What Must It Have Been Like?
Ben Stein
by

So, it’s Memorial Day and I keep thinking, “What must it have been like to fight in the Belleau Wood, charging into German machine gun fire, getting hit by a large caliber shell, spinning around, and lying in the dirt with excruciating pain and dying of thirst, gunshot, lack of blood, and all for a country that is far, far away?”

What must it have felt like to be fighting on Pelelieu with the Japanese dug in, suicidally brave Americans charging at the Japanese who actually wanted to die rather than be beaten? What must it have been like to be in that heat and humidity and sand and scorpions knowing that your chances of survival were slim and you would probably never see your wife or mother again? What must it have been like to be freezing at Bastogne, short of food, short of warmth, short of ammunition, with the cream of the Wehrmacht attacking you and reinforcements far away?

What must it have been like to fight in the Philippines during the Aguinaldo insurrection, as my Grandpa Dave Stein did, on a mule, with crack Filipino guerrillas attacking with Bolo knives to cut off their heads?

No air conditioning, no decent food, a long way from his native Detroit. What must that have been like?

What was it like to fight in Zeitlen, Germany, hand to hand against the SS, possibly the toughest fighting force there has ever been? And to have been 22, as my father-in-law was, and to run in the open to a farm house toting a 60-pound radio to call in artillery against German machine guns and mortars? And the German machine gun bullets actually knocked the heels off both of your boots but you got to the farm house and called in the 105 mm artillery and saved your comrades?

And then with the battle won, to have a German SS officer spit in your face and you could have killed him but you didn’t.

That was my wife’s father, Dale Denman, Jr., of Prescott, Arkansas. Don’t ever let me hear you say a word against Arkansas. Or the south.

Or to have been Col. Dale Denman, Jr. More than 20 years later, in a rice paddy in Vietnam, fighting it out with the NVA force that was ten times as large as it was supposed to be and to barely survive. That takes some doing.

Or to be my late Uncle Bob Denman, an ROTC grad of the level of Lieutenant, fighting the Chinese Communists hand to hand in the snow and ice of Chosin, getting so close to the Chinese that he could smell their breath? Then retreating under constant attack, night and day, and then returning to fight more.

He was from Prescott, too. I never met any braver men than my Denmans.

Or to have been my hero, Lt. John W. Keker, U.S. Marines, whose outfit was ambushed by the Viet Cong. They thought he was dead and threw him in a pile and he played dead for three days and then came back to fight some more — and then was a spectacularly successful lawyer in San Francisco and once saved me from a big problem. He is a modest, handsome, super brilliant man and a star.

Or what was it like to have been my lifelong pal and fraternity brother, Larry Lissitzyn, Captain, U.S. Marines in the world’s best frat, Alpha Delta Phi at Columbia from 1963 to 1966? He was in so many battles, firing and next to men firing, that he lost most of his hearing, and he is the most loyal, wittiest man in Hartford, Connecticut.

What about Americans fighting in Fallujah? What about the ones I visited many times at Walter Reed, missing their limbs and bowels from terrorist IEDs? What about Americans in Japanese slave labor camps? Dying in trenches of their own excrement while back at home civilians were playing golf.

These men are the real stars, not the garbage they show on TV gossip shows night after night, not the trash on the cover of tabloids because they raped a woman and beat her kids. These men, not the politicians, not the Malik mouths who flourish by the big lies about how oppressive and cruel America is, these men and their families, their mothers and fathers who lived in an agony of fear — these are the real stars.

It’s Memorial Day. What can we possibly say that is good enough about the men of the USS Indianapolis, torpedoed by the Japanese in the final days of WWII. They were eaten by sharks as the U.S. Navy made the colossal mistake of not picking them up in the water. Or maybe it wasn’t a mistake at all, but they died of shark bite and exposure anyway.

What can we say about the Mustang Ace, Major George Preddy, uncle of my dear friend Bob Noah, who shot down 27 Me-109s, one after another and then died from friendly fire? Or Harry DeMuth of the U.S. Army Air Corps who flew over Burma day after day, knowing if he were shot down or crash landed he would be decapitated by local savages, but he did it anyway?

And what about the police and law enforcement who are still fighting a war every day against murderers and rapists and journalists and demagogues? Their war starts afresh every day.

As far as I know, no foreign enemy actually planned to take over the USA. But the thugs already have won many neighborhoods. And the Islamic terrorists are at it every day, to enslave us, kill us, and who fights back? The military, the CIA, the NSA, the cops. And then scumbag terrorists throw rocks at police horses to keep a Presidential candidate from speaking in a public forum. What do we think of the police who just bravely take it and don’t shoot back? What do we think on the negative side of the pols who call our brave police — black, brown, and white — “systemic racists”?

It’s Memorial Day, but every single day we get to live in freedom is Memorial Day. God bless America and all who have saved us over the decades.

Ben Stein
Ben Stein
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Ben Stein is a writer, actor, economist, and lawyer living in Beverly Hills and Malibu. He writes “Ben Stein’s Diary” for every issue of The American Spectator.
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