement” was a dismal failure. No, I believe that that War was necessary, once folks allowed the likes of Hitler to rise to power to the point that he was going to destroy the world. I also believe that it could have been avoided, if steps had been taken by the world’s leaders sooner to check his rise to power. I believe that Chamberlain’s “appeasement” strategy did inestimable damage. Fear created the monster that Hitler became, and once his evil was unleashed on the world, war was necessary to stop him. Likewise, I believe the Civil War was inevitable, when this country’s leaders allowed all of the questions that needed answers to go unanswered long enough, war became the only way to get the final answer. Lack of moral courage led to that war. Again, I believe that it could have been avoided through skilled dialogue and moral courage.

    I did not agree with the reasons that we went to war with Iraq and Afghanistan. I did not think that was the right answer to 9/11. There were other, more effective ways to deal with the cause of those attacks, but war is what we know, and we (this country) felt we had to flex our muscles to show that attacks on our soil would not be tolerated. I believe that these wars caused more harm than benefit. I believe they could have gotten Bin Laden and his cronies much sooner if they had just focused on that, and not on everything involved with waging a full scale war on two fronts. But, if I had been a reserve and got called up to go fight, would I have gone? By all means, I would have. I believe in duty and honor and fulfilling a commitment, once made.
    What about my own going AWOL when I was in the Navy, you might ask? I did that to get off my ship, which I was told by a ship’s officer was the only way I could do that, under the circumstances. When they offered me an honorable discharge at the end of it, I took it.

    My interest in the Civil War stems from the fact that my great grandfather, Martin Hager, served on the union side of that conflict, and in fact was reported to be the last surviving 3-year enlistee of that war, when he finally died at age 93 in 1939. I grew up with his diary from the war, and stories my father told of his exploits during the war, and always felt a connection with him, through my Father. He in fact, as far as I know, never actually carried or fired a weapon during his 3 years. He did save his brother’s life, though. He was a 13 year old drummer when he enlisted. He remained a drummer throughout the war. He, too, went AWOL once. He was trying to get out at the time, but eventually decided to stick it out, and went back.

    Jackson’s story was so fascinating. Here, this great general, revered and loved by all, gets shot by his own men. The wound is not that bad, and he is expected to recover from it. Then, it is discovered that he has contracted pneumonia. In those days, that was like a death sentence, prior to the antibiotics that would control pneumonia. Turns out, he more than likely had contracted it before he even got shot. He may have died, anyway. From pneumonia. His loss was crushing to Robert E. Lee, and the battle he fought and won, while fighting off the pneumonia and before getting shot, would be the high point for the Confederacy. Lee never found another General he could count on quite as much as he counted on Jackson. The tide of the entire war arguably shifted after the loss of Jackson.

    Pictured is the actual bed in which he died, in the room in which he spent his last days. He was the enemy of my Great Grandfather’s in that war. He was one of the most feared leaders of the enemy forces. However, I believe that Martin would have shared my appreciation for the sacredness of that place, that shrine.

    Another paradox.
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