By Marc Levy
I am sitting at the monthly Service Organization meeting. Our group is composed of Vietnam, Korean and World War II vets. All have seen their share. Tonight we focus on what to send the troops in Iraq. The men briefly deliberate, then agree on Girl Scout cookies.
"Boys, boys," says the burly chapter president. "Let's everyone chip in fifty bucks so's we can send a couple hundred boxes." Every man pounds the table: a tribal yes.
I say, "Hold on. What the troops want are flea shampoo, insect repellent, sun screen, foot powder." I say, "You know what? They want tampons to shove in bullet wounds. That's right. Bullet wounds." I say, "That's what they want." Silence. Then from the back of the room, a voice shouts, "And they're asking for condoms to stretch over the 50-gal barrels to keep the sand out." He says when the shooting starts they fire right through them.
But the men are adamant. "Too inconvenient, too expensive," they say. "The Girl Scouts have troop addresses; they know where to send things." I'm standing up. I'm shaking. I say, "Well at least the fuckin' girl scouts can send the fuckin' condoms with the fuckin' cookies." Only one man chuckles.
Later I ask him why no one laughed. He says, "They thought you were a PERVERT." I say, "They thought? THOUGHT? I got news for them: I AM a fuckin' pervert. We all are." I say, "There's not a man in this fuckin' town who does not have lust for young girls. We just don't act on it. What is the fuckin' problem?"
My friend agrees. We talk awhile. He is by nature taciturn when it comes to politics. A Cold War officer turned politician, he must attend all patriotic occasions. But he who last year had strung yellow ribbons along the town's main streets now has big problems with Iraq.
I say, "We're hiding behind Girl Scouts to send our troops, our combat troops, chocolate fuckin' cookies. You got to be shitting me."
We laugh. Then I understand what's gone down. "It's too painful. Thirty, forty years these guys have ducked their private demons. Well, I say send the poor bastards in Iraq what they want. Don't hide behind future widows dressed in green."
My friend says, "You're right. But cookies are safe and Girl Scouts are sacred." He reaches across a table, knifes open a small shiny cardboard box.
"Here," he says, flicking his wrist to snap the blade shut. "Have a cookie."
Marc Levy is a Vietnam vet who participated in the Cambodian invasion in 1970.